Lessons from Georgia: What next for Ukraine?

With an escalation of military actions in Ukraine, the Minsk agreements do not seem to be firm. Some analysts and politicians are beginning to argue that there is going to be a full-fledged war. In this article I will examine past conflicts involving the Russian Federation and attempt to draw parallels between the later and the conflict in Ukraine.

The Russian-Ukranian conflict has caused signficant global concern. But what next? Source:Independent

Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Georgia), Transnistria (Moldova) and Donbass (Ukraine) are all apart from being frozen conflict zones and so-called unrecognised white spots on the world map have one important feature in common. They all commenced with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine trying to shake off their Soviet legacy and alter the direction of the vector of their foreign policy to the West, in cases of Georgia and Ukraine the later included claims to join NATO. This in turn resulted in protests of minorities wishing to retain close relations (total dependency) with Russia. As a result they all partly succeeded in creating autonomous break-away pseudo states.

But all of those would not have been possible without Russia’s gratuitous help. Furthermore, it appears that the RF has a standard code of conduct for such sort of situations: in the beginning it strictly condemns actions of sovereign states not wishing to satisfy claims of separatists, then it proceeds to offering humanitarian and peace-keeping assistance to the ‘oppressed side’, after that it starts to categorically deny its military presence in the conflict zone and in the end these all is concluded by the glorious victory of separatists.

Let us leave Russia alone for now and talk about the other side. Earlier I stated that the 2008 war in Georgia resembles the conflict situation in Ukraine, except for the fact that it finished with the open offensive of Russia against Georgia. Is the same scenario prepared for Ukraine? Given Putin’s unpredictability, it is extremely difficult to tell. Any prognosis now would be a mere speculation. On the other hand, judging from Mr Poroshenko’s (Ukrainian President) uni-vocal recent statement that the war in Ukraine will not be over until Crimea and Donbass return to the country, it might be concluded that Ukraine is determined to fight until the end.
But then the question arises: ‘Is it worth it, Mr President?’.

Not so long ago, a NATO spokesman said that there is no point in fighting with Russia, for it will equalize any Ukraine military force if necessary. Five day war in Georgia that ended with Georgian President signing the agreement drafted by the Russian Federation granting a de- facto independence to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and that only reinforced the above point.

So what should Ukraine do? Instead of focusing on patriotic feelings and understandable desire to return lost territories, Ukraine should face the truth and admit that Crimea and Donbass are already lost and can be only returned by defeating Russia. Given that this war is costing a fortune for already economically damaged country, it may be logically concluded that it is only profitable for arms producers (let us leave speculations to the conspiracy theorists).

Instead, Ukraine should follow Georgia’s example. The later focused on economic and political reforms which resulted in joining NATO, significantly slicing corruption and making Georgia the number one economic reformer and the 9th in terms of ease of doing business (Source: World Bank). Therefore Ukraine should take into consideration Georgia’s precedent and start rebuilding its economic, social and political systems. Given that the initiator of the successful Georgian reforms and then President of Georgia is now advising Ukraine government, we may not have to wait too long.

In conclusion, Ukraine should stop crying over spilled milk and face the fact that the ‘white stain’ it has left can hardly be poured back into the bottle. Instead, it is highly desirable to start tackling internal problems, such as corruption, budget deficit, poor business environment and public finance, rise of nationalist movements and bad roads. Otherwise, people who are weary of the pointless war may start demanding changes.

Bogdan Nesvit

Bogdan Nesvit

Editor, Eastern Europe at InPRA
Having completed his under-graduation at Dnepropetrovsk National University, Bogdan read as a post-graduate at the University of Oxford and University College London(UCL).

Coming from Ukraine, he has worked for Ukrainian City Councils, magazines, journals and joined the United Nations in 2014.

He hopes to bring a different but robust prospective on Eastern European and Eurasian politics with his work.
Bogdan Nesvit

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