Staunton, February 27 – “Ukraine is where Georgia was six years ago, but Russia has been transformed into a second North Korea,” according to Sergi Kapanadze, a former Georgian diplomat and negotiator. As a result, what stopped Vladimir Putin in Georgia in 2008 won’t do so again in Ukraine, he says, but if Kyiv recognizes this, that alone will be enough for victory.
Kapanadze, who served as Georgia’s deputy foreign minister for seven years, was recently in Kyiv to give lectures. In an interview with Olga Dukhnich of the Ukrainian Novoye Vremya, he compared the events of 2008 in Georgia with those in Ukraine now.
The Georgian diplomat and academic said the Minsk agreements could have become a peace plan, but they did not include any mechanisms “which would guarantee peace” and they allowed Russia to continue to present itself as a non-participant in the conflict, thus allowing the militants to act for it but without the Kremlin having to take any responsibility.
This is the kind of duplicitous diplomatic game Russian diplomats have long played and played with Georgia in 2008, Kapanadze said. Moscow’s diplomats always act this way, consider their country more powerful than it now is, and view “any compromise as a manifestation of weakness.”
They are thus obsessed with “saving face,” as Ukraine, Europe and the US fully understand, he continued. All have presented plans that would allow Moscow and Putin personally to do so. But that won’t work now because the situation is much more serious than in was seven years ago.
“The Russia of 2008-2009 with which [Georgia] spoke has receded into the past,” Kapanadze said. “Then Moscow still was trying to preserve its face before the Western world, but now it is not even trying to do so.” The dividing line was the annexation of Crimea, and consequently, “the mechanisms which could stop Russia in Georgia do not work in Ukraine.”
The only thing that remains, he said, is “the language of force,” something which includes both anything that will “intensify the economic crisis in Russia or strengthen the Ukrainian army.”
Kapanadze said Ukraine had made a mistake in not constantly talking about the Russian annexation of Crimea. It should be talking about that “constantly” because “if there hadn’t been Crimea, there would not have been the vents in the eastern portion of the country.” Unfortunately, Ukrainians and Western leaders find it easier to forget about Crimea.
In other comments, the former Georgian diplomat said that the West has not provided arms because it fears that this could involve it more deeply in the conflict. Kapanadze also said that Georgians had made the mistake of agreeing to allow Russia to play the role of peacekeeper: Ukraine must learn from that mistake or it will lose everything.
“If Russia is able to transform Ukraine into a failed state,” Kapanadze suggested, Georgia would be the next target of a similar campaign and Moscow would move to annex both Abkhazia and South Osetia and then move against the rest of Georgia as well. Thus, Georgia has a vital interest in the outcome of the struggle in Ukraine.