Angrepet på Georgia er noe mer enn en lokal konflikt. Vladimir Putin mener at Vesten ikke lenger bestemmer i verdenspolitikken. Georgia er en prøvesten og Russland vil nøye vurdere hvordan Vesten reagerer, skriver James Sherr fra Chatham House.

Russia’s brutal demonstration of power in South Ossetia, a breakaway region of its southern neighbour Georgia, marks the latest – and most alarming – sign of the Kremlin’s determination to reclaim control over former Soviet states.

These former satellites have now been left in no doubt that Russia must be regarded as «glavniy», or number one, if they wish to avoid the fate of Georgia. Central to Vladimir Putin’s nationalistic policy is a conviction that the power of the West – seemingly unassailable at the end of the Cold War – is on the wane. The current crisis demonstrates that the Cold War has not been replaced by common values between East and West, but by the revival of hard Realpolitik.

Georgia vil aldri gå med på å underkaste seg Russland. Putin har tidligere brukt brutal og hensynsløs makt innad i Russland. Skal de samme metoder tas i bruk for å tukte suverene nabostater?

If Western interests are not to be irreparably damaged, we will need to understand that they are being tested on three overlapping levels: local, regional and global. Georgia is not just a square on a chessboard, but a country that is extremely important in its own right. For two reasons, the West cannot be indifferent to what happens there. First, despite the uncultivated instincts of its president, Georgia’s political culture is fundamentally democratic, its people (80 per cent of whom support Nato membership) profoundly pro-Western, and its sense of national identity almost indestructible. Georgia can be defeated by Russia, but it can no longer submit to it, and therefore war between Georgia and Russia would be a frightening prospect even if no wider interests existed. Second, the only energy pipeline in the former USSR independent of Russian control passes through Georgia. There will be no meaningful energy security, let alone diversification of energy supplies, if these pipelines become vulnerable to sabotage, like those in Iraq, or to takeover by shadow businesses fronting for Russian interests.


Ukraina og Georgia ønsker begge å bli medlemmer av NATO, noe Moskva har sagt er totalt uakseptabelt. Ukraina har selv en konflikt med Russland på sitt eget territorium, og Putin har sagt at han ikke føler seg bundet av avtalen om å avlevere Krim i 2017.

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet – and along with it, its intelligence services – is authorised to remain there until 2017. In 1997, Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea was recognised by a treaty signed by Presidents Yeltsin and Kuchma. Yet after Nato’s summit in Bucharest last April, President Putin let it be known that Crimea and other questions long regarded as settled could be reopened if Ukraine ceased to be a «friendly» (ie, non-Nato) state. After the events of last week, Ukraine is even more concerned about Russia’s wish to destabilise it.

Top dog

Russland vil demonstrerer at det er Nummer En i sitt eget nærområde. I tilfellet Georgia er det problematisk fordi befolkningen i Georgia er så vestorientert. I tilfellet Ukraina er det problematisk pga Ukraina størrelse, både demografisk og geografisk.

Russia’s regional objectives are therefore straightforward. It aims to show its neighbours, by means of the Georgian example, that Russia is «glavniy»: that its contentment is the key to «stability and security», and that if Russia expresses its discontent, Nato will be unwilling and unable to help. It aims to show Nato that its newest aspirant members are divided, divisible and, in the case of Georgia, reckless. It aims to show both sets of actors that Russia has (in Putin’s words) «earned a right to be self-interested» and that in its own «zone», it will defend these interests irrespective of what others think about them. For Russia, the broader implications are also becoming straightforward. To its political establishment, to the heads of Gazprom and Rosneft, to its armed forces and security services and to their advisors and «ideologists», the key point is that the era of Western dominance is over.

Russland har alltid klaget over omringning og beleiring. Men de driver den samme energipolitiske beleiring av Europa og hva ønsker de å bruke denne makten til? Denne politikken vekker minne om russisk imperialisme og Georgia-innmarsjen vil bekrefte denne frykten.

NATO har basert sin utvidelse på premisser som nå viser seg å være feil: de trodde de kunne utvide uten å møte motstand, at Russland kunne overtales til å samarbeide. Det har lenge vært klart at det er feil. Nå kommer blåmandagen, og Vesten må bestemme seg: svikte de nye demokratiene i øst og bøye seg for russisk overhøyhet, eller forsvare demokratiene? Prisen blir høy uansett.

The second conclusion is that Nato must revisit the assumptions upon which its enlargement policy has been based. Contrary to the view that Nato remains a Cold War institution, the fact is that it has evolved too much. It moved east on the new-age assumption that Russia would adjust and gradually join us in addressing «common» (and distinctly soft) security problems rather than decide to pose a distinct set of hard and soft security problems itself. We now find ourselves confronting a zone of Realpolitik in partner countries, and some unnerving active measures in new member states – and virtually no one is prepared for it. Until recently, Nato was proud that it had no policy, let alone vision, for resolving the region’s territorial conflicts beyond cliché: «autonomy», «respect for territorial integrity», «negotiation» «non-use of force». Until there is a policy, there cannot be a favourable outcome.

Vesten må våkne opp og forstå at den ikke vil oppnå sine mål med den splittelsen som nå eksisterer: EU er splittet, og det er stor avstand mellom EU og USA.

The final conclusion is the need to focus on what is at stake. Is our relationship with Russia the most important issue? If so, what happens to that relationship if we demonstrate that brutality works and that «zones of interest» can be formed against the interests of the countries that reside in them? What happens to our wider scheme of interests in Central and Eastern Europe and the Black Sea and Caspian regions? Today, those questions are now being asked. But it is late to be asking them.

Slik sett er ikke begivenhetene i Georgia noe som skjer langt unna. Det rammer oss midt i solar plexus. For Norges del bør det starte en diskusjon om strategien for nordområdene og nedleggelsen av forsvaret. Med StatoilHydro er Norge direkte innblandet i Kaukasus, både som deleier i Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan-rørledningen, og gjennom eierskap i oljefelt i Azerbajdsjan. Men det er lite diskusjon som ser nordområdene og Kaukasus i sammenheng.

James Sherr is head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Georgia: Russia demands to be regarded as number one

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