There is already talk in Russia of returning Abkhazia to Georgia. The Armenian lobby opposes this

12.06.24 8:17

The improvement of relations between Russia and Georgia is a tangible reality today. While there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries and it is unlikely that they will be restored as long as the occupation of Georgian Abkhazia and Samachablo remains, Russia has initiated discussions about the potential for restoring relations.


Those with a patriotic outlook in Russia are aware that fostering amicable relations with Georgia is beneficial to their country. Furthermore, the maintenance of corrupt separatist regimes in two small regions of Georgia cannot be considered a viable substitute for cooperation, given the limitations it places on logistical opportunities and economic losses. Consequently, those who espouse a patriotic outlook in Russia are beginning to consider how to return Abkhazia and Samachablo to Georgia in a manner that does not result in a loss of face for Russia.


A number of potential solutions have been put forth. One such proposal is the formation of a confederation between Georgia and Abkhazia. However, it should be noted that, according to the current Constitution of Georgia, Abkhazia is afforded the same rights as many other confederate states around the world. Other avenues for de-occupation, while maintaining Russia's geopolitical interests, are also being considered.


In principle, many people are inspired by the example of the resolution of the Karabakh issue. Currently, the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has been de-occupied, the remaining separatist forces have been neutralised, and Russian peacekeepers are being withdrawn. However, despite these developments, there has been no evidence of a "defeat" of Russia or an infringement of its interests. Conversely, the relationship between Russia and Azerbaijan is undergoing a period of positive development. Azerbaijan is demonstrating a more constructive approach towards Russia than Armenia, which is perceived as an ally.


Furthermore, collaboration with Azerbaijan presents Russia with significant opportunities for the advancement of transit projects, particularly the 'North-South' initiative. Furthermore, Armenia's stance and its obstruction of the opening of the Zangezur corridor impede Russia's ability to access new markets through Azerbaijan.


However, arguably more detrimental to Russia's interests is the stance of the Armenian lobby on the matter of Abkhazia and Samachablo. Armenian nationalists demonstrated a tenacious attachment to Georgian Abkhazia. It is evident that this territory has become the most valuable trophy of the entire separatist campaign and border redrawing effort, eclipsing even the importance of Artsakh, which Armenians have seemingly abandoned without regret.


In the present era, the Armenian lobby, comprising individuals from the political, media, and academic spheres, is engaged in a concerted effort to persuade the Russian public that Georgia remains a Western-aligned entity and is inherently hostile to Russia. This narrative is further reinforced by the assertion that any perceived betrayal of separatists would negatively impact Russia's international image. However, in the Russian Federation, a more objective perspective on the Abkhazian issue is emerging, with materials on this topic already beginning to appear. For example, Alexander Pylev's article, 'Abkhazia may return to Georgia: the likelihood of this is indicated by a number of important economic and political decisions taken in Tbilisi and Moscow', published on the website BloknotRU, offers an example of this trend.  The full text is provided below for reference:


The probability of Abkhazia returning to Georgia is indicated by a number of major economic and political decisions taken in Tbilisi and Moscow.


It is clear that, in the event of such a scenario, the governments of Moscow, Tbilisi and Sukhumi will have to work assiduously to reach a compromise that will be acceptable to all parties.


When Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze recently announced plans to return Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the country by 2030, many pundits in Russia reacted rather belligerently. Is the Georgian army ready to run away as quickly as it did in 2008? But the situation is far from that simple: it seems that Moscow and Tbilisi are taking their relations to a new level, not too publicly, but quite successfully. So far, the two unrecognised republics are the main obstacle to rapprochement. South Ossetia is a separate issue. But Abkhazia is the main diplomatic issue. And it seems that Russia could agree to the republic's return to Georgia under certain conditions. What is the basis for such a conclusion?


Georgia has literally just taken an unprecedented step towards Russia: this is how we can assess the entry into force of the scandalous law on foreign agents - 'On Transparency of Foreign Influence'. Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili signed the document after President Salome Zurabishvili refused to do so. This was despite strong protests against the law, backed and fuelled by the West. In essence, Tbilisi has shown, albeit not directly, that it has chosen the path of integration with Russia. Not in opposition to the desire to join the EU, but in parallel. After all, the EU is far away and Russia is close. And Washington, which initiated and supported the protests against the law, was told in Tbilisi: 'The policy of blackmail does not correspond to the spirit of partnership with the USA'.


