Georgia and Tuvalu Call It Quits
Call it a milestone in the ongoing battle for the Pacific. Georgia and Tuvalu, separated by 45,000 kilometers of land and sea, are not on diplomatic terms anymore.
Last February, when Tbilisi and Funafuti established ties, it seemed they were in it for keeps. At first, the two got along really well. Georgia gave the cash-strapped island $12,000 worth of medicine. Tuvalu backed a pro-Tbilisi UN resolution calling for return of displaced ethnic Georgians to their homes in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
To hear Tbilisi tell it, the relationship, all of a year-long, was both dynamic and mutually respectful, until along came Russia, and seduced tiny Tuvalu away.
The country reportedly recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia last year, and the Georgians think the island government got an offer from Moscow they could not refuse. Russia is accused of a campaign to bribe small, South Pacific nations into recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- two regions whose names never before really resonated in the South Pacific -- in a bid to legitimize the stationing of thousands of Russian troops on the two territories.
Deciding that the relationship, based on the notion of the "inviolability of borders,” cannot work anymore, President Mikheil Saakashvili signed a decree on February 16 to call it a day.
Elsewhere in the South Pacific, Nauru shares Tuvalu's take on the two breakaways, and Vanuatu is on the fence. Neither country has diplomatic ties with Georgia.
That leaves Fiji, another newfound friend for Tbilisi, whom Georgia claims is also struggling under a Russian charm campaign that will go to all lengths -- even so far as dressing up the usually staid Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a bright tropical shirt.