Putin Pinched by Russia-Georgia Crisis ; He Faces Pressure to Back off before Friday's EU-Russia Summit

By Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Putin Pinched by Russia-Georgia Crisis ; He Faces Pressure to Back off before Friday's EU-Russia Summit

Fred Weir Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor

President Vladimir Putin, headed for an informal EU-Russia summit in Finland Friday, faces a gathering storm in the West over Moscow's economic blockade of Georgia and a related harsh crackdown against Georgians in Russia.

European Union foreign ministers offered a taste of what Mr. Putin can expect in a sharply worded statement Tuesday, which warned Russia "not to pursue measures targeting Georgians" living in Russia, and to reconsider its embargo of the tiny post-Soviet republic of 5 million. But gauging by recent polls, the moves have proved popular with Russians, putting Putin in a tough spot.

"Putin's position is dramatic," says Andrei Ryabov, an expert with the Gorbachev Foundation, a Moscow think tank run by the former Soviet leader. "Nationalist moods are difficult to manage once unleashed, and the state is losing control over this domestic campaign [against Georgians]. Now Putin finds himself caught between pressure from the EU, which deeply affects Russia's strategic interests, and from radical nationalists in his own circle. His space for maneuvering is shrinking."

Experts say the escalating confrontation is rooted in Russian concerns over Georgia's westward drift under US- educated President Mikhael Saakashvili, and particularly the little Caucasian state's recently intensified dialogue with NATO about gaining membership.

A brief spy scandal earlier this month prompted Russia to withdraw its ambassador, cut transport and postal ties with Tbilisi, and initiate naval war games off Georgia's Black Sea coast. Over the past 10 days, dozens of Georgian-owned businesses across Russia have been closed down, for stated reasons ranging from sanitary violations to tax evasion. Nearly 1,000 Georgian "illegals" have been rounded up and flown to Tbilisi. Russia has also moved to curtail $2 billion in remittances sent home annually by the more than 1 million Georgian "guest workers" in Russia. The crackdown has also extended to Russian citizens with Georgian roots, some of whom have been targeted with tax audits and other official scrutiny.

"This anti-Georgian campaign concerns us all," says Nikolai Svanidze, a leading Russian television personality of Georgian heritage. "It has led to a wave of xenophobia, which is very dangerous in a multiethnic state."

Mr. Saakashvili has insisted that Georgia will weather the Russian blockade, but some are not so sure, especially with winter coming.

"We expect gas prices to double, electricity prices will go up, and this will affect every Georgian," says Archil Gegeshidze, an expert with the independent Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Tbilisi.

The crisis has been brewing since the early 1990s, when Moscow backed successful separatist insurrections in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway Georgian regions. When Saakashvili came to power in the wake of the anti-Moscow "Rose Revolution" in 2003, pledging to reunite his fractured country and lead it into NATO, Russo-Georgian relations took a dramatic turn for the worse.

"Russia's major concern is that Georgia has irreversibly embarked on integration with the Euro-Atlantic community," says Mr.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Putin Pinched by Russia-Georgia Crisis ; He Faces Pressure to Back off before Friday's EU-Russia Summit


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?