Never mind that the Americans themselves have had such a law in place for decades. As have many European countries. It is just that they are allowed to do so, and the rest of us do not have the right to notice how the US and NATO actively influence the politics of other countries through public organisations. Another important point is that Tbilisi would hardly dare to enter into a conflict with the 'world hegemon' if Georgia did not have guarantees of support from Russia. And this, as well as large-scale economic relations, are only possible if the issue of the unrecognised republics is resolved. And above all Abkhazia, which today is an economic 'traffic jam' on the trade and tourist routes between Georgia and Russia.


Abkhazia, which has closed its border with Georgia, does not allow road or rail traffic. Land communication between our countries is via Ossetia. The route is long, inconvenient and limited in volume. And it is purely motorised. In this situation, we cannot talk about a real expansion of the flow of goods or the exchange of significant tourist flows.


At the same time, Abkhazia has adopted legislation that effectively blocks even the attraction of investment into its own economy. So far, foreigners (including Russians) do not even have the right to buy an apartment here. There are politicians in Abkhazia who realise that such far-reaching restrictions weaken the country's economy, but most do not hear them. In 2015, bills were introduced in the republic's parliament that would allow foreigners to legally buy apartments. They caused a serious debate in Abkhazian society, but in the spring of 2016 it was decided that no bills on lifting the ban on buying housing in Abkhazia would be considered. Since then, there has been no work on reforming housing legislation. Any investment in real estate is carried out through very complex, 'grey' systems. And this is unacceptable for the arrival of serious and large modern business.


Supplying the Russian market with fruit and welcoming holidaymakers to a tourism sector that is seriously lagging behind modern standards of modernisation and comfort - this is, in simple terms, the basis of the country's economy. It is not surprising that last year Abkhazia's budget totalled 9.6 billion roubles, including 3.7 billion in Russian financial aid. This is less than the revenues of one city, Ivanovo, which exceed 10 billion roubles. And with the current legislative restrictions, the Abkhazian economy is unlikely to make a qualitative leap.


Technically, these problems could be solved by integrating Abkhazia into the Russian Federation. But neither the republic's inhabitants nor its leadership want this! When such initiatives appeared in public, for example by Dmitry Medvedev in the summer of 2023, they were firmly rejected in Abkhazia. So investment will not come?


But against this backdrop, there is increasing news that Russia and its big business are planning unprecedented economic injections into the transport corridor to Sochi. First of all, there will be a high-speed railway 'South' linking Adler and Moscow. The project was presented at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Secondly, it was announced that the country's most complex transport construction project will soon begin: the Dzhubga-Sochi motorway with 12 tunnels and a cost of at least 1.4 trillion roubles. It is planned to be completed by the end of 2029 as part of the Southern Cluster project. Financing will come from both budgetary and extra-budgetary sources.


And now a fundamental question: are such large investments being made just to increase the flow of holidaymakers to Sochi? In other words, is Russia cutting off a double transport corridor?


Abkhazia and Georgia are a potential transport corridor for Russia to Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.


But the perception of these investments changes dramatically if we imagine that we are building a route that will connect us directly with Georgia and through it with Armenia and Turkey. And this is already the start of transport corridors to Iran, Syria and the whole of the Middle East. In fact, we can get high-speed motorways and railways with access to the region that is strategically important for us, with which we have so far only interacted by expensive air transport or slow - by sea. But it turns out that Abkhazia is the only one standing in the way of rail and road links.


In principle, it does not want to become part of Russia (although it does not refuse aid from the Russian budget). Legislatively, it blocks many forms of investment. It has no plans to open the border with Georgia. While Tbilisi has been aggressive towards Moscow, Abkhazia has served as a kind of outpost between us. But in the case of partnership and good-neighbourly relations between Russia and Georgia, Abkhazia's position becomes a brake. Not so much political as economic.


Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that the adoption of the scandalous law on foreign agents in Georgia was, let us say, the first part of an unofficial deal between Moscow and Tbilisi to build mutually beneficial relations. They have shown us that they are serious. And they are waiting for Russia's willingness to compromise, including on the issue of Abkhazia.


