ABSTRACT

If relatively few people in the Western world knew much about the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, or even where it was, before the break-up of the USSR, many more people have learnt about it since. Of all of the post-Soviet states, Georgia has drawn the most attention since 1991, not just from its immediate powerful neighbour Russia, but also from international organizations of both the state and NGO character who have a concern for global and regional peace and security. The brief war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 was neither the beginning nor the end of a fraught relationship that has caused concern to planners in the US State Department, the EU, NATO, the OSCE and the Kremlin alike. This in spite of the fact that, with a population of under 5 million, Georgia is one of the smaller post-Soviet states with limited economic or military potential. For many commentators, Georgia’s disproportionate place in international affairs is a result of its geographical position immediately to Russia’s south and on the axis linking the Caspian and Black Seas, which gives it a potentially key role in energy and other transport infrastructures.1 The accident that it includes on its northern borders two small territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were accorded undue prominence as a product of Soviet nationality policies, provided opportunities for Russia to sustain a military presence in the region long after its direct empire had disappeared.2