Diplomatic talks between the United States and Russia: Russia’s failed attempt to “negotiate about Georgia without Georgia

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Diplomats representing Russia and the United States gathered in three European cities to address the Ukraine crisis and security concerns. On January 10, officials from the United States and Russia met in Geneva to begin the negotiations. Russia-NATO discussions were also held in Brussels on January 12, followed by a session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna. These high-level official meetings were prompted by Russia’s militaristic actions against Ukraine’s sovereignty and the territorial integrity. It is no secret that Washington is deeply concerned about the possibility of war in Europe, which will unquestionably undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine as well as the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. It should be highlighted that Russia has deployed a massive amount of troops (approximately more than 100 000 soldiers) near the Ukrainian-Russian border, but Russia insists that it does not intend to invade Ukraine instead Ukraine seeks to launch an aggressive attack. This is an old-fashioned Russian-style propaganda technique for portraying the victim as the aggressor. During the August War against Georgia in 2008, Russia behaved similarly. After 13 years of war, Russia’s propagandist narrative that Georgia launched the war is still widely employed.

Demands of Russia

On January 14, the Kremlin has proposed a draft Russia-US security pact as well as a plan for a Russia-NATO accord. First and foremost, it should be underscored that Russian desires to bind NATO to not post troops in places where they were not present in 1997, when NATO expanded to include former Soviet bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics. Putin claims that the US betrayed its pledge when it welcomed former communist countries to join NATO. Washington denied the existence of such a commitment and characterized Russia’s security concerns as “unrealistic”. Additionally, Russia also demanded the reduction of the alliance’s military presence in Central and Eastern Europe. Moreover, Russia also called for a halt to NATO military drills near Russia. In response to this narrative, Washington stated that NATO expanded its forces in Eastern Europe as a result of Russia’s military assault against Ukraine not by just its own will.

Secondly, Russia also attempted to resurrect a Cold War-era pact, that had been revoked by the Trump administration, in order to impose a restriction on intermediate-range missiles in Europe. While talking with the journalist the president Putin said: “Are we putting our rockets near the borders of the United States? No we’re not…It’s the U.S. with its rockets coming to our doorstep.” As it seems like the Putin is afraid of NATO actions in the Eastern part of Europe, he also added that “For us this is a serious challenge — a challenge to our security. In terms of this request, NATO appeared to be ready to make some compromises.

Above everything else, Russia seeks assurances that Ukraine would never join NATO. Russia requested that NATO reverse its decision at the 2008 Bucharest summit, which stated that Ukraine will become a NATO member one day. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated:”We need ironclad, waterproof, bulletproof, legally binding guarantees. Not assurances. Not safeguards. Guarantees! ” Washington clearly stated that the United States will not budge on this demand; the American delegation stressed once more that NATO has a “open door policy,” the United States also contends that countries have the right to form their own alliances. Moreover, Russia also demanded the autonomy for the Eastern Ukraine, this is another method to destabilize Ukraine and undermine its territorial integrity.

NATO’s “Open door policy” for Georgia   V.S Russia’s  “negotiate about Georgia without Georgia.”

Russia is Georgia’s traditional troublemaker; as a result, Georgians are no longer startled by Russia’s outrageous demands. It is critical to emphasize that such high-level negotiations between the world’s largest power and a major regional power are critical for such a small and occupied state. Along with Ukraine, Russia pressed the US to break its Bucharest promise over Georgia’s NATO membership during the negotiations. Russia’s demand demonstrates once again that the Kremlin does not regard Georgia as a sovereign state with its own foreign and security interests and choices. Accepting such a demand would be equivalent to undermining Georgia and everything it stands for.

The US position was identical to what they asserted about Ukraine. The United States stressed that they are not going to “negotiate about Georgia without Georgia” or negotiate “about NATO without NATO.” Eka Akobia, an international relations expert, argued that the United States would never accept a pact that limits the sovereignty of small states and violates the UN Charter. Most importantly, Kelly Degnan, the US Ambassador to Georgia, delivered a noteworthy statement on US-Russia negotiations on January 11, 2022. The ambassador began her statement by stating that Russia attempts to destabilize the European security system and to “recreate the Soviet domination and control over its neighbors.” She then addressed Russia’s pervasive disinformation narrative and stated that:

“The United States respects the sovereignty of each country, including Georgia and Ukraine. Russia does not have a veto over sovereign decisions…We are unwavering in our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will continue to join the overwhelming majority of the international community in calling for Russia to end its occupation of Georgia. We are also firm in our commitment of, as stated in the Bucharest declaration, when the conditions are met, Georgia and other partners will become members of NATO.”

It is also worth noting that Georgian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani visited to Brussels on January 17-18, where he met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Permanent Representatives of Allies. This visit came after the conclusion of US-Russia negotiations, and Mr. Zalkanian acknowledged that his expectations had been met, while emphasizing once more that Georgia’s NATO membership is a red line in such negotiations for Georgia and its partners.

Mr.Zalkaniani also said that he is more optimistic about the Madrid Summit, and he also revealed that NATO members have reaffirmed to him that “they are not going to revise their decision regarding Georgia’s NATO membership despite the Russian Federation’s aggressive rhetoric, which is completely at variance with the international principles.” This visit was as yet another reminder to Russia that NATO will not abandon its commitment to Georgia, but will instead accomplish more tangible achievements.

Lasha Gamjashvili

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