A Broker with Interests

BERLIN/TBILISI/MOSCOW | | georgien

BERLIN/TBILISI/MOSCOW (Own report) - The German government is intervening in the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia with extensive diplomatic initiatives, and is dispatching a special envoy. Germany feels a "special responsibility," is how the foreign ministry in Berlin paraphrases Germany's claim to qualify as broker in the southern Caucasus. The three southern Caucasian countries, which include Georgia, are among the regions of particular interest for Berlin's foreign policy. They form a pro-western belt of states on Russia's southern borders, providing the West with a direct access to energy resources of the Caspian Basin. The current military conflict threatens not only Germany's position in the region, it also escalates tensions between Russia and the United States, jeopardizing Berlin's efforts to strengthen its own position by its simultaneous cooperation with both Washington and Moscow - in the manner of a seesaw policy. Berlin is in a strong position for eventual negotiations on the future of the secessionist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The German government has been trying to contain the secessionist conflicts since the 1990s.

Last weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the German foreign minister's interventions in the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia. Coordinating the activities of the French EU Council Presidency with Berlin's concepts, Merkel demanded that, following an "unconditional ceasefire, all military forces retreat "to their positions before the outbreak of the armed conflict".[1] Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in contact with all governments, alliances and organizations involved and dispatched the foreign ministry's Caucasus commissioner to Tbilisi. Germany feels a "special responsibility" is how the foreign ministry in Berlin paraphrases the German claim to qualify as the exclusive broker on Russia's southern border.

Pro-Western Belt of States

Berlin has strong interests in the southern Caucasus, which are now being seriously threatened by the armed conflict between Georgia and Russia. Germany is particularly interested in Georgia's sovereignty having been the first state in the world to recognize Georgia, after its secession from the Soviet Union. Since its secession, Georgia, together with Armenia and Azerbaijan, form a belt of states at Russia's southern border, that escaping Moscow's direct grip, are, to varying degrees, open to western influence. Tbilisi in particular, has unconditionally oriented its policy on the EU and USA, when the current Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power through a German supported putsch at the end of 2003. This is not only of geostrategic but also of great economic importance, because the southern Caucasian countries are forming a small land corridor between Russia and Iran, allowing the transport of substantial energy resources from the Caspian Basin to the West, while avoiding the control of both Moscow and Teheran. Berlin is worried about the survival of this pro-western belt of states in the southern Caucasus. This explains Germany's current demand that Russia pull back its troops from Georgian territory.[2]

US-Domination

Berlin however is explicitly criticizing Georgia's military offensive last week that was aimed at seriously weakening Russian influence on the South Ossetian Autonomous Region. This must be seen in the context of the controversies over which policy to follow in relation to the Caucasus within the Western camp. Washington pleads for taking the offensive in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and demands Georgia's admission into NATO, to make Tbilisi's integration into the western alliances irreversible. Up to now, Germany has been rejecting this request. At the NATO summit in early April, the German Chancellor prevented, against US insistence, Georgia's further rapprochement to the war alliance [3] and not solely out of fear that NATO's eastward expansion could seriously jeopardize German-Russian cooperation. The Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (CDU) warned already at the end of 2006 that the USA seeks "to include more pro-American oriented countries into the Alliance" to strengthen its own domination.[4]

Tensions

Georgia's military intervention, that was repelled by Russia, corresponds to Washington's offensive course. More than 100 US military advisors are currently stationed in Georgia. Wanting to maintain its own influence, Berlin is not supportive of this intervention. The armed conflict is also threatening to escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington. It could become problematic for Germany to fulfil its obligations of western assistance due to its cooperation with Russia.[5] The groundwork for Berlin's efforts to enhance its own position through simultaneous cooperation with Russia and the USA, may be undermined. This explains why Germany not only insists on the withdrawal of Russian troops, but also on the withdrawal of the Georgian military from South Ossetia and a return to the pre-war status quo.

Contain Conflicts

If Germany succeeds, it can hope to have a greater influence on the eventual negotiations concerning the perspectives of the secessionist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Germany has been active in these disputed regions since the early 1990s. Since 1994, German soldiers have been participants in the UNOMIG (United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia). UNOMIG is supposed to monitor the cease-fire with the separatists and help de-escalate the conflict with Tbilisi's government. A German diplomat, who had also submitted proposals for the containment of the secessionist conflicts, has been at the head of UNOMIG for several years. An OSCE mission in South Ossetia had also been temporarily under German leadership [6] and its upgrading is being currently discussed. With a visit to Abkhazia, in mid July, Foreign Minister Steinmeier continued efforts to reach a settlement of the secessionist conflicts that Germany has been engaged in for the past ten years.

Foment Conflicts

At the same time, Berlin's foreign policy has fomented secessionist conflicts in the past. When Kosovo, strongly supported by Germany and the USA, declared its independence last February, the secessionist endeavors in Abkhazia and South Ossetia received new impetus. "The Kosovo precedence prompted us to claim our rights more actively," a speaker for the South Ossetian secessionists announced at the beginning of March.[7] While politically supporting the secessionist efforts, the German government has strengthened the direct opponent of the secessionists - the Georgian military. Not only Georgian units deployed in Iraq and now re-deployed to the battle zone, were trained (by the US Army) on German territory, numerous soldiers of the Georgian army were also trained by the Bundeswehr, because of their participation in the occupation of Kosovo. Kosovo's secession, secured through the aid of Georgia, is encouraging secessionist efforts in South Ossetia.[8]

[1] Merkel fordert sofortige und bedingungslose Waffenruhe in Georgien; Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung 10.08.2008
[2] see also Transportkorridor and Transitgebiet
[3] see also Veränderte Machtverhältnisse
[4] NATO-Erweiterung nach dem Gipfel von Riga; Analysen und Argumente aus der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Nr. 32/2006, November 2006. See also Die NATO in Riga: Dissens
[5] see also Die gleiche Nähe, Natürliche Modernisierungspartner, Financial Bridge and our EXTRA-Dossier Drehkreuz Leipzig
[6] see also Unsicheres Terrain
[7] Süd-Ossetien fordert Anerkennung seiner Unabhängigkeit; Spiegel online 05.03.2008
[8] see also World's Number One Reformer