February 15, 2023 - 7:30am

Speaking on Saturday, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili alleged that Ukraine is trying to open a “second front” by drawing his nation into its war with Russia. “We have heard direct statements from Ukrainian officials that their goal is to open the second front,” said Garibashvili, who added that “attempts are still being made to transfer the Ukrainian war to our country.” 

Garibashvili’s allegations were the latest in a string of similar claims from Georgian leaders. In January, the chairman of the country’s ruling party claimed a “global war party” has the goal of “artificially creating problems for Georgia”, with the aim of opening a second front. He argued that while Georgia has the military means to “make the situation worse for Russia”, doing so would “come at the cost of destroying Georgia”. 

Georgia’s tense relations with Kyiv have been highlighted in recent days by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s criticisms of Tbilisi for imprisoning and allegedly mistreating former Georgian President and Ukrainian national Mikheil Saakashvili.  Yet whatever the veracity of the Prime Minister’s claims, it is concerning that they carry a hint of credibility in the context of previous apparent attempts by Ukraine to expand the war beyond its own borders. 

Garibashvili’s allegations came the day after Ukraine made headlines claiming that a Russian rocket had violated the airspace of NATO country Romania on its way to striking Ukraine from the Black Sea. Zelenskyy said that “several Russian missiles passed through the airspace of Moldova and Romania. These missiles are a challenge to NATO and collective security. This terror that can and must be stopped.” 

Yet Romania denied that Russian missiles had entered its airspace, saying the nearest any rocket came was 22 miles from the border. Moldova confirmed that its own airspace had been violated. 

If Romania is telling the truth, it is alarming to think that Ukraine may have invented an act of Russian aggression against a NATO country. Doubly concerning is the fact that this is not the first time a contradiction like this has occurred. 

When a missile fell on Polish territory last November, it seemed for a few dreadful hours that World War Three was looming. Zelenskyy claimed in his daily address that “Russian missiles hit Poland”. He went on: “This is a Russian missile attack on collective security. This is a very significant escalation. We must act.”  

Even when it was confirmed that the missile had been fired by Ukrainian air defence, he refused to back down, saying he had “no doubt it was not our missile”. 

In this context, the accusations being made by the Georgian authorities seem less far-fetched, although they should still be taken with a heavy pinch of salt. Ukraine has a clear and understandable interest in broadening the war beyond its own borders, stretching Russian forces and ensuring even greater involvement from Western partners. 

During his visits to London, Paris and Brussels last week, Zelenskyy again showed inspirational leadership and extraordinary personal magnetism. At the same time, apparent Ukrainian attempts to bring other countries into the war through inaccurate communications suggest that the West should be careful not to take everything he says at face value.

William Nattrass is a British journalist based in Prague and news editor of Expats.cz