The Russian Federation has increased its troops in Abkhazia in an attempt to respond to the decision of Georgian authorities to station their troops along the borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Estimates underline that the Russian Federation has 2,000 troops stationed in Abkhazia and 1,000 in South Ossetia. Georgian State Ministry Special Representative David Bakradze announced that the reason for their decision to send additional troops to Abkhazia and South Ossetia was the possibility of a military assault against Georgia.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Georgia sustained a great economic and social collapse. While the Soviet Union's countries that were well off thanks to their natural resources recovered more easily from the jolts of the breakup, the ones like Georgia, which doesn't have any natural or surface resources, had a rather painful process of overcoming the shock caused by the dissolution. Pro-European Atlantic Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili arrived in power under such conditions in 2004 and managed to gain public support by promising the Georgian nation that he would create a Georgia of peace and prosperity as in the old days. Saakashvili made his people believe that they would achieve social welfare through integration with the European-Atlantic world. However when the expectations couldn't be met, people took to the streets in the fall of 2007 under the opposition's leadership. Saakashvili won the presidential elections again on Jan. 5, 2008. In a referendum held the same day over whether Georgia should be a NATO member, 72.5 percent of people voted in favor of it. The Georgian people thus voted for stability and integration with the European-Atlantic world. Saakashvili convinced his people again that he would make Georgia a member of NATO and the EU.
Georgia wanted to be included in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) that would open the doors of NATO for it during the NATO summit held in Bucharest on April 2-4, 2008. NATO would have thus expanded eastward by including the Southern Caucasus at the summit. However, German and French opposition and their finding such a process to be premature, as well as the misgivings of Moscow in regard to a potential NATO advance toward the East, have prevented Ukraine and Georgia from being included in the MAP for the time being. NATO's strategy of expanding toward the Black Sea and the Caucasus has been delayed until an uncertain time.
The delayed Georgian membership to NATO at the Bucharest summit caused the Russian Federation to refuse recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. To impede Georgia's efforts to become integrated with the institutions of the European-Atlantic world and delay any such integration for as long as possible, the Kremlin has started seeking ways to better its relations with Tbilisi. In line with this strategy, the direct flights between the Russian Federation and Georgia that had been suspended some 18 months before were resumed on March 25. However Vladimir Putin instructed the government to establish official ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on April 16. What the Kremlin has been doing in reality is convincing Tbilisi that it possesses the real power over the Southern Caucasus. It is also trying to remind Tbilisi that it secured a meeting between Transdinyster and Kishinev in return for Moldova moving closer to the Russian Federation and its statement that it would not enter NATO. The Kremlin's implicit message to Tbilisi is, "If you desist in your efforts to be integrated with the European-Atlantic world, I can persuade Abkhazia and South Ossetia to sit at the negotiating table with you."
NATO's doors remaining shut for Georgia has resulted in a massive wave of frustration for the Georgian people. The biggest obstacles between Georgia and NATO membership are Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are de facto independent from Georgia. Therefore young and ambitious Georgian President Saakashvili might use force against these two regions in order to open the doors of NATO and the EU by making them parts of its country again following the general elections on May 21, 2008. During his visit to the United States, between March 17 and 20, Saakashvili wanted to sound out the US administration over whether it would back Georgia during such a likely war. As a consequence, there might be just another very hot summer ahead of Georgia.
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