George Khelashvili, September 2012
The policy toward the North Caucasus proved to be the most pronounced national security problem for two neighbouring countries – Georgia and Russia – since the early 1990s. Both countries failed to address the problem adequately: Georgia lost control over two provinces adjacent to the North Caucasus, and Russia did not manage to quell separatist and religious fundamentalist challenges in the region in a sustainable way. Given the seriousness of the challenge of the North Caucasus, both realist as well as liberal school of thought in International Relations would expect mutually beneficial collaboration between Georgia and Russia in addressing the security problem. And yet, consecutive regimes both in Georgia as well as Russia failed to achieve collaboration, and foster the destructive process in the North Caucasus and adjacent areas, especially Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the Pankisi Gorge.
This paper is an attempt to analyse the root causes of discord between Georgia and Russia that pertain to the politics of the North Caucasus. In the first section, an overview of the North Caucasus problem as existing since the late 1980s is given. In the following section, the international political dimension of the Georgian-Russian squabble over the North Caucasus is analysed, followed by the domestic political and ideational factors that influence Georgian policy toward the North Caucasus. Finally, a plausible basis for the solution of the North Caucasian problem is discussed, in the context of intensity of Georgian-Russian political disagreement.