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Friday, August 29, 2008

Outgunned and outspent

The report from International Crisis Group on Georgia is worth a read. One paragraph that jumps out:

"Unable to define its political role and to put boots quickly on the ground, the EU has focused on providing humanitarian assistance, though the European Commission’s pledge of a maximum of €11 million in such aid for Georgia’s post-war rehabilitation is dwarfed by Russia’s promise of $420 million for South Ossetia… The EU is now sending an assessment mission to calculate more substantial reconstruction and economic support needs. Italian Foreign Minister Frattini has recommended that a stabilisation conference for the South Caucasus be held in Rome on 13 November but an earlier donors conference is needed well before the difficult winter months."

The only way Georgia could conceivably ‘win back’ the breakaway provinces is through a huge improvement in its own relative prosperity – in a similar manner to the ‘draw’ that West Germany exerted on East Germany before reunification. To do so, it will probably need plenty of external help.

It looks like the EU is a long way from being able to pull this off in the Caucasus – especially given the small size of the populations of the breakaway provinces (Abkazia is about 300,000, South Ossetia 70,000) that are receiving such huge funding from Russia.

Given that the remainder of Georgia has a population of 4 million, EU aid works out at about €2.75 per person; whilst Russian aid to South Ossetia will be €4,000 per person.

As the report points out, the other important thing here is speed. If the EU stalls on upping its aid commitments until mid-November, this will be too late for many of the internally displaced people and others affected by the conflict. Over to you Washington…

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