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KYRGYZ LAWMAKER VOWS FIGHT FOR RUSSIAN LANGUAGE. Kubanychbek Isabekov, deputy speaker of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, told a news conference on July 29 that he and other deputies will lobby for the retention of official status for the Russian language despite a planned constitutional reform, reported. Three proposed drafts recently submitted by a constitutional reform task force would change the status of Russian from an official language to a language of interethnic communication (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 27, 2006). Also present at the news conference was Vladimir Zhirinovsky, deputy speaker of Russia's State Duma and head of the Liberal-Democratic Party, who stressed that Russian remains the CIS lingua franca, adding, "Georgians are not going to study Lithuanian, and Ukrainians are not going to study Tajik." DK

After weathering a prolonged period of confrontation with Russia, Georgia launched an assertive, but prudently limited, three-day military campaign on July 25 with the twin aims of restoring both central authority over at least part of the Kodori Gorge and a degree of hope and pride in Georgia.

The campaign entailed a 1,000-strong Georgian force comprising troops from the Interior and Defense ministries moving to retake direct control of the remote Kodori Gorge, thereby reasserting central Georgian authority over the one part of Abkhazia still under Georgian control. The move into the gorge, which is divided between the Georgian-administered upper area and the Abkhaz-controlled lower part, was also a bold display of military might in the face of some 1,600 Russian peacekeepers deployed in close proximity.

Ironically, the only resistance to the deployment of the Georgian forces came from neither the Abkhaz nor the Russians troops, but from a small paramilitary band led by Emzar Kvitsiani, the area's former Georgian governor. Kvitsiani, chosen to administer the upper Kodori Gorge by former President Eduard Shevardnadze in 1999, refused an April 2005 order by Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili to disband and disarm his Monadire (Hunter) militia. Perhaps sensing the futility of the mismatch of forces, Kvitsiani chose flight over fight and eluded either capture or defeat. Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili -- who personally oversaw the Kodori operation -- said on July 28 that Kvitsiani is believed to be either in Sukhum or somewhere in Russia.

By July 27, a triumphant President Mikheil Saakashvili declared the "successful completion" of the "police operation" in a nationally televised address that heralded the relocation of the Abkhaz government-in-exile from Tbilisi to the Kodori Gorge. Saakashvili was also quick to announce plans to reconstruct the local airport and restore the road linking the gorge to the regional administrative center in Upper Svaneti. More significant than simple aid, such targeted assistance is aimed at extending the strategic links between the Kodori Gorge and Georgia proper.

The seeming success of the Kodori operation meets two specific Georgian goals. The first is the need to both reverse the devolution of power from the central authorities and step up the demonstration of power in the face of challenges to Tbilisi. In this respect, the move to retake the upper Kodori Gorge and restrain autonomous paramilitary groups is further designed to send a strong message to both breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The second goal is much broader, and stems from a need to demonstrate a greater resolve and commitment to strengthening Georgian statehood and sovereignty. Within this context, the Kodori operation also relates to Georgia's confrontation with Russia and its aspirations for closer ties to the West.

Since Saaakashvili's election as president in January 2004, Georgia has intensified its efforts for integration with Western security institutions, with a strategic drive for NATO membership and for a deeper engagement with the European Union. This Westward strategic orientation was further bolstered by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

But from this strategic perspective, Georgia appears to have misread the Western response to its overtures. Despite the outward appearance of success, the recent Kodori Gorge operation actually reveals the shortcomings of the Georgian bid for NATO membership. And perhaps most interestingly, it also reveals a mutual misreading of motives by both Georgia and the NATO alliance.

There are two core issues comprising this dilemma. First, Georgian satisfaction with the effectiveness of its limited campaign in the Kodori does little to allay growing concerns within the NATO alliance over Georgian motives and motivations. Specifically, the Kodori operation only underscores the danger of a shift by Tbilisi away from a political to a military approach to the unresolved Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts. For Georgia, the Kodori operation affirms its readiness for an intensified dialogue with NATO, representing a graduation in relations and a step closer toward outright membership.

For NATO, however, the process of developing and increasing the professionalism of the Georgian armed forces was never aimed at endowing it with an offensive capability to tempt it to strike against the breakaway republics. In fact, even before the Kodori operation, there was concern over Georgian military spending, which spiked by some 135 percent in 2005, the largest percentage increase anywhere in the world. But the move into Kodori resembled a preliminary but pronounced move toward more ambitious, and more aggressive, incursions directed against the Abkhaz, and/or Ossetians.

The second element of the dilemma of Georgia's courtship of NATO concerns not Georgia, but the future of the NATO alliance itself. NATO has already surpassed, and survived, a significant structure redefinition, based on both a newly defined concept of security and a newly delineated area of responsibility. But Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has warned repeatedly in recent months that enlargement is "on hold," and that no further formal invitations to join the alliance will be forthcoming at the NATO summit in Latvia in November.

And with regard to Georgia in particular, de Hoop Scheffer said on July 26 after talks in Brussels with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli that it remains unclear when Georgia will be ready to embark on an Intensified Dialogue -- the next stage after the Individual Partnership Action Plan, and the prelude to a Membership Action Plan.

Moreover, Georgian membership in NATO, given the country's division and unresolved conflicts, may actually weaken the alliance by incorporating insecurity rather than projecting security. Georgian ascension would also undoubtedly impact NATO's already tenuous relationship with Russia, heightening tension to an even greater degree than the two earlier rounds of NATO enlargement.

As the dilemma over Georgia's courtship of NATO is now centered on the level of engagement, the future course of Georgian-NATO relations will hinge on the lessons Tbilisi draws from last week's operation in Kodori, specifically, whether it decides to go one step further and restore its control over either the whole of Abkhazia or South Ossetia, or to abandon further military action and seek a negotiated setlement to the two conflicts.

UKRAINE'S PARTY OF REGIONS ACCUSES PRESIDENTIAL SUPPORTERS OF BLACKMAIL. Yevhen Kushnaryov, a leader of the Party of Regions, told Ukrainian ICTV on July 30 that any attempt by President Viktor Yushchenko to disband the Verkhovna Rada would "receive an adequate response from parliament and will not bring peace to our country," UNIAN press agency reported. Kushnaryov also said that talks with the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc have been characterized by pressure and blackmail. Kushnaryov claimed that, by threatening to disband parliament, Yushchenko and his supporters are attempting to force the Party of Regions to endorse the president's platform instead of seeking a compromise solution that could lead to cooperation. RK

PARTY OF REGIONS PUTS PRESSURE ON UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT. The presidium of the Party of Regions issued a statement on July 31 in which it reminds President Yushchenko that by law he has only three days left to decide whether to endorse its candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, for the post of prime minister, Interfax Ukraine reported on July 31. The presidium said the party had entered into talks with the pro-presidential Our Ukraine to "stabilize the political situation" in the country, but instead found that "a political force that managed to get less than 14 percent of the vote during the trying to force others to adopt their ideology and to rule over the majority." RK