The Good Neighbor
07 August, 2015
The Good Neighbor
In 2012, Georgia was promised to witness what ex-Prime Minister Ivanishvili called “a new age.” It would be achieved by “restarting” our relations with Russia, forgetting old hatreds and turning the page over. We would once again become good neighbors, he claimed, even though such a period never existed in our history to begin with.

“Friendship and amiable relations cannot be unilateral, especially so when one side responds to displays of goodwill with open hostility. People are introduced to this simple concept as early as kindergarten, when they first encounter bullies and realize the necessity of defending themselves.”

Three years have passed since, and good neighborhood has already borne its fruit: The regions of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia can now be considered officially annexed, abductions of Georgian citizens from villages adjacent to the occupation line have become regular, and signposts marking the so-called South Ossetian border are now located in 450 meters from the vital Tbilisi Highway. In addition, Russia’s Consumer Rights Protection Service has just recently found some fault with Georgian wines (again) and is now preparing a package of sanctions against our country.

How does our government react to this? By expressing deep concern, of course! Apparently, not even the best and brightest among the ruling coalition seem to realize that friendship and amiable relations cannot be unilateral, especially so when one side responds to displays of goodwill with open hostility. People are introduced to this simple concept as early as kindergarten, when they first encounter bullies and realize the necessity of defending themselves.

But our illustrious leaders seem content to take slap after slap in the face from Russia and carry on as if nothing had happened with almost Zen-like calmness – or perhaps ignorance. The same goes for our businessmen. They keep trying to stuff themselves up the Russian market’s arse despite knowing full well that they are not welcome, needed or tolerated there - regardless of the wants of the Russian consumer. Even after Russian authorities forcibly shut down numerous Georgian businesses in 2006, illegally deported hundreds of Georgians, introduced numerous embargoes against our country and made it crystal clear that there’s more where that came from, our businessmen still continue bleating about the “high potential of the Russian market” with blissfully idiotic smiles on their faces.

Is this some sort of political masochism? I do not know. But our country’s overall political tendencies these recent years can only
be likened to stepping on rakes over and over. Oh, you just found out that agreements with Russia are not worth the paper they are written on? Bam goes the rake. Did you now discover that the Russian market is politicized to the backbone? Bam! Another bruise on your forehead. Russian puppets continue to destabilize the situation in your country in response to your foreign policy? Bam! Your “friendly neighbor” disseminates propaganda against your country’s very statehood and independence… Bam!

My point here is that we have already been through this many times. Our history with Russia goes centuries back, and throughout all these centuries, Russia’s attitude towards Georgia remained exploitative and predatory. Has this experience taught us nothing? Or maybe we should have been utterly drowned in blood in 2008 to drive the point home? Russia is an enemy of Georgia, which has several times in the past come dangerously close to destroying not only our independence, but also our culture, language and national identity as well. It is currently occupying 20 percent of our country and conducting an openly hostile policy against it. So why do we keep cuddling up to this brute? What is so vital about Russia that our authorities keep humiliating our country at its hands?

But Georgia is so tiny, some would say. How can we hope to resist Russia’s power, some may whine. And yet human history is full of examples of small countries successfully defending themselves against foes that were larger and stronger militarily, economically and politically: Singapore successfully defends itself against Malaysian influence. Taiwan has no problems with giving China the finger over the Formosa Strait, and Finland long ago perfected its skill of exposing and disrupting Russian political maneuvers. So what makes Georgia worse or less than these countries? What is stopping us from being the proverbial hedgehog – too surly and painful to nudge and bother, and yet too flexible and agile to expose a soft belly to a subversive enemy?

Author: Zura Amiranashvili
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