Russia, Georgia remain in distrustful deadlock on anniversary of 2008 war
The US Senate this week called on Russia to stop its 'occupation' of two breakaway enclaves that were once part of Georgia. But both sides appear to be hardening their positions.
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'A new mentality' in GeorgiaSkip to next paragraph
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"The current situation is very comfortable for Russia," he says. "The two sides are not talking; they occupy our territory and do whatever they want."
A few voices in Georgia say it may be time to consider the unthinkable prospect of letting go of at least Abkhazia – an ethnically distinct region with its own separate history – as part of a wider reconciliation with Russia.
Mr. Areshidze, a well-known expert who recently suggested the idea publicly, was accused of "treason" by leading nationalist politicians for proposing such a rethink.
"I know my views are terribly unpopular," he says. "But both in Georgia and the West we have to change our attitude toward the separatist regions.... Time has passed, there is a new mentality and a new generation... Georgians have become used to having the West deal with our problems, and come to believe that with enough pressure Russia will step back. But Russia won't step back unless Georgians become active and have creative ideas," toward solving the issue.
Russian leaders divided over right course
There is also fierce debate in Russia about which course to take.
Last week Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested to a meeting of nationalist youth that South Ossetia might in future be admitted to the Russian Federation and joined to its ethnically-related neighbor, North Ossetia. But Medvedev, who is locked in fierce but undeclared rivalry with Mr. Putin in advance of Russian presidential election next March, shot down that idea.
"Today there is neither legal nor factual basis for uniting South and North Ossetia and their joining to Russia. That's why I signed a decree recognizing the independence of this territory, " Medvedev told Russian media.
Most Russians appear happy with the status quo, even though only four countries in the world – Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the miniscule Pacific island nation of Nauru – have so far recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They seem to believe that time is on their side.
"Sooner or later the world will accept the facts," says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Kremlin-funded Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow. "Look at Sudan, which recently split in two, and the international community welcomed it. Look at Kosovo. There's nothing terrible in the fact that South Ossetia and Abkhazia decided long ago to split from Georgia, just as Georgia split from the USSR. Trying to roll these changes back would be a dead end."