Russian, US and European connections: Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge

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Russian, US and European connections: Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge

The Georgian government fails to exercise effective control over parts of its territory. In the last decade, Georgian statehood has been threatened by a civil war and secessionist conflicts. Its government has failed to reform its armed forces and has lost control over the Pankisi Gorge, a sparsely populated patch of the Caucasus Mountains on the border to Chechnya. Some hundreds Chechen fighters including several dozen Islamic extremists connected to the al-Qaeda network are believed to be hiding in that area. After the attacks on the United States on 11 September, the risks posed by failing states in the propagation of international terrorist networks are being taken more seriously into consideration. The US decision to send up to 200 special operation forces to Georgia in March 2002, in order to train Georgian forces to regain control over the Pankisi Gorge, proceeds from this logic.

The European Union and its member states are fully engaged in the American-led campaign against international terrorism. While the EU is not a major factor in the military actions planned to tackle the presence of the international terrorists in Pankisi, it has a significant role to play in supporting these actions. As will be argued in this paper, this possible support is not limited to humanitarian and development programs to make the solution to the Pankisi problem sustainable. Finding conjunction between security and developmental responses and institutions is a major challenge for EU policy in relation to Pankisi.

The first part of this paper provides background information on the Pankisi Gorge, analyses the weakness of the Georgian armed forces, the motives and details of US-Georgian security assistance and the Russian response to the enhanced American involvement. The final section of this paper analyses European Union policies in Georgia in the framework of its antiterrorism agenda and its cooperation with the OSCE in Georgia. The paper concludes in identifying the role of the Pankisi issue in the context of European Union policies, and includes some policy recommendations concerning future EU policies towards Georgia.


Jaba Devdarianiis from the UN Association of Georgia andDr. Blanka Hancilovais from the Institute for International Relations, Prague.

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