Saturday, August 23, 2008

What is next for Georgia?

GEORGIA. Tbilisi. 23 August 2008. The seat of the Georgian Parliament.

The Russians have withdrawn to a self-defined buffer zone around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and are sending in a 500 strong “peace keeping” force, i.e. in effect they just rename some of the army personnel already on Georgian proper soil…

Most of the media are packing in and are going home, or have left already… and the Georgians are resuming their daily lives… So is this the peace we longed for?

There were no celebration parties in the capital Tbilisi tonight, neither in front of the Parliament, nor at the Rose Revolution Square, as most Georgians feel that they will have to live with the Russians and the Russian threat for quite a while… They also feel that this is a shaky truce and that it will be an uphill struggle to regain the Abkhazian and South Ossetian regions back integrated into Georgian territory and brought under Georgian sovereignty… if that will ever happen (I personally have serious doubts about this, in my view, these regions will be lost forever to the Georgians, but I am a pessimist by nature…).

And while the economy and infrastructure have not been crippled, a lot of damage has been done: bridges have been destroyed, railway lines cut off, forests burnt, Poti, the main harbour has been ruined and it will take a while to rebuild it, …and some of the damage done will only emerge over the next few days…

And most of all, the human toll is unbearable: thousands of civilians killed (there is still no officially confirmed number) and more than 130,000 people displaced within Georgia…

There are indications that Russia has started to issue Russian passports to residents of the Crimea, to be able to claim later that they are protecting Russian citizens when they invade the island… So will the Ukraine be the next battleground?

As I saw on a billboard in Tbilisi today in Russian: “Россия, мы хотим мирa!” [Russia, we want peace!]

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