It is too early to talk about specifics: it should certainly reflect the interests of the three sides and, first and foremost, of Abkhazia itself. Most likely, it will be about the highest possible form of autonomy. We cannot talk about any violent or coercive options. If Abkhazia is returned to Georgia, it will only be under the condition that the majority of the republic's inhabitants, if they notice any changes in their daily lives, it will only be for the better.


Yes, there is a geopolitical side to the problem: Russia has almost completed the construction of a naval port in Ochamchira (Abkhazia). But this is not a problem that cannot be solved with the right attitude on the part of the Georgian authorities. Even in the current situation, our ships will still be based on the territory of another country. So the final solution is possible with Tbilisi: for example, a long-term agreement on the right to base the fleet on this territory. Yes, it would be impossible to reach such an agreement with an anti-Russian government. But today we see that Tbilisi is sending clear signals to Moscow that it is ready to cooperate.


It is no coincidence that, for example, political scientist Sergei Markov has said that 'Abkhazia and South Ossetia could return to Georgia'. He sees two main variants of such a development:


"The first - if Russia loses its influence. The second option, if there is reconciliation between Russia and the West, Georgia and Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia decide to establish peaceful relations with Georgia, they can be reconciled with mutual forgiveness".


But is it possible that Moscow and Tbilisi have decided to disregard the interests of the West? And negotiate directly: Georgia, Abkhazia and Russia".  End of article.


This kind of material, reflecting the sentiments of a significant part of the patriotic Russian elite, is a real shock for the Armenian lobby. Their dreams of an 'Armenia by the sea' from Taman to Inguri can simply be 'buried' by the reconciliation of Georgians and Abkhazians, Russians and Georgians, and the return of Georgian refugees. Moreover, the de-occupation of Abkhazia will give a new impetus to Russia's cooperation through Georgia with Turkey, which is hated by Armenian nationalists.


It would therefore be naive to think that Armenian provocateurs will not try to 'blow up' Russian-Georgian relations at the point where they have the greatest tendency towards rapprochement. We are talking about the ecclesiastical sphere.


It should be remembered that the "old Christian brothers", who until 1992 did not have a single church in Abkhazia (because it was difficult to prove the Armenian "original affiliation" of Abkhazia with the help of forged "old" inscriptions and cross-stones), together with the separatists, organised a real genocide of the Orthodox Georgian population. They also killed Orthodox Abkhazians who 'dared' to serve in Georgian Orthodox churches and monasteries. In particular, in the village of Komandy, militants killed the ethnic Abkhazian subdeacon Yuri Anua, as well as Georgian priests and monks.


At the same time, the separatists managed to 'convert' the priest of the State Orthodox Church, Vissarion Applia, who adopted an ardent pro-separatist position and organised a self-styled 'Abkhazian Orthodox Church' in the separatist territory. Pro-Armenian media and political analysts immediately began to spin it as a 'revival of the ancient Abkhazian Orthodox Church'. The impostors failed to gain recognition in the Orthodox world. And now, when the question of normalising Georgian-Russian relations and resolving the Abkhazian issue has arisen, the Armenian lobby, through Vissarion Applia, has decided to provoke a conflict between Georgia and Russia 'on the church line'.


Vissarion Applia wrote an ultimatum to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, demanding that he 'take Abkhazia under his omophorion' and appoint 'his' bishop there. In other words, the ROC is urgently and flagrantly violating the canonical boundaries of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Armenian lobby has linked its puppet Abkhazian separatist 'president' Aslan Bzhania to the church provocation. According to a source in the separatist 'government' in Sukhumi, the 'president' (Aslan Bzhania), the speaker of the 'parliament' (Lasha Ashuba) and Father Vissarion were going to Moscow to have an audience with the Patriarch. They had already bought tickets. A few days before they were contacted by the Patriarchate to clarify the agenda of the meeting. They said they had three points: to determine the canonical status of the 'Abkhazian Orthodox Church', to consecrate a bishop for Abkhazia and to allocate a church in Moscow for the Abkhazian diaspora. And the next day the meeting was cancelled.


It is obvious that in the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church separatists and puppets of the Armenian lobby were simply 'sent away', and they were right. Armenian provocateurs have already caused a lot of problems for the Orthodox peoples of Russia and Georgia. And when their puppets interfere in 'church issues' to provoke new conflicts, their attempts must be nipped in the bud.


Aleqsandre Zaqariadze

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