Publications of experts CACDS - Southern Caucasus

Gela Vasadze: “Twenty years of hybrid warfare: what the Kremlin wants from Georgia. Review of Georgian-Russian Relations »


Talking about the foreign policy of the Russian Federation from the beginning of zero years, an anecdote is recalled when a boy of pubertal age was shown Malevich's Black Square and asked what he thinks when he sees this picture. "About sex," he replied with almost childlike immediacy. "But why about sex," he was surprised. "And I always think about it," the boy honestly admitted.

Here is the same with the foreign policy of Russia, to answer the question of what they think about themselves quite easily. They think about gas, well sometimes even about oil and the former greatness of the state, but still mostly about gas. At one time, these thoughts were even embodied in the formula for the "Great Energy Empire", however, did not take hold. And it could not get accustomed - well, agree, shallow for a country that is the successor to the empire with the Uvarov triad "Orthodoxy. Autocracy. Nationality. " So over time, the "energy empire" was replaced by "sovereign democracy", then something else, but the thought of gas remained.

It would seem that this may have to do with Georgia, a small country in the South Caucasus that gave the Russian and Red Empires a critical number of generals, marshals and thieves in law. Here, rather, a psychological moment, the family of periodically raised on the shield of Stalin can not leave the sphere of Russian influence. It just shouldn't, and that's it. Point. But take your time - the oil and gas, and even wider, energy element is present here as well. Moreover, the big question that is more important for today's Russian authorities is the obedience of the children of the mountains whom they used to see dancing with a dagger in their teeth (or, at best, making good films), or the use of Georgia's transit and energy capabilities. Judge for yourself.

At the beginning of the century

At the beginning of zero then even young and full of energy the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference with the President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze casually dropped the phrase: “Well, if I say now, at what price we sell Georgia gas, then Leonid Danilovich ( Leonid Kuchma - the second president of Ukraine) neither pours nor burns the vodka. " That is, the hint was quite transparent - they say, we are so gracious to Georgia by selling our gas cheaper than the Ukrainians, so let's not talk about it.

Seem to be, the Russian leadership at the time were absolutely confident that Georgia would disappear without economic ties with Russia, and especially without Russian gas. What turned this confidence around, we saw later, well, while the White Fox, as Eduard Shevardnadze was called, answered nothing to his Russian counterpart, smiling indulgently in response. The reason for Eduard Shevardnadze's smiles was - a contract was already signed at that time to build the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, called the "project of the century", which tore neighboring Azerbaijan out of total dependence on Russia on the crucial issue of transit of energy resources to Europe. Shevardnadze knew that Azerbaijan had gas, not only because he was friends with his colleague on the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee Heydar Aliyev. However, this friendship, or rather what is called the "chemistry" of the relations between the leaders, was by far not the last factor in the development of relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan. Such "chemistry" in Shevardnadze, who among other things led the Soviet Foreign Ministry during the birth of world politics of "new thinking", with a young KGB lieutenant colonel, of course, could not be.

In general, Vladimir Putin in Georgia has a bad legacy. At the time of his predecessor in the Kremlin, for some reason, they decided that the best way not to release Georgia was to prevent it from agreeing with its autonomies, to place its “peacekeepers” there, to hold and “not to let go”. And here in the 1999 year at the OSCE Istanbul Summit an agreement was signed on the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia. Do not be in a hurry to ask what is "dead in the woods" that the authorities of the Russian Federation have suddenly signed such a document. In fact, everything was simple. Prices for energy carriers in the distant 1999 year were, to say the least, far from ideal. Moscow desperately needed loans and was preparing the transit of power with complete powerlessness. Here it is not up to Georgia, and where it goes to this very Georgia, who will need it after the White Fox with its international relations leaves. So Vladimir Putin preferred to wait. All the more that the wait was quite short.

Broken dreams

The White Fox is not gone, the White Fox has left as a result of the Rose Revolution with the approval and assistance of the same Kremlin. Not without reason to persuade him to relinquish power came himself the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Igor Ivanov. By the way, six months later, the same Ivanov, already as the head of the Security Council, will take to Moscow "host" Adzhari Aslan Abashidze. However, it is said that he just persuaded him to resist. But after all it is only said, and the fact is clear. For the good attitude towards Georgia, the Kremlin wanted quite a bit - to purchase the North-South gas pipeline, which supplies gas to Armenia, to purchase the Georgian Railway and to leave its bases. But something went wrong.

