Georgia’s brief war with Russia is over, and though President Mikheil Saakashvili is eying future wars with Russia, his attention must turn now to a more immediate problem. While most Georgians rallied behind the government during the fighting, the sobering effect of post-war reality has left many Georgians questioning the wisdom of provoking a war with their enormously larger and more powerful neighbor to the north.
Emboldened by the turn in popular opinion, Georgia’s opposition has called for President Saakashvili’s ouster. Opposition leader David Gamkredlidze declared that the president no longer had any right to his position, saying “Despite numerous warnings Saakashvili unilaterally took the criminal and irresponsible decision to shell Tskhinvali, which led to catastrophic consequences for the country”.
The war destroyed much of Georgia’s military, displaced a large number of civilians along the border and severed a key rail link with Azerbaijan. It also placed the breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, already enjoying large measures of de facto independence, completely out of Georgian control with Russia formally recognizing the independence of both.
Bolstered by very public messages of support from the west however, President Saakashvili has remained confident, vowing to reclaim the breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Speaking this weekend, Saakashvili said he expected the rest of the world to unite against Russia and restore his country’s “territorial integrity”. On the question of provoking a war with Russia, President Saakashvili also claimed today to have presented “very solid proof” to the European Union that Russia had actually started the war. Mysteriously, Saakashvili has chosen to keep this proof a secret, which will likely lead to questions about its veracity.