It has been six years since the end of the Russia-Georgia war, but its effects still pervade political debates between the Georgian Dream coalition and the once powerful Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM).
The Sochi meeting between Russia’s, Armenia’s, and Azerbaijan’s presidents is but one episode in the series of Russia’s protracted peacemaking efforts. Rather, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict serves as a great pretext for Russia’s presence in the South Caucasus.
Putin enjoyed his moment in the media limelight as a peace-maker over Karabakh. But the lack of substance from the summit suggests that Russia is as out of ideas as anyone else on the Karabakh conflict.
The ceasefire in Nagorny Karabakh has been violated multiple times over the last few days. Without a more substantial peace process that both Armenia and Azerbaijan can buy into, the violence is all too likely to re-occur.
Although many today may doubt the effectiveness of his policies, because of Eduard Shevardnadze Georgia has a set of options today, being in a position that in no way resembles the reality a generation ago.
In recent years Georgia has taken every possible step to ensure that its western trajectory does not threaten to Russia. Georgia is seeking a constructive role, consistent with its values and in tune with its geography.
There are few if any reasons for Russia to worry about an immediate negative impact on trade and economic interests of signing of the AA/DCFTA by Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The Russian government’s position is more likely to reflect concerns about the loss of geopolitical influence rather than trade and economic relations.
The roots of the insurgency in the North Caucasus remain: local muslims, especially in Dagestan, still experience rule by Moscow as brutal and corrupt and feel they have no stake in Russian society. These roots are only likely to get deeper as Russia becomes more autocratic.
With the conflict reaching Iraq, which reflects to the same religious divisions as in Azerbaijan, the risk is greater that Azerbaijanis Shia and Sunnites will be affected by the sectarianism of the Middle East.