Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 157 (2014)   

Georgia's Search for the Third Way:
Despite a strong westward pull, Georgia attempts to improve its relations with Russia

Publicerad 17.6.2014

Sinikukka Saari
Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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Russia is not likely to resort to overt political pressure on Georgia in the run-up to Georgia’s signing of the Association Agreement with the EU (27 June), and the NATO Summit in Wales (4–5 September). This is partly due to its weak levers and the fact that they cannot be strengthened within a short time span.

Instead, Russia is likely to apply a dual strategy by strengthening its indirect ‘influence tools’ that are operating within Georgian society, as well as by continuing dialogue and pragmatic cooperation with the Georgian leadership – at least for the time being.

Moscow is likely to stand firm on the issue of the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In all likelihood, Russia will seek to increase its control over the territories, and to hamper any rapprochement between Georgia and the separatist territories.

Despite the fact that the Russian intervention in Ukraine is likely to deter and delay substantial progress in the cooperation between Georgia and Russia, both sides seem to be willing to continue on the path of ‘normalisation’.

A practical compromise on the Georgian westward course seems to be emerging: in all likelihood Georgia will sign the Association Agreement with the EU without much Russian interference, but NATO will not offer Georgia a Membership Action Plan at the Summit.