Rather, it is not something but the firm position of the then US administration, which did not recommend directly to the new Georgian authorities to sell the North-South gas pipeline to the new Georgian authorities, as such a deal could threaten Georgia's security. Tbilisi was well aware that abandoning the deal posed a threat to Georgia's security no less than its conclusion, but from the banks of the Potomac they reassured - all will be well - we will take in NATO and provide an umbrella for security. In the spring of 2004, the Georgian government refused to sell Russia the North-South gas pipeline, and almost immediately, in August, received an armed conflict in the Tskhinvali region. This conflict nullified all that had been done in the decade in the path of reconciliation and made it impossible for the region to peacefully integrate in the foreseeable future. So even in the 2004 year, that is, three years before Putin's famous Munich speech, Georgia was under attack.

Further events evolved curiously. In the fall of the 2006 year: in response to the revelation of the Russian spy network (in fact, it was a carefully planned provocation by Moscow when the old network was handed over to find a reason to "punish" Tbilisi), the Kremlin imposes economic sanctions on Georgia. Plus, it announces a trade blockade, sending more than two thousand Georgian labor migrants (by the way, the myth of a million Georgians in Russia was dispelled).

A large-scale anti-Georgian campaign in the media and on the Internet is starting in Russia. Finally, in the winter of 2007, the North-South gas pipeline was blown up in Russia, and Georgia, as well as Armenia, remained without heat and light. The winter of 2007 was frosty, Georgia switched to Azerbaijani gas within two days, and SOCAR became the main gas supplier to Georgia. Subsequently, all regional networks will be sold to the SOCAR-Georgia subsidiary. This ended Russia's gas monopoly on the Georgian market. Under the new transit contract, Georgia received 10% of gas supplied to Armenia. The rest was purchased in Azerbaijan.

At the lowest point

What is next, everyone knows, or rather, everyone who is interested in Georgia. Next was the war. The hostilities began in late July of 2008, and on August 8, Russian troops entered Georgia to "force us to peace." This very coercion ended with the ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population in the Tskhinvali region, the occupation of the Akhalgorsk region and the Kodor Gorge, the senseless wandering of the Russian army on the territory of other regions of Georgia (why they were constantly spoiled by equipment), theft by Russian soldiers and monitors using monitors joke, there is a mass of video frames). Finally, the recognition of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia as "independent states". The Georgian army retreated to Tbilisi to defend the capital, which Russia's troops did not dare to storm. Initially, on the initiative of Lech Kaczynski, the leaders of five countries came to Tbilisi, and it was extremely inconvenient to storm the city where the presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are. And on August 12, the US Army launched a military-humanitarian operation, as reported by United States President George W. Bush on the world's largest television channels. Albeit with great delay, the United States has still fulfilled its promise and taken effective measures to protect Georgia from aggression. The same aggression that was quite expected after Georgia and Ukraine failed to submit a NATO Membership Action Plan at the NATO summit in Bucharest "thanks to" the position of Germany and France.

After the Kremlin's "recognition" and refusal to withdraw its troops outside Georgia, Tbilisi quite predictably severed diplomatic relations with Moscow. Given that by that time there were no trade and economic ties, transport links, and even more so humanitarian cooperation, relations between Georgia and Russia froze to a low point. The only area in which cooperation remained was energy. The Georgian side continued to provide electricity to Abkhazia for free and, moreover, paid for electricity deliveries from Russia to Abkhazia in the winter. In 2010, Georgia abolished the visa regime first for residents of the North Caucasus, and then for all citizens of the Russian Federation.

Moscow's role in the transit of power

To say that the Kremlin was dissatisfied with those in power in Tbilisi is not to say anything. Although the allegation that the 2009 and 2011 protests of the year were completely inspired by the Kremlin is not true, the Russian footprint was seen in all the events that rocked Saakashvili's power. It is clear that when the figure of Bidzin Ivanishvili appeared, and it became clear that he could displace the Saakashvili so hateful Kremlin, the bid for the oligarch was made almost instantly. Moreover, despite the fact that Ivanishvili himself had to leave Russia at one time, he still had considerable assets in this country. Without further ado, the Kremlin allowed Ivanishvili to sell the Doctor Stoletov network of pharmacies and the Stoilenskaya Niva agricultural firm. As a result of this simple operation, the oligarch received live money for his election campaign.

It would be difficult to beat Bidzin Ivanishvili without Moscow's support. After all, he was supported not only from Moscow but also from Paris and even from Washington. US Ambassador John Baas visited the Ivanishvili residence so often that there was a joke in Tbilisi that old John had long ago got his slippers in the glass palace. One thing is for sure, Moscow was prepared to intervene in an armed way in the event that clashes began in Tbilisi and other Georgian cities. Everything was ready for this, and all diplomatic missions in Georgia not only knew but also talked about it in private conversations. And the entire Kremlin agency in Georgia actively assisted the Georgian Dream, although at that time the opposition succeeded in creating a "everything against the National Movement (Mikheil Saakashvili Party)".

