Experts comments CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Operation "Russian passporting" - as it was in Georgia. Lessons for Ukraine. Part 2

Gela Vasadze: "The Kremlin situates the crossroads on the "Novorossiya" project by certification.

Recently, the Kremlin has started to distribute Russian passports in the occupied territory of the Donbas. At one time Georgia experienced such an experience in the occupied Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. CIACAR-South Caucasus continues a series of interviews and comments on Tbilisi's experience in countering the "passport tool" of the Kremlin's hybrid war.

Below is an interview with a political analyst at the Caucasus Institute for Strategic Studies Gela Vasadze.

Gela Vasadze

In the occupied part of the Donbass, Russia has launched almost the "Georgian scenario" for the distribution of its passports. Based on the experience of Georgia, what to prepare for Kiev? Are further analogies relevant to subsequent events in Georgia after mass certification?

Indeed, the situations that have developed with us and you are almost identical. But in this case, the word "almost" is key. Let's in our conversation on this "almost" and let us dwell in detail.

To begin, let's wipe the situation back to the beginning of 1990-x. The so-called South Ossetia and Abkhazia were de facto occupied in 1992 and 1993 respectively, that is, the occupation was not de jure then. After 1993, before the Russian leadership (then Yeltsin), the question arose "what to do with these territories?". The most logical thing would be to engage in real peacekeeping, and thus use this topic to institutionalize Georgia into Russia's orbit. The leadership of Georgia was then ready for this, we even entered the CIS. However, Moscow then considered (and, by the way, so far), that it is more profitable to freeze the existing status quo and use it as levers of pressure on Georgia.

Incidentally, in Moscow, the occupied territories still consider levers of pressure on Georgia, incidentally, they still consider that they are actually not at all, even the opposite. Until 2008, the Kremlin had different approaches to this case - from the silent support of the separatists and the imitation of the blockade to close co-operation and use for pressure on Georgia. Passport itself, too, was a tool of pressure. This, I emphasize, started even in 1990-x. In massive order the process was started already under Putin.

What was the main impetus for such a solution?

To some extent, the process started from below. People living in Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia did not have internationally recognized passports, and this is sometimes necessary. Moreover, the social situation in Russia, even in the most difficult years, was in order better than in Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia. Therefore, Russian citizenship was so attractive to the inhabitants of these regions, because, among other things, it provided the opportunity for legal employment and even relocation to Russia. Immediately there were people who were ready for the appropriate reward to provide goods for which there was a demand. The goods in this case were passports of the Russian Federation. Naturally, Russia's supreme leadership, if desired, could easily stop this business, however, decided otherwise in the Kremlin, considering the "certification" as quite an acceptable instrument of pressure on Georgia.

It was afterwards, backwards, there were excerpts about the humanitarian nature of such actions. And after the exacerbation of relations with Georgia, this turned into a concept of "protection of Russian citizens".

You are about the war in August of 2008 year? "

We'll reach 2008. Putin came to power much earlier. And one needs to understand well that Putin is the same as a "lawyer", graduated from the lawyer, and tried all his illegal actions and tried to put on some kind of legal form. There are many examples of such attempts. The history with passports is one of many stories with the creation of fig leaflets to justify direct intervention in the internal affairs of Georgia. This, once.

In addition, it is worth not forgetting that the launch of the passport process itself was an element of pressure on the leadership of Georgia. Like, "guys, look, we issue your passports in your territory." At that time there was no recognition of Abkhazia or so-called. South Ossetia. Like, "there are a lot of our citizens in your territory, and where do you get from us, what do you think?" Here, approximately, under such a logic, they acted with the distribution of passports. And this logic was crossed out by the war of August 2008 of the year.

Again, passporting started in the 1990 years. Neither then nor then the authorities of the Russian Federation did not actualize this topic in the media space, did not make any official statements, and restricted themselves to commentary on necessity, and then after the exacerbation of relations. This is another important difference in comparison with you. In the case of Ukraine, this is a public political action aimed at achieving a concrete result, otherwise it's not a matter of saying to the whole world - "look, we distribute passports!"

Also, answering the question "Why?", We must not forget about the banal corruption component of this process. They just earned it by issuing passports. Different "resolved", semi-criminal "linings" it was beneficial, as well as to the local population then. For various reasons.

Plus is another very important point I would like to emphasize. They issued foreign Russian passports on the territory of Georgia.

And could it be? What is the point? In the occupied Donbass, not only are going to "simplify the distribution" of just domestic Russian passports ...

That's the whole matter. And these foreign passports - they have the expiration date. That is, when it finishes, they can extend, or may not prolong. If yes, then again - pay money - we return to the point of corruption. And this too was a kind of bargain or instrument at the time of the bidding. Thus, not only Tbilisi, but Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, with their "administrations" turned out to be crocheted. This is all about the difference between us and you.

