Saturday, September 12, 2009

ANALYSIS: Can Russia Win the Ideological Battle in Georgia? By Kornely K. Kakachia (

PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 67

Kornely K. Kakachia
Tbilisi State University
September 2009

Georgia has been one of the most vocally independent-minded countries among the Soviet Union’s successor states. As Georgia’s ambitions to draw closer to Europe and the transatlantic community have grown, its relations with Russia have deteriorated. After the Rose Revolution, Russian-Georgian relations remained problematic due to Russia’s continuing political, economic, and military support for the separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nonetheless, Georgia sought to maintain good relations with Russia, despite the evidence that various Russian political and military forces rejected Georgia’s state-building project as contradictory to Russia’s national interests.

Russia is uncomfortable with Georgia’s democratic and independent nature, as well as with the West’s close ties to a country within Moscow's “legitimate” sphere of influence. Moscow worries that the successful integration of Georgia into Euro-Atlantic structures may cause Russia to lose influence and credibility not only in the Caucasus, but throughout the post-Soviet space. Georgia has demonstrated in recent years that there can exist in the Caucasus a functioning modern democratic state, one in which the economy can develop without government interference and where corruption does not reign. An economically and politically stable Georgia, which might, in the long run, become a successful Eastern European country, can be a model for development that other post-Soviet states, as well as Caucasian republics within the Russian Federation, might emulate. To the Kremlin, this scenario is a dangerous, and potentially costly, zero sum game.

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