Georgia Suffers in U.S.-Russia Reset

Washington’s reset with Moscow has one very clear casualty: Georgia. The U.S. insists that it still supports Georgia’s territorial integrity. But Washington also says that Russia’s ongoing occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “need no longer be considered an obstacle” to ratifying an agreement on joint civilian nuclear cooperation originally mooted after Russia’s 2008 invasion. And even though Russia has failed to get international recognition for the rebel regions’ independence, the U.S.’s growing closeness to Moscow effectively seals Georgia’s dismemberment. Russia certainly seems to assume so: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently told the Duma that the 2009 U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Charter is a “relic of past U.S. policies.”

NATO, too, is warming to Moscow and cooling toward Tbilisi. A NATO–-Georgia Commission set up in September 2008 hasn’t set any concrete membership targets for Georgia to meet. That’s a clear signal the alliance is in no hurry to talk about Georgian accession. More, the French are close to completing the sale of missile-bearing warships to Russia, which plans to deploy them to defend Abkhazia. Even old friends like Poland and the Baltics, which once clamored for NATO membership, now seem relieved by Washington’s step back from NATO expansion and missile-defense plans.

All in all, that leaves Tbilisi pretty isolated. But old friends who once saw Georgia as a strategic bridgehead now see it as more of a liability—in the process sending a signal to Moscow that the West prefers to strike diplomatic deals rather than get tangled in conflicts in Russia’s backyard.

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