Ivanishvili himself renounced the alliance with the most odious pro-Moscow party, United Georgia, led by former Parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze, but introduced into the coalition the pro-Moscow Union of Industrialists, headed by beer magnate Gogi Topadze. One way or another, the election of 1 in October 2012 was won by the Georgian Dream Party, headed by Bidzin Ivanishvili. It is time to collect stones.

Time to collect stones

The fact that Moscow had high hopes for Ivanishvili's arrival is a fact that hardly anyone will argue with. It is clear that this is not only a matter of elementary gratitude to those who helped Ivanishvili come to power - in the end, in politics, gratitude is a very conditional concept. Much more important were the assets of Bidzin Ivanishvili. In Moscow, the biblical truth was well known - for where your treasure is, there will be a heart ...

One of the first Ivanishvili decisions to build relations was the establishment of the post of Special Representative of the Prime Minister for Relations with the Russian Federation. One of Georgia's top diplomats, Georgia's first ambassador to NATO, Zurab Abashidze, has been appointed to this post. Among other things, Abashidze had experience in the USSR Foreign Ministry and worked as an ambassador in Moscow. Ivanishvili himself was the prime minister at the time. Almost immediately, during his visit to Yerevan, Ivanishvili announced that he saw no obstacles to the resumption of railway communication with Russia through Abkhazia.

However, everything turned out to be not so easy. That is, it was really easy to restore trade and cultural contacts; for this the Kremlin had to simply lift the bans it had introduced. But for the idea of ​​restoring the railway communication with Russia through occupied Abkhazia, Ivanishvili came under such fire of criticism that the idea itself, not to mention implementation, had to be abandoned.. Subsequently, this idea was returned several times, moreover, an agreement was signed with the Swiss company SGS, which solved all the legal problems associated with customs inspection, but the resistance of the society was so great that in the end they still put the subject in a long box.

The format of this material does not allow to dwell in detail on the dynamics of relations between Georgia and Russia over the last eight years, so let us focus on the main directions of Russian policy towards Georgia. When it is said in Moscow that Georgia must adopt "new political realities", that is, to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia, it is hard to believe that they do not understand the impossibility of such recognition "here and now." Of course, they understand, but the Kremlin's logic in this case is as simple as a varenik, and it consists in the fact that Russia, because of its resources, has time in this case. And Georgia does not have one.

With the so-called South Ossetia and so it is clear: this territory has long been transformed into a Russian military base in 40 kilometers from the capital of Georgia and just a few hundred meters from the vital West-East highway connecting western and eastern Georgia. Kudartsy (Ossetian population of the region) will either leave for Russia or remain in the amount in which they are necessary to maintain the vital activity of the region to a minimum. From this point of view, the expenses of the Russian budget for the maintenance of the region are quite justified.

The situation with Abkhazia seems more complicated only at first glance. In fact, everything is the same there, only easier. Easier because of demographics and geography. In the south, in the Gali district, the military base and business for their own in the gray area. Strangers, of course, not to let, and otherwise everything is like in Tskhinvali.

Do local elites understand this? Undoubtedly, they know the situation much better than us. But, firstly, such a situation of things quite suits them, and secondly, even if it did not suit, they would hardly be able to change something.

So, with the occupied territories everything is clear, but what to do with the rest of Georgia? Of course, to protect their positions in the South Caucasus, the existing status quo was sufficient. But this status quo, by and large, makes Russia's stay in the South Caucasus meaningless: Armenia is turning into a suitcase without a handle, and the vast resources that the Kremlin uses to securely attach itself to Azerbaijan prove meaningless. And that's when the formula came up - to do what is possible.

In fact, the Georgian version of the "do what is possible" formula appeared immediately after the 2008 war. And it stands for - the maximum openness and benevolence to citizens of the Russian Federation at the zeroing of political contacts with the Russian authorities except negotiations in Geneva with the participation of international mediators. The formula, voiced by Moscow after the change of power in the 2012 year, looked a bit different - "let's forget about the existence of the occupied territories, and develop relations as if they were gone.". In return, it was suggested not to impede access to the Russian market. Although not public, the Georgian authorities agreed with this formula. That is, outwardly everything remained, as it was, periodically declarations were made about the presence of occupied territories, aspirations for NATO and the European Union. But in fact, no action was taken by the Georgian authorities to de-occupy the regions. Not taken, despite the fact that the moment was exceptionally favorable, the governments of the western countries finally began to respond to Moscow's aggressive policies. However, this happened not in connection with Georgia, but in the Ukrainian case. When sanctions were imposed on the Crimea and the Donbass, no one remembered about Georgia, and could not remember, because the Georgian government was silent, "restoring" relations with Russia.

