Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior-Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation
Georgia is fighting to safeguard its statehood. Its statehood has a single enemy and that is Russia. This is such an obvious truth that ignoring it can be risky for any professional authority. It is already clear that a European, democratic and economically developed Georgia is not in the interests of Russia. Moreover, it could endanger Russia’s imperial interests in the region. It should be pointed out that the condition of Russian-Georgian relations is a small part of a much broader image of the Kremlin’s foreign policy, because of which the entire civilized world opposes Russia.
This is exactly why we should not give in to illusions. You must not rely on salvation from a crocodile, which is trying to bite your leg off. If it helps you get out of water or extinguish a fire, it will only do so because it wants to chew your other leg off as well. All this is coming from a clear, pragmatic standpoint, leaving aside the moral and ethical standards – much has already been said about those.
In fighting this single, unambiguous enemy we must pull all our strength together, use every resource we have available. We must also enact all possibilities and find new ones – in any direction and in any format.
Georgia does not possess much leverage to hinder Russia from exercising its occupation policy. In this regard, we must use all opportunities – there are no petty things here.
Such an additional resource is observing the work of the so-called diplomatic missions established by Russia on the occupied territories of Georgia and planning/implementing countermeasures through bilateral, as well as multilateral diplomatic channels.
If the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation is to be trusted, there are about 40 active diplomats in Georgia today. Only eight of them have legal status and are working at the Russian interests section of the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi (https://georgia.mid.ru ). These diplomats include the Head of the Section, Senior Advisor, two First Secretaries, one Second Secretary and three Attaches. The Georgian public is not very well informed about the work of the diplomats working in the aforementioned section, besides the fact that getting Russian visas is associated with difficult, tiring procedures and questionable deals. There are also suspicions that the receiving structure of the reports of the section is not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia but the Federal Security Service.
Apart from the aforementioned distinguished diplomats working in Tbilisi, we also have additional 32 Russian diplomats who have sneaked onto the Georgian territories: two Ambassadors, two Minister Councilors, twelve Advisors, six First Secretaries, five Third Secretaries and five Attaches. It is a rather impressive number, if we look at the size of the populations of the occupied regions. In other words, we must be held in a very high regard to have merited such a presence (http://www.abkhazia.mid.ru/index.html https://rfsosetia.mid.ru ).
We must have strict control on all the Russian diplomats working on the Georgian territories illegally. We must know their names and surnames, their biographies and the fields of their professional interest. We must observe who is working in the so-called embassies established on the occupied territories of Georgia in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. The main aim of this will be to create a feeling among the Russian diplomats that working in the occupied regions is risky for their career growth, as they will find it difficult to work abroad in the future. Hence, Russian diplomats must have no motivation to work in the occupied regions of Georgia.
We need to create a special window on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, where the information about the Russian diplomats will be placed with a possible title of: “Diplomats which are forced by Russia – their homeland – to violate the norms and principles of international law.”
In the case of the attempts of moving these diplomats to other countries our Embassies must work with the governments of the destination countries. The main point here is that giving accreditation to these diplomats means an indirect recognition of the occupied regions of Georgia. Such actions must become an indispensable part of Georgia’s non-recognition policy.
The Ambassador of Russia to Abkhazia, Mr. Semyon Grigoryev visited Turkey in August 2017 and held some meetings there. It is interesting whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey knew about this. Did we ask the government of Turkey not to allow the employees and the “head of mission” of the diplomatic mission established in violation of the norms and principles of international law to cross the borders of Turkey, even if using the diplomatic passport as a government official? If he wants to travel, let him use an ordinary passport and travel as a private individual.
On the grand opening of the so-called embassy of Russia in occupied Sokhumi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia stated that the Russian diplomats would have a comfortable environment for their work in the building. We must make sure that in the future Russian diplomats working in the occupied regions of Georgia only receive such comfort in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.
Elbrus Kargiyev was the first so-called Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Tskhinvali. Mr. Kargiyev finished his 14-year diplomatic career by being a mock ambassador to the occupied Tskhinvali region. Comfortably settled in the occupied region with the Russian help, he received his salary in hard cash for doing nothing for almost nine years. He also got lucky afterwards as he was sent to a “well-deserved retirement” by which they relieved Georgian diplomats from the obligation of taking care of his professional future.
Marat Kulakhmetov is rather well known for the Georgian public. His “peacekeeping” activities, which manifested in the planning and implementation of a number of well-organized provocations with the aim of moving the conflict into the active phase, reached their goal and the very first war on the territory of Europe in the 21st century started. A normal country would have at least punished him for his inability to perform the duties of the head of the peacekeeping mission as well as discrediting his title; however, Russia appointed him as an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Maybe because he implemented the Kremlin’s plan, or rather part of the plan of provoking the war in the first place.
Semyon Grigoryev worked in the Soviet diplomatic service from 1983, mostly on the issue concerning Afghanistan and Iran. When I worked in Moscow as an Ambassador, Mr. Grigoryev was the Deputy Director of the Fourth Department of Relations with the CIS Countries and according to the assessment of the employees of the Embassy, was one of well-qualified and balanced diplomats with whom you could talk. However, this means nothing now. By agreeing to occupy the position of the so-called Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the occupied Sokhumi, he has limited his perspectives of professional growth to only Caracas, Managua and the capital of Nauru, if such even exists. Georgian diplomacy must take care of this now. As they say, nothing personal, just business.