Georgia Wants U.S. to Monitor Conflict

The New York Times
July 21, 2009


KIEV, Ukraine ' Georgian leaders hope the United States will join the
European Union's monitoring effort along the boundary with two
breakaway Georgian enclaves, a step they believe could deter
aggression from Russian or separatist forces, a senior Georgian
official said Monday.

The European Union's 246 monitors in Georgia are unarmed civilians and
are not allowed into the enclaves, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which
Russian forces wrested from Georgian control in a short war a year
ago. Still, the official, Eka Tkeshelashvili, the secretary of
Georgia's National Security Council, said broadening the monitoring
mission to include the United States and other nonunion members would
make it `politically very costly to Russia to do anything on the

`It has the potential for reaching a very tangible impact,' she
said. `It's always very hard to think what are the red lines that
ultimately Russia might respect, because we saw last year that it
passed most of the red lines that we could have imagined.'

The European Union's members are having an `informal discussion' about
whether to invite the United States to participate, a requirement for
any such expansion, said Peter Semneby, the union's special
representative for the South Caucasus. He said the European Union has
`taken note of the interest on the Georgian side,' but the decision is
not yet formally on any agenda.

The question will almost certainly come up this week, when Vice
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to meet with leaders in
Ukraine and Georgia. His visit, after President Obama's meeting with
the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, in Moscow, is aimed at
reassuring the countries that American support will remain despite an
improvement in Russian relations.

Mr. Biden's reaction to the monitoring proposal will offer one clue to
how far that support extends: Participating would assert Washington's
It would also challenge Russia, which wants the United States to
scale back its involvement in post-Soviet republics.

Mr. Biden intends to make it clear on this trip that the United States
will not abandon its allies in deference to Russia, said one of his
senior advisers.

`We will continue to reject the notion of spheres of influence,'
Antony J. Blinken, Mr. Biden's national security adviser, said in a
conference call with reporters last week. `We will continue to stand
by the principle that sovereign democracies have the right to make
their own decisions and choose their own partnerships and alliances.'

At the same time, said one American official who was not authorized to
speak publicly, `there will also be some tough love in both places.'

The official said Mr. Biden would press both countries to address
their failings ' mostly economic ones in Ukraine and political ones in
Georgia ' and also make clear to Georgian leaders that they should
have no illusions about using force to reclaim South Ossetia and

Every note Mr. Biden strikes will be analyzed `very, very carefully'
in Moscow, said Andranik Migranyan, an analyst in New York at the
Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, a Kremlin-backed research
group. Leaders in the Kremlin were impressed by Mr. Obama but consider
Mr. Biden's visit to Kiev and Tbilisi, Georgia, a truer indicator of
American intentions, he said.

Mr. Biden could send the message that `sovereignty is equal to
anti-Russian policy and anti-Russian sentiment, which means nullifying
the results of the Obama and Medvedev and Putin summit,' he said,
referring to the Russian prime minister, Vladimir
V. Putin. Alternately, he said, Mr. Biden could give a different
message: `We ask you to be more responsible in your behavior, not to
be hostile toward Russia.'

`In this case,' Mr. Migranyan said, `Moscow can really think that
Obama took Russia's concerns seriously.'

A decision about joining the monitoring mission leaves little room for
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United
Nations operated missions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; Americans
participated in both. This year, both were shut down under pressure
from Moscow, which argued that the organizations needed to either
recognize the enclaves' sovereignty or leave.

That leaves only the European Union's mission ' civilians who work out
of field offices near the edges of South Ossetia and
Abkhazia. America's contribution could be personnel, upgraded
equipment or technical assistance like access to satellite images,
Ms. Tkeshelashvili said.

David J. Kramer, who was a senior diplomat in the administration of
President George W. Bush, said American participation would reinforce
powerfully the need for stability along the enclaves'
boundaries. Already, simply by visiting Ukraine and Georgia, he added,
Mr. Biden is making it clear that the United States will still respond
to post-Soviet countries reaching out.

`This is not a case of the United States forcing its way into regions
where it's not wanted ' Georgia wants us there,' said Mr. Kramer, who
is also a senior trans-Atlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a
nonpartisan policy group that studies the relationship between the
United States and Europe. `We're never going to compete with Russia in
terms of proximity, and we shouldn't even try. But these are countries
that want closer relations with the United States.'

Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington. ld/europe/21georgia.html?hp