Programme Paper

Project: Russia and Eurasia Programme

Neil MacFarlane
  • The continuing confrontation between Georgia and Russia is one of the most serious problems of European security. Without a settlement, there is a permanent risk of return to war, either by accident or by design.
  • A serious dialogue between Georgia and Russia seems impossible at the moment. From a Georgian perspective, it is politically impossible to open a conversation with a state that has invaded and partially dismembered the country. The are also technical obstacles, such as the question of whether representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be present.
  • In such conditions, informal dialogue between academics, civil society, and political figures on both sides is a possibly attractive alternative. One way to move forward may be to broaden the focus of discussion beyond the bilateral Russian-Georgian frame towards a region-wide discussion on the Caucasus as a whole.
  • Ultimately, the best way forward would be for Russia to show some flexibility. Having achieved its strategic objectives, Russia could show some magnanimity. Russian concessions might include agreement on full implementation of the EU-mediated cease-fire arrangement. Russia might also allow the EU Monitoring Mission to operate on both sides of the line of contact. It could also reduce the numbers of Russian forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia towards pre-war levels.