by Christina Lomidze
The world watched closely as the Georgian-Russian relationship hit an all-time low in August of 2008. During this tumultuous month, Russian tanks rolled into the sovereign territory of Georgia, creating panic and disorder. As a result of this short lived war, Georgia lost its territory of South Ossetia, but even more importantly, it lost its dignity. Georgians realized how vulnerable they were to Russian aggression, and many wondered if the break-up of the Soviet Union had any effect on how the Russian Federation views its former satellite republics. With regard to its actions toward Georgia in 2008, it has become evident that the current Russian government still views many of the former Soviet Republics as its sphere of influence. Russia looks at Georgia as a foreign land that is not really foreign. Georgia, on the other hand, has been trying to assert its place in the world as an independent sovereign state. Time and again, they have attempted to join NATO with no luck. Many Georgians believe that by joining this organization, they will move away from Russia’s influence and become closer to the Western world. Some Georgians even hope to regain their lost territories of Abhazia and South Ossetia by securing Western support. It is safe to assume, however, that Georgia will not be able to regain its lost territories without permission from the Russian Federation. As Russian peacekeeping forces remain stationed in South Ossetia, many Georgians are beginning to wonder if they will ever again be able to call this piece of land their home.
While Georgia relentlessly pursues NATO membership, Russia pushes to organize an effective Eurasian Union. In a meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan in May of 2014: “The presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus formally signed an agreement…To create a limited economic union—an alliance hobbled by the absence of Ukraine but long pursued by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to confirm his country as a global economic force.” In “Vladimir Putin’s Impotent Eurasian Union,” Casey Michel states:
Modeled on the European Union's economic constructs, the new union will represent a market of 170 million, and will boast a total GDP of nearly $3 trillion. The EEU will serve as the maturation of the current customs union shared by the three nations, and will allow further economic integration—increased free movement of goods, streamlined trade regulation, unified macroeconomic policy—between member states. And the EEU has potential to keep growing. If Putin somehow manages to woo the remaining post-Soviet (non-Baltic) nations, the EEU's market could jump to some 300 million members and just under $4 trillion in combined GDP.
The question that remains unanswered is just how can the Russian Federation entice the former Soviet Republics to join this economic alliance? In the case of Georgia, the answer is simple: the Russian Federation should use a “carrot rather than stick” approach to redirect Georgia’s interests from joining NATO towards joining the Eurasian Union. Russia has already used the “stick approach” with Georgia in 2008, resulting in Georgian resentment towards Russia. By assisting the break-away region of South Ossetia, Russia has succeeded in pushing Georgia closer towards the West. The Russian Federation should now attempt to use a different approach to try to regain Georgia as an ally. By offering Georgia the proverbial carrot (in this case, South Ossetia), Georgia will regain its lost territory and Russia will have a better chance in persuading Georgia to join the Eurasian Union.