Academic journal article Military Review

UN Observer Mission in Georgia

Academic journal article Military Review

UN Observer Mission in Georgia

Article excerpt

IMPLIED IN MARXIST DOCTRINE is the notion that if two neighbors are of different backgrounds-ethnic or otherwise-but have enough food to eat and a means to live comfortably, they will coexist peacefully. In a utopian world, unaffected by those base emotions and urges which might collectively-and euphemistically-be termed "man's frailties," this might be true. However, what recent history has convincingly shown us is that power or threat of force is far more effective at keeping disparate neighbors from each other's throat. The former Yugoslavia is a good example of this.

The former Soviet Union also has many conflicts among the scores of ethnic groupings. The Transcaucasian region is replete with such occurrences. South Ossetia, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh; these names are synonymous with ethnic-based political and, in the case of the latter two, large-scale military struggles over the past several years. It was in this greater region, northwest Georgia, that I deployed for almost six months, serving in the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) in 1995.

The northwest region of Georgia, sharing a northem border with the Russian Federation, a western border with the Black Sea and extending southeast to the Inguri River, is known as Abkhazia. The indigenous Abkhaz, ethnically, are "a member of the North Caucasian family of peoples."1 They are ethnic cousins to Cossacks, Chechens and other Caucasian groups. During Soviet times, this region was an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within Georgia. In the 1930s, Joseph Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, initiated the settlement of many Georgians to this area, diluting the population of ethnic Abkhaz. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Abkhaz separatists began to push for an independent Abkhazia. At this time, they made up only 18 percent of the region's total population, whereas Georgians constituted 47 percent. Other well-represented ethnic groups in this region included Russians and Armenians. In July 1992, through a resolution by the Supreme Soviet of the "Republic of Abkhazia," the reinstitution of an old constitution, drafted in 1925, was enacted. Chapter 2, Article 5, specified that Abkhazia is "a sovereign state which implements its state power all over its territory independently and irrespective of any other power."2 In August, fighting broke out between Georgian and Abkhaz forces. Initially, the Georgians advanced quickly toward the Russian border. Eventually, though, the Abkhaz, having received arms from Russia and aided by numerous other Caucasian fighters, rolled back Georgian forces to the Inguri River, which approximates the current cease-fire

US Policy Toward the Conflict

The US government has not recognized Abkhazia as a sovereign state. Therefore, no American citizen may have his passport stamped with the "official state seal" of Abkhazia. This policy is in keeping with an original precept under which UNOMIG was formed: that the UN would recognize the territorial integrity of Georgia. All observers in UNOMIG carry Abkhaz diplomatic identity cards. This action is not indicative of any passive acknowledgment of Abkhaz state legitimacy. Rather, it is to expedite unhindered travel throughout the mission area.

On 14 May 1994, representatives from both sides in this conflict signed documentation in Moscow agreeing to a cease-fire and separation of forces. UNOMIG's mandate, in accordance with the Moscow agreement, consisted of the following tasks:

* Monitor and verify the implementation by the parties of the agreement on a cease-fire and separation of forces.

* Observe the operation of the Commonwealth of Independent States peacekeeping forces (CISPKF) within the implementation agreement's framework.

* Verify, through observation and patrolling, that troops of the parties do not remain in or reenter the security zone (SZ) and that heavy military equipment does not remain or is not reintroduced in the SZ or the restricted weapons zone. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.