Next, it's important to remember that the residents of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia did not have Georgian passports then, there were only the old Soviets. Local "documents" appeared only in 2006 year. At the occupied Donbass all the population was, and, I understand, it is with Ukrainian passports. Plus, the so-called "Passport A / DNR" was issued. And I myself vaguely imagine how you can quickly resolve the issue with the certification in your case. He, on the one hand, will be stretched out in time. On the other hand, Kiev has weight levers to counteract it linearly. I am about Ukrainian passports in the occupied territory, which (Georgian passports) was not in the case of Georgia.

So, with your certification, the Kremlin is now solving problems and problems of a completely different order and scale than was the case with Georgia.

What exactly

Your passport, on my subjective point of view, situates the cross on the Novorossiia project. Or, he postpones this project to a long drawer before very, very good times. The fact that this project existed in eight regions of the southeast of Ukraine does not call me any doubts. And, of course, they can return to this scenario, but now it's not on the agenda.

Often, the question is asked why Putin did this right after Vladimir Zelensky's victory? The answer is simple, they simply launch in Donbass a Georgian scenario of freezing the conflict - the model that operated until 2008 year. At the same time it is possible to force the theme of the introduction of some peacekeepers - necessarily their own or under their control. I do not exclude it completely. They will throw in their every possible way their well-known plan of peacekeepers, who are thrown away by Ukraine and the West. But here it is necessary to understand that this can be done without any international mandate. There was no police mission and there were no peacekeepers on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Only on today's front line and only under the control of Russia. It is clear that from the legal point of view it will be occupation, but when it was stopped by the Kremlin.

Yes, this is a repetition of the Georgian experience, when it will always be possible to say "our peacekeepers have been fired" or artificially create the situation "casu belly", and in their understanding officially. Recent events in Azov, captive sailors, now passports - all this suggests that Kiev needs to prepare for confrontational scenarios. Yes, the scenario is, in general, Georgian, but it is fundamentally different from how it was happening here. Not because they are other steel, or Ukraine is not Georgia. The tasks are fundamentally different in terms of scale and conditions for the Kremlin, both internal and external, in which it will try to solve them.

How to behave to Kiev?

Much will depend on how the Ukrainian authorities will work with their western partners. Kyiv, as I see it, will have to solve a twofold task. First, maintain and maximize this tight partnership. This is obvious. In the current situation, the key element is the Western pressure on Russia. In addition to Europeans - Paris and Berlin - Washington must officially join the negotiation process. The latest thesis from Kiev on the expansion of the Normandy format suggests that you understand it.

And the second very important moment, which may sound paradoxical. Even if we can maximize this format of settlement, I would not end up relying on it. It is not necessary to fully count on what they promised or promise in the western capitals. Banal remember the "Budapest Memorandum". I would not trust them to end it. Although, I will say, this is not so much about trust / distrust here ... They can very sincerely want to help, but they just may not be able to do it at a certain moment ... That's what we had. NATO's Bucharest summit 2008 of the year and so on will be remembered both in Tbilisi and in Kiev. And, despite the current dramatically excellent international situation, on a completely different situation within Russia, Kiev always has to remember this - now and in the future.

How specifically did Tbilisi struggle with certification? Were there in principle the chances of stopping her, as well as what she directly or indirectly led ...?

I will begin with the fact that Tbilisi did not de facto oppose the distribution of Russian passports for a very long time. I do not take into account statements about how bad it is. In general, the subject of passports was actualized after 2006 year. Then they began to distribute "documents" of Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia. (You have everything, just, vice versa). Moreover, the topic of recognition of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali did not rise until Moscow.

Prior to that, the media coverage of the passport was illuminated, but the authorities tried not to notice it, not to irritate (not to be annoyed), and so on. And it was necessary to counteract this - on all possible international platforms. According to the signals that we see, Kiev, despite the transit of the presidential power, is engaged in this opposition and intends to deal with it seriously. I would immediately immediately advise to synchronize these processes with the same Georgia - not only with regard to certification, but also the general policy of de-occupation. I understand that it's difficult, but you have to try.

With all this it is necessary to understand that Tbilisi has done very much, if not all possible, to attract Abkhazians and Ossetians to their side. Free medical care, educational grants for youth and so on. And I will not now touch on the moral aspect of the issue, discuss or advise - whether or not it is worthwhile to do the same thing to Ukraine. But I emphasize - all this does not absolutely work in the context of de-occupation of territories. In general, no way. Consider that someone will look at what is good for you and therefore come back - do not be naive. That's why it will not happen anymore. Neither from us nor from you. At one time in Batumi there was such a case: "Sukhumi will look good in Batumi and will want to return." We see as it is now in Batumi. We know how it is now in Sukhumi. But nobody returns anywhere. This is a long story. The variant of the return on the conditions of Moscow - read the surrender - I do not consider it now.

The reforms in the economy, the fight against corruption, the development of the security sector, according to the challenges and threats, are the basic tasks for both Kyiv and Tbilissy. Let's not waste time on obvious things. But the current problems of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia can only be resolved in the event of a systemic change of power in Russia. When I say "change of power", I mean not Putin's replacement, I'm talking about the variant of the systemic crisis of the current structure of power in the Russian Federation ...

Interviewed Vladimir Kopchak Head of the South Caucasus Branch of the Center for the Study of Army, Conversion and Disarmament, Tbilisi