‘Agreements must be respected’
30 September, 2010
‘Agreements must be respected’

‘Sooner or later Russia will have to compromise’

How real is the idea of united and peaceful Caucasus, given that the region is seen by many as a ticking bomb, ridden with a bouquet of conflicts nurtured by Russia, one of the most aggressive players in the world? Besides, last week the first hearing of Georgian Parliament gave a ‘go ahead’ to the constitutional changes to herald a new redistribution of power between the branches of State power.

The new Constitution

is seen by experts as a guarantee of “political stability”. Non-parliamentary opposition, however, looks disdainful of this significant novelty in the state life. Some of them gear up for uncompromised and final battles to change the election environment, yet others in their ranks ready themselves for so called Popular Council of Representatives. This and other important topics were the subject of our interview with Soso Tsintsadze, expert of political sciences.
S.T. - After the Georgian President proposed the idea of peaceful Caucasus in his speech to the UN General Assembly, the opposition dabbed him as a plagiarist accusing him of steeling the idea from the first Georgian President – Zviad Gamsakhurdia. In reality, this idea existed even before Gamsakhurdia. In his pursuit of creating united and peaceful Caucasus, Zviad Gamsakhurdia chose the only means to this end the alliance with Jokhar Dudaev. This immediately turned the idea abortive because Dudaev had problems with a number of neighbors starting from Russia and ending with Dagestan, Ingushetia and North Ossetia.

Gamsakhurdia did not have any notion of foreign policy and balance of world powers, yet he put all the eggs in the basket of Jokhar Dudaev and directed all his energy only to the relations with Chechnya. Accordingly, he did not attempt to normalize links with Yerevan and Baku, not to mention the West and Russia. In diplomatic terms, inspired by the idea of peaceful and stable Caucasus, Saakashvili put Russia on the spot by inviting the latter with computers and books, instead of rockets and tanks. By doing so, he told Russia that the 21st century does not have a room for tanks, military bases and occupation. In the same way, this means that Russia will be involved – call it even “forced involvement” – in the realization of peaceful Caucasus. Should Russia refuse still, it would have to justify its attitude.

Q: Instead of accepting the proposal of the Georgian side, Tskhinvali regime gave an ultimatum to Georgian population in Akhalgori: either they give in and get passports of so called South Ossetia or become the citizens of a foreign country and pay 320 Rubles for every visit to their own homes in Leningori (Akhalgori).
A: It is a well established policy of Russia to cleanse the occupied territories from Georgians. In this regard, Kokoiti – de facto leader of  Tskhinvali regime is more active than Baghapsh - his counterpart in Abkhazia – who more or less accepts presence of Georgians in Gali district and does not seek excuses to uproot them (true, he does not consider 200 thousand Georgians who fled Abkhazeti as refugees either). Kokoiti’s policy is much more primitive. He wants to rid Tskhinvali region of all Georgians. It was a gross mistake when in the past they included Akhalgori district in so called South Ossetia. Although, it happened during the Saakashvili presidency, it was Nino Burjanadze - then the head of the Parliament – who spearheaded the change through the Parliament.
It did not happen by accident when Dmitri Treinin, Head of Carnegie Foundation in Russia, published the project on how to make restoration of relations with Georgia possible. He proposed that Georgia should recognize independence of Abkhazia but not of Tskhinvali region, so that Gali district of Abkhazia was transferred to Georgia and Tskhinvali region re-joined Georgia on certain conditions. Certainly, I cannot accept the idea of recognizing Abkhazian independence. Yet, the project could perhaps be used as a basis for negotiations. Likewise, the idea of confederation may be given a chance of scrutiny just as well.
Russia suffered a diplomatic setback in this area and is heading to self-isolation. Putin is a ‘Chekist’, imperialist and aggressor, but he has got wits. He saw that the problem was not in Saakashvili. Because whoever replaces Saakashvili in the future, she or he would not recognize independence of Abkhazia and so called South Ossetia facing a perspective of political death.
With the idea proposed by Saakashvili, Russian Prime Minister now has to admit that Saakashvili – whom he intended earlier to hang by his balls – speaks business. Putin indeed will try not to get “entangled” with Saakashvili. But if the entire civilized world exerts political pressure, no one - neither Putin-Medvedev’s Russia, nor the United States - would be able to withstand it. Sooner or later Russia will have to compromise.
It was a defeat of Russia when it failed to put things in order in its “backyard”, i.e. CIS. It failed to force any of 11 countries that make up CIS, to recognize independence of Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. The country of Putin and Medvedev, who strive to get in the cohort of world leaders, the country which has super-power claims, suddenly finds itself in the empty place only with three renegades: Nauru’s President Marcus Stevens, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega. Russia could not achieve the recognition of those two separatist territories even from Cuba.
After Russia violated the August 12 Agreement, its credibility is now seen tainted. In today’s world the old dogma enshrined by Romans 40 centuries ago that agreements must be respected, still holds.

Q: For you, what are the most significant aspects about the new project of constitutional changes, seen as a mechanism for transition to the new political system?
A: The new Constitution is a step forward on the way to parliamentary republicanism. Suspicions that the new Constitution is designed for Saakashvili are completely unfounded. However, it would have been better if the Parliament had been devised as bicameral. Because if the opposition and the ruling group fail to achieve an agreement, the second chamber could serve as a shield to prevent discontent spilling over to the streets and help retain discussions within the walls of the Parliament.
One famous American constitutionalist, professor of Harvard University, who recently was visiting Georgia, told us an extraordinary thing: Don’t be so foolish to make your Constitution resemble ours – American Constitution should be burnt and thrown away. Any Constitution has its positive sides and flaws. The main thing is that it should be functional and conformed to.

Q: Certain opposition parties consider improvement of election environment more important than the constitutional changes.
A: A politician should not be a fatalist. Election environment is a barometer of political parties influencing the public. There are no exclusively fair elections in the world. Rigging may always happen, except it should not be 100%. Winners are those who work with electorate. Electoral legislation is not a decisive factor.
The opposition did not manage to persuade the population that it would live a better life if the opposition won. This is the reason of its failure. In the same way, I do not expect results from the attempts of the proponents of representative council to have people express their will. The only effective means for the people to express their will is elections.

Q: There was a controversy over the amendment of the Law on Police which is enabling a police officer to stop and search a citizen on the grounds of “reasonable suspicion”. What results will this change bring about?
A: Who will determine, what is reasonable suspicion as opposed to unreasonable one? If a police officer confronts a citizen but fails to find anything suspicious, would he or she stand accountable for the created psychological discomfort? When you give so much power to a police officer, you should simultaneously introduce responsibility on the part of the officer not to violate citizen’s rights.
Does not this amendment violate international conventions, according to which human rights are fundamental? I think they should have written ‘founded suspicion’ in the law, instead of ‘reasonable suspicion’ and bind a police officer with an obligation to prove fairness of stopping and searched a citizen.

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