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The Daily Vertical: Russia's Post-Soviet Protection Racket (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

With one statement this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pretty much summed up Moscow's attitude toward its neighbors.

Speaking on the eve of a provocative visit to Georgia's Russian-occupied region of Abkhazia, Lavrov said the following:

"The situation in the region remains tense. Georgia still claims the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, refuses to make nonuse of force agreements with them, and emphasizes its intention to join NATO."

OK, let's take this one piece at a time, shall we.

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First: The situation in the South Caucasus region remains tense. Well, yes it does.

Lavrov is right about this. But why is it tense?

It is tense because Russia continues to occupy 20 percent of Georgian territory -- and has proceeded to militarize that territory.

Second: Georgia continues to claim the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Well, yeah, because according to international law, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Georgian territory. Period.

Third, Georgia refuses to pledge not to use force in the region.

Right again. Because doing so as Moscow builds up its forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would amount to unilateral disarmament as well as Georgia's tacit acceptance of Russia's occupation of its territory.

And finally, yes, Georgia has stressed its desire to join NATO.

Well, they've sure got nerve thinking that as a sovereign state they can aspire to join any alliance they choose.

Lavrov's comments this week illustrate, yet again, that Moscow's attitude toward its neighbors is that of a protection racket toward its victims.

It's geopolitical extortion that says: do as we say or we'll burn down your house and blame it on you.

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