Business and politics

Moscow initially identified a number of priority cases of interest in Georgia. The first case is transit. In the 2017 year, at the Kremlin's initiative, the conditions of gas transit through the North-South pipeline to Armenia were changed. The concept of in-kind transit, that is, gas, has been replaced by a complicated transit payment formula whereby Gazprom can sell Georgia gas at preferential prices. It is clear that the price, both for transit and for gas purchased, immediately became a "trade secret" and the subject of bargaining with interested parties from the Georgian side. In fairness, it should be noted that the share of Russian gas in the Georgian economy has dropped to zero next year. Not agreed, it happens.

However, changing the formula leaves a lot of room for corruption in the future. In particular, already in 2019, the Minister of Economy of Georgia complained that Azerbaijan had a monopoly on gas supply to Georgia, which is not good. It would be necessary to diversify, of course, at the expense of Russia.

And everything seems logical, monopoly is bad, but let's be honest. It is absolutely impossible to imagine the situation that for some fantastic reasons Baku will decide to block Georgia's gas. To cut off Georgia's gas means to deprive profits of its SOCAR Gas Georgia subsidiary, that is, themselves. It also means disrupting gas supplies along the Southern Gas Corridor. Economy Minister Georgy Kobulia could not have known this when he declared the dangers of the SOCAR monopoly in the Georgian market. It is unlikely. It is fair to say that George Kobulia himself resigned in April of this year, but there has been talk of the need for diversification.

No less interesting is the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. Until recently, the project was perceived by Moscow as very hostile, as it was considered a potential opportunity to bypass Russia in the transport corridor between Europe and China. But man assumes, and God is known to have. After the outbreak of war with Ukraine, the Kremlin itself had to look for ways to bypass Ukraine already on its way from China to Southern Europe. And here the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway turned out to be the way. Heads of Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan railroads met in Ankara in May this year and agreed (though at the level of the memorandum) on the accession of Transsib to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. At the same time, they discussed the possibility of upgrading the road by constructing a large hub to change wheels, but not in Akhalkalaki, but in Kars, well, respectively, laying the paths of the "Soviet" width from Kars to Akhalkalaki.

The Georgian side was invited to this meeting. Well, really, why? After all, the fact that the railway passes through the territory of Georgia is a "trifle" in comparison with the global task of restoring Russian-Georgian relations. Our authorities have long been "understanding" about such cases.

By the way, Gazprom is not opposed to transporting Russian gas along the Southern Transport Corridor, again bypassing Ukraine. As I understand it, our government here too, no one will ask for permission. Indeed, why put the Georgian authorities at a disadvantage.

The next direction is Russian assets in Georgia. First of all, it's energy. Ever since Eduard Shevardnadze, Russian state-owned company Inter-RAO owns in Georgia the Tbilisi energy distribution company Telasi (this is roughly one third of Georgia's electricity distribution market), the thermal power plant "Mkwari Energetika", XUM-XUM . The citizens of Russia are the owners of several medium-sized hydroelectric power plants in Georgia, and the Georgian Power Company, created by agreement between the Government of Georgia and JSC Unified Energy System of Russia, owns virtually all the power lines of Georgia.

18 In July, Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avetyan spoke about a major project involving the uniting of Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Iran. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, work on this project can be completed within two years. Now the Armenian side is building high-voltage lines with Georgia and Iran. Noting the importance of this cooperation, the Deputy Prime Minister also noted that it is necessary to synchronize the work of networks in Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Iran. That is, the high-voltage line from Armenia will connect to the power lines owned by who? That's right, Gruzrosenergo.

Of course, Tigran Avetyan did not mention Abkhazia, etc. South Ossetia, because Armenia, unlike Russia, recognizes Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. So in the Russian version, this project will sound like this - the unification of the energy grids of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, for the sake of fairness, it should be said that Georgia's power system with the occupied territories is thus synchronized. The question of how synchronized is the topic of a separate in-depth conversation. Here we limit ourselves to only two facts - in winter Abkhazia receives 95% of generation from Inguri HPP, Inguri HPP receives nothing for the electricity supplied to Abkhazia. Georgia is also buying electricity for Abkhazia. Who buys from? Of course in Russia.

