‘Friendship with Russia is unachievable…and not needed’
21 October, 2010
‘Friendship with Russia is unachievable…and not needed’

‘Construction of Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway is postponed indefinitely’


After two years of innumerable Geneva missions and consultations, Moscow decided to hand one village over to Georgia; the move accompanied with brazen commentaries of Russian high ranking officials that Russia had fulfilled all of its responsibilities and hence no one was supposed to reprimand them about the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement any more.
Of course, international community welcomed and lauded Moscow with the move. During the August war the occupying forces snatched as many as

one hundred forty villages in the Shida Kartli alone (so called South Ossetia), to say nothing about the losses in Abkhazia.

Judging by the rate, we could even estimate the time of Georgian territorial unification somewhere in the distant future.

Our discussion with political expert Konstantine Zhghenti started from the unrelated issue, the newly adopted Constitution:

Q: The Venice Commission is ready to acknowledge that the last version of Georgian Constitution fully complies with European Standards. This message of the Commission was relayed to the Georgian President by the Executive Secretary of the Commission via phone. Will the new Constitution help strengthen Georgia’s democracy and statehood?
A: I think it will help as much as the last version of the Constitution got closer to the highest standards of the European Commission or at least to those basic standards which are required by the EU and NATO rules for merely starting the accession efforts.
We got accustomed to routine statements such as “a step forward”, “victory” and alike, turning a blind eye on the other reality where it will take decades with such steps before we reach the ultimate goal; that is, become a developed and secure state. It is this point which counts, not the number of steps per se, by which we are advancing.

Q: The Authorities link the visa-free regime it has just established for the North Caucasian republics with better chances of closer relations between north Caucasian and Georgian nations, whereas the opposition expects no less than heightening of the risks of terrorism and mounting Russian anger. What do you think the regime would bring about?
A: If all the negative effects are ruled out – which is likely more in theory than in practice - the new regime could be seen as creating a more favorable conditions for the North Caucasian youth to visit and study in Georgia, as well as for the development of trade and economic ties.
In my view, above said negative effects are more probable than all the positive things that the new regime may entail.

Q: Russia is set to withdraw its border guards from Perevi village of Sachkhere district, as declared by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia. It turned out that there is a certain degree of sensitivity behind the air of outright Russian disregard of international opinions on Georgia.
A: It is hardly possible to make all-encompassing judgment on the matter. For one thing, the Russian decision is positive and significant in itself (if realized timely). I believe the Kremlin cherished the proposal long ago and only today they considered it appropriate to voice it. It’s a result of both American and European efforts and the Kremlin’s calculations. Let me remind you that there are numerous examples in the history of wars and armed conflicts when one side conquers a land of another for this or other reason only to show its virtue to the world by offering the conquered land back.

Q: De facto Tskhinvali Authorities say that so called South Ossetia respects international law and is ready to allow IDPs from Akhalgori return to their homes under the UNHCR aegis. At the same time, they set preconditions that the IDPs must recognize jurisdiction and laws of so called South Ossetia. Some experts think the local population should not abandon the occupied land and hence justify accepting of separatist passports on the part of IDPs. What do you make of it?
A: I agree that the main thing is to keep Georgian population there and that acceptance of separatist IDs is justified to this end. Moreover, when we bear in mind that these documents would be used internally. In the same way jurisdiction and laws of so called South Ossetia would exist only for separatists themselves and few other entities such as Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, Hamas and partially recognized Western Sahara. Thus problems of Georgians who remain to live there should be tackled by both separatists and Georgian Government in cooperation with international organizations.
Q: Last week Georgian political life witnessed the public birth of a new party named Georgian Party. What can be the prospects of this new tandem as it has not unequivocally identified itself with the western orientation and likewise distanced from Russia. How real is the achievement of wellbeing through friendship with Russia (certainly I mean wellbeing of our country, not that of particular politicians)?
A: The desire to pursue balanced politics is not new. Many existing parties and groups also have it. It is this balanced policy that is most valuable in the international politics and diplomacy. On the other hand, it is questionable whether this policy is feasible in Georgia under the existing situation. In my opinion, it will be hard to achieve, considering the tensed relations with Russia. Who, among Georgian political movements, has adequate resources for it? Friendship with Russia is unachievable… and not needed. But a party or political group should have resources for pragmatic policy at least.

Q: Tbilisi city court placed Israeli businessmen Ron Fuchs and Zeev Frenkiel under preliminary detention. Was it an evasion of international responsibilities or attempt to bribe a governmental official? How often decisions of international arbitrage are questioned? If the decision is just, why the businessmen had to offer the bribe at all?
A: I am not an expert in this sphere. I cannot give you a helpful idea on that. Well, as for the last question, I can say there is logic in it. But it is also a fact that in today’s world business and political interests of individuals and states translate into illogical behavior and results.

Q: In the nearest future, Russian and Turkish ports Kavkaz and Samsun would be connected to each other via ferries. The new transportation system will enable Russia to transport goods not only to Turkey but Syria, Iran and Armenia. Would this development somehow affect transