Georgia: One Year After the August War

In August 2008, the rumbling of Russian tanks into Georgia sent shock waves around the world and the vague dream of an independent and democratic country seemed to fade away.  As Georgia marks the first anniversary of last summer’s brief and bitter war with Russia, it still faces great uncertainty.

Now, one year after war broke out between Russia and Georgia, many issues remain unresolved.  Russian troops still occupy South Ossetia and the region of Abkhazia, tens of thousands of Georgians are still displaced, and political tensions between Tbilisi and Moscow are simmering.  The limited EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, which oversees the August 12, 2008, peace agreement brokered between Georgia and Russia by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is now the only security mechanism on the ground and as Russia is violating this agreement, political tensions are simmering. As a result of the war, more than 20 percent of Georgia’s territory is controlled by Russia and if the on-going domestic political crisis in Georgia, due to significant mistrust between the government and opposition, is not resolved soon, Russia might try to destabilize the country.

Recently there have been signs, however, that the impasse can eventually be overcome. On July 24 opposition leaders announced the temporary end of their street protests and during his recent visit to Georgia, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden delivered a simple message: the United States supports Georgia as it moves towards becoming a secure, free, democratic, and united country. He pledged his support for Georgia and made clear that while the United States works to reset relations with Russia, it will not come at the expense of Georgia. Moreover, he urged other countries not to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

In 1956, Hungarians experienced similar oppression by the Soviet occupation.  The example of Hungary also proves that the fight for freedom and human rights can be successful in making the transition to democracy a reality, including becoming a member of NATO.  Hopefully, with the support of the US and the European Union, Georgia will be able to follow the same path as Hungary and become a fully integrated member of the democratic community of nations, including NATO membership, to ensure that Georgia’s freedom and democracy will never be threatened by foreign powers.

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