Of course, the assets of Russian business in Georgia are the topic of a separate study. Russian business is present in almost every sector of the economy, and - most importantly - in the so-called "natural monopolies." There is nothing wrong with this, since this same business operates in accordance with the legislation of Georgia, another question is why the Georgian authorities do not use this circumstance in political relations with Moscow to promote the interests of the country. And here you slowly reflect on the personal interests of some representatives of our government in the same business. The candle, of course, did not hold, but I have no other answer.

Wine, movies, dominoes

Energy and transport have always been priority areas for Russian businesses. However, one should not think that Russian business remained indifferent to other branches of the Georgian economy. Rich and very wealthy Russian citizens were happy to invest in Georgia until the 2012 year. However, they did it not directly, but through offshore companies.

Only, please, do not think that it was done out of fear that the terrible Saakashvili would take everything away. Just doing business in Georgia, a country with good natural conditions and liberal legislation was a good tool for withdrawing capital. After the 2012 year, this tendency began to increase, the restoration of trade relations led to the fact that large businessmen and small businessmen reached out. Russian tourists filled the low-budget sector of the tourism industry, and very soon, after the tourists began to come entrepreneurs creating the appropriate infrastructure.

A separate case on migration from Russia. According to the statistics department of 180, thousands of citizens who have a permanent residence permit in Georgia, more than fifty percent are Russian citizens. Moreover, it should be understood that due to the peculiarities of Georgian migration legislation, the vast majority of Russian citizens live in Georgia without a permanent residence permit. You do not need to obtain a residence permit, as you can stay in Georgia for a year. And then it is enough to leave for a couple of hours to neighboring Turkey, Armenia or Azerbaijan to extend the time of legal residence in Georgia for another year. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of people who emigrated for political reasons are no more than five percent of the total number of migrants from the Russian Federation. All migrants can be divided into three conditional categories: 1) those who came to do business in Georgia, mainly in the tourism sector (travel agencies, restaurant business and so on); 2) outsourcing and renting people; 3) those who rent apartments in Russia and live here due to this. The ban on flights from Russia and the anti-Georgian hysteria in the Russian media particularly hit the first category.

In general, the picture of Russian-Georgian relations by the summer of 2019 was quite favorable. Presence of Russian business, crowds of Russian tourists and migrants, cordial meetings between Karasin and Abashidze. The picture was so affectionate that there was confidence in the Kremlin - there were no special obstacles for the Georgians to accept "new political realities" in the South Caucasus, a marginal bunch of extremists shouting about occupation, whom the authorities themselves blame for extremism and violent insanity. And if so, we should move on to the next stage, the ultimate goal of which will be the full return of Georgia to the political orbit of the Kremlin with recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Gavrilov's Night

Until recently, a member of the State Duma, Orthodox Communist Sergei Gavrilov, if known, only in very narrow circles. By the will of fate in 2018, he headed a little-known organization with the strange name Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy (ILO). According to sources on the Internet, this organization was founded at the initiative of the Greek Parliament in the distant 1994 year. But interestingly, in the 2004 year, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy appears as president. And the same president becomes the deputy of the State Duma from the United Russia Sergei Popov. And something tells me that it is from this point that the MAP becomes an instrument of Russian politics, not a very effective tool. So not so that in the 2018 year, a deputy from the ruling party Popov was replaced by "opposition" communist Gavrilov. The glory came from where they did not expect - from Georgia.

According to the assurances of the deputy who was responsible for holding the ILO conference in Tbilisi, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, Sergei Gavrilov should not have appeared in the chair of the speaker of parliament. On all television channels, he presented the program of the conference, according to which the meeting should have been held not by Gavrilov, but by the ILO Secretary General Anastas Nerantsis. However, meticulous reporters unearthed a protocol according to which Gavrilov sat in the chair in a pre-agreed scenario. The minutes were signed by the Speaker of Parliament.

It is clear that when Gavrilov, a member of the State Duma, who openly does not recognize the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, was seen in the chair of the speaker of the parliament, it caused serious outrage among the opposition deputies, who demanded him to leave the chair. Not immediately, but Gavrilov had to obey. Staff members, as members of parliament from the opposition, block the seat of the chairman to prevent the Russian State Duma deputy, immediately spread on social networks and caused indignation at almost everyone. The outburst of outrage was so intense that the chairman of the ruling party, Bidzin Ivanishvili, wrote on Facebook on his social media address, in which he expressed dissatisfaction with "a mistake that led to such a severe spectacle." After that, all the members of the ruling party, from the Prime Minister and the President to ordinary MPs and activists, began to write about how awful it is and how they condemn it all. However, it was too late for the protest flywheel to be launched.

The fact that the protests broke out so quickly and on a large scale allowed supporters of conspiracy theories to suggest that the protest was planned in advance. In fact, everything is not right. The first stage of the protest was spontaneous. In fact, everything is simple enough. For many years, the idea that the power headed by Bidzin Ivanishvili is ready to cede to the national interests of Georgia because of its own interests and ties with Russia has been actively formed in the society. This thought was borne out by the fact that Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia and still has a significant portion of assets there (the majority of the population is absolutely sure that Ivanishvili owns 1% of Gazprom shares).

In addition, attempts by the Georgian authorities to normalize relations with Russia within reason, to develop economic and cultural contacts were also perceived by the population as confirmation that Ivanishvili was a "man of Moscow". At the same time, Moscow itself behaved as usual, that is, like an elephant in a warehouse. What was called a soft power in Russia - from St. George's ribbons and red flags to various events like the MAP conference - in Georgia was seen as a gross interference with internal affairs and an attempt to make Georgians forget what was, and acknowledge the fact of occupation. In fact, so it was, and on the Russian side, no one was hiding it, which caused even more annoyance.

The increasing flow of Russian tourists, for whom Georgia has become the replacement of cheap Turkish tours over the past two years, with constant talk that allegedly Russian tourists are feeding Georgia, has caused even more irritation in the society, especially among opinion leaders. Add to this the so-called "creeping occupation" in the Tskhinvali region, which in reality was a demonstration of force and permissiveness on the Russian side, and had no practical significance. Borderisation (barbed wire installation) could be completed in two to three months, but the Russian authorities needed a constant information reason to remind the world and, above all, the Georgians, that the border is here now and no one can stop it.

As a result, the Georgian side began to emerge public organizations, which declared their purpose to fight against occupation, on-line duty on the occupation line, in general, resistance to Russian aggressive actions. By June, the situation was hot enough, and the Gavrilov case was the spark that caused the explosion.

The events of the night from 20 to 21 in June should be divided into two stages. For starters - there was no parliamentary assault in fact. In the first phase, a group of youth began to push the special forces standing at the border, imitating an attempt to break into parliament. It is clear that there were virtually no chances to break into parliament with bare hands. Let's see how the leaders of the opposition behaved. At first they became confused, then tried to stop the crowd, to create a corridor between them and the police, and finally, when they realized that it was impossible, they practically eliminated themselves. However, the most violent of them, for example, Nick Melia, had time to shout into a megaphone that it was necessary to go to parliament “peacefully, with raised hands”. Then the protesters began to select the shields from the standing police officers, at least one shield in five to ten minutes. And as expected, police used tear gas. At this stage, no one has any complaints about the actions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The second phase began after the protesters gathered again after the gas was used. An a-la-Maidan assault was carried out, with billboards in the hands of storming and pyrotechnic illumination by the police. The assault lasted for five minutes, after which the riot police began to disperse the protesters very harshly, and throughout the Rustaveli Avenue, firing at them with rubber bullets, including in the head. The outcome of this night is well known - the resignation of the Speaker of Parliament, the Kremlin's ban on air communication with Georgia and, most severely, footage from Rustaveli Avenue, which was shown by television companies around the world.

Kremlin conditions or how to make Georgians feel good

Two weeks after the events described above, the situation began to calm down. That is, protests demanding the resignation of Interior Minister George Gahari, who bears political responsibility for Gavrilov's night. The situation was briefly blown up by Rustavi's 2 television company, whose weekly analyst program unexpectedly cursed Putin's mat for everyone. The reaction of the Russian leadership at first was surprisingly sharp. The State Duma even adopted a resolution demanding full-scale sanctions against Georgia. A day later, Putin appeared on the screens, who "generously" said he was very respectful of the Georgian people and would not recommend the government of the Russian Federation to impose sanctions on Georgia because of incorrect statements made by one journalist.

However, the President of Russia did not limit himself to this, having read a brief course in the history of Georgia, according to which neither Abkhazia nor the so-called South Ossetia had ever entered Georgia and were conquered by Georgians. The essence of Putin's statement is quite clear - we respect the Georgians, but we do not intend to give the occupied territories to anyone, do not even dream. Very soon the Kremlin voiced its terms of "normalization" of relations with Georgia.

The answer to the question - how to make Georgians feel good, was brought from Moscow by a group of Georgian parliament members from the Alliance of Patriots faction. The fact that this party has long been a conduit of the Kremlin's policy in Georgia is known even by people far from politics. In their time in the fight for the hand and heart of the Kremlin, they managed to win a very tough competitive fight with the Nino Burjanadze Party. Of course, for the Kremlin, the systematic, having a solid political background, Nino Burjanadze, was a much more acceptable figure than the marginal “patriots”. However, investments in Nino Anzorovna's party resembled investments in a black hole, even in the most favorable period, after completely discrediting such a hateful Moscow party of Mikhail Saakashvili, Burjanadze and its party members failed to show at least any significant result, as in the presidential ones. elections.

Meanwhile, a lot of money was invested. In the 2013 presidential election of the year, Nino Anzorovna's motherly gaze met Tbilisi residents at every corner. And these were not cheap posters, but solid billboards. Television advertising did not lag behind. And it looked very logical. But how else to fulfill the task of ousting the National Movement from the position of the main opposition force in the country? The result of this election was very sad for Nino Burjanadze. The 10% recruited did not correlate with the amount spent on the election campaign, while the candidate of the "defeated" on the eve of the National Movement, David Bakradze, with almost no political advertising, scored more than 20% and took the honorary second place. The results of the local elections a year later were also disappointing for United Georgia. I think it was after these elections that Moscow decided to bet on the Patriots Alliance.

To say that the Patriots Alliance is popular in Georgia would be a great exaggeration. The results of the recent parliamentary elections, in which the Alliance barely broke the five percent barrier, speak for themselves. However, there is one nuance here. Evil languages ​​claim that the government specifically "hung" the Alliance on the verge of passing to parliament, in order to show the "patriots" who is the owner of the house. Perishing, in what direction the results of the Alliance were twisted, I can not judge, yes it is not important. Another important thing is that it was important for the authorities not to be in the parliament for the power to the left of which is only a wall, to the left in this case, both politically and in terms of foreign policy orientation, although in the modern world the concepts of left and right have long been blurred. The “patriots” themselves consider themselves to be right, however, forgetting to add “alternative” ones.

Anyway, for several years now, it is the Kremlin's “Patriots Alliance” that has been used by the Kremlin to voice their messages to Georgian society. In this regard, the trip of the "patriots" to Moscow was more than indicative. Arriving from Moscow, the "patriots" made the following statements: the Kremlin's occupier was no longer named; To stop "aggressive" rhetoric; understand that Russia is Georgia's greatest friend who has always rescued Georgians; Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia are not to be called separatists; refuse integration into NATO; do not repent with the United States. For this, Georgia will receive the restoration of the air message, the crowds of tourists from Russia, and maybe, if we behave well, the abolition of the visa regime introduced even at Shevardnadze. And most importantly, we will no longer be offended, but will be defended.

Nothing new - say the inexperienced reader in our affairs, and will be wrong. What is new in these statements is that no political force in Georgia has ever dared to say something that some would not like. Moreover, before the departure of the deputies to Moscow, the chairman of the Patriots Alliance, David Tarkhan-Mouravi, claimed that he had come up with the memorial "Russia - the Occupier", and if not for him, it would be unlikely that Georgia would have guessed it. Still further in her statements came Irma Inashvili, who said literally the following: "Well, you have all settled" Russia-occupier "," Russia occupier. They know that they are the occupiers and admit it. " And here is such a transformation.

Moreover, in the same program where Tarkhan-Mouravi voiced the Kremlin's demands, voicing them in two languages ​​- Georgian and Russian, former NTV correspondent in Georgia Valery Kvatskhelia went even further, saying that he said it was time to speak about neutrality already passed, now we need to work on a military alliance with Russia. How did the Georgian society react to these statements? Yes, they were either not noticed or ignored. And for good reason, by the way. Those to whom they were addressed were heard. And that they were addressed to the Georgian authorities, I do not doubt for a minute. But words in words, and now let's talk about things.

Great game

The fact that it is extremely important for Moscow for Georgia to recognize the "new political reality in the Caucasus", to put it simply, the legitimacy of Russian troops staying in Georgia, is a clear fact. However, it would be extremely naive to think that this is the sole or even the main goal of the leadership of the Russian Federation in Georgia. This is rather the visible part of the iceberg. What's down there in the murky waters? And in murky waters, a very simple task is to control communications to ensure optimal routes for the realization of their energy resources and to participate in the Chinese mega project "One Belt - One Way".

Let's start with the second one. The conflicts in Syria and Ukraine have created serious problems for China's megaproject, as they have severely restricted land routes that connect China to the main consumer market of its goods - the European Union. The southern One Belt route, following the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects in Pakistan and Iran, has made it impossible to break the so-called "Shiite corridor" to the Mediterranean because of the war in Syria. Indeed, as a result of this war, when eastern Syria came under the control of the Kurdish military units and their allies, supported by the United States.

The northern route (and the Chinese have already begun modernization of the Trans-Siberian Railway) proved to be severely restricted due to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the occupation of the Donbass. It is clear that in such circumstances, the normalization of relations between Russia and Ukraine and speech can not be. To date, the most likely scenario is the freezing of the conflict in the Donbass modeled on Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia 1993-2008 years. However, even this scenario does not imply a guaranteed transit of goods from Russia to Ukraine, and given the constant threat of resumption of the active phase of Russian aggression, the Ukrainian authorities will have to look for allies among global players. The most likely ally, capable of helping at least in resolving Ukraine's security issues, is the United States today. Thus, these routes are, if not under control, under the influence of the United States.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTC) railway could be a definite alternative to the Ukrainian route, and it has already become such an alternative. By "almost", I am referring to the meeting of the heads of the railways of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia in Ankara in May this year. Talks about the possibility of Russia joining the BTC project began almost a year ago. Thus, in June 2018, the General Director of JSC Russian Container Company Ivan Grishagin stated that thanks to BTC, cargoes from the Russian regions located in the Volga, Ural and Siberian Federal Districts can be delivered to the Mediterranean ports of Turkey.

Initially, Russia viewed BTC as extremely hostile, considering it as a competing project. However, the changed situation with 2014 a year after the annexation of Crimea and military operations in the Donbass, virtually closes the Ukrainian direction of transit and delivery of Russian cargo to Europe. Thus, BTC has become the most profitable transit destination for Southern Europe for Russia. After attempts to open the Abkhaz section of the railway failed, Moscow had nothing left to do but negotiate with Baku and Ankara.

The meeting of the Heads of Railways of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia in Ankara confirmed Russia's readiness to actively participate in the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project and provide it with its own cargo. Such an agreement took place in May this year in Ankara, when the heads of the railway companies of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia signed a memorandum of cooperation in the field of railway transportation. The text of the memorandum was not published, but the meeting participants did not make secrets on its results. According to Russian Railways Director General Oleg Belozerov: "BTC is a European corridor that was bypassing the Russian Federation, but today the memorandum stipulates that this corridor will work tightly with Transsib."

The fact that Georgia did not participate in this meeting is understandable, even if one assumes that the Georgian side was informed of plans to engage BTC. Given the political situation in Georgia, our authorities would certainly refuse to participate in such a format, at least, before the parties agree on something substantive. But all this was until the "night of Gavrilov", which changed the nature of relations between Georgia and Russia.

Today, it is critically important for the Russian authorities to prove to Beijing that they are capable of controlling the post-Soviet space and politically providing logistics for the One Belt in Eurasia. Part of this task is to establish control over Georgia, ideally for the Kremlin - over Georgia and Ukraine. However, given Moscow's foreign policy stance, based on the "no step back" principle, the prospects for such a development are quite vague.

The second case related to the transit of energy resources is also related to Ukraine. Today Moscow is trying to solve the problems of Ukrainian transit by bypassing Ukraine from the north - "North Stream-2" and from the south - "Turkish Stream". To put it bluntly - trying unsuccessfully, delaying the delivery time of "Nord Stream-2" looks like temporary difficulties, at least not yet. However, it is not only about the possibility of gas supply, but also control or, at a minimum, the impact on competing projects. And the main competing project for Russia is the Southern Gas Corridor (YGC), which in case of development can absorb not only Azerbaijani but also Central Asian gas. Most likely, in this case, the Russian authorities will act on the principle - you can not ban, head. That is, to fill the gas pipeline with its gas, acting in conjunction with Turkey and Germany. Again, Georgia is required to join this project. Not to mention other gas projects in the South Caucasus - with the same Iran and Armenia, which are smaller, though also important for the Kremlin.

Summing up some of the goals of the Russian Federation's leadership towards Georgia, it can be formulated as follows:

  • the legalization of its military presence in the occupied territories by Georgia's recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia;
  • the preservation of its assets in Georgia, most of which are natural monopolies;
  • implementation of the project of transit of railway freight within the framework of the project "One Belt - One Way" bypassing Ukraine via the Baku-Tbilisi - Kars railway;
  • transit of Russian gas along the Southern Gas Corridor to Europe, preventing gas from Central Asia to the South Kazakhstan;
  • establishing control over the energy policy of Azerbaijan and Central Asia, which is possible only with the full political loyalty of the Georgian authorities to Moscow;

The fulfillment of these tasks is possible only in case of deterioration of Georgia's relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, self-removal from the United States Caucasian policy and destabilization of the situation in Georgia, which will force the Georgian authorities to take repressive measures inside the country and sharply deteriorate relations with the European Union.

A few years ago, such a scenario seemed unrealistic. But that was a few years ago.

Gela Vasadze, political analyst at the Caucasus Institute for Strategic Studies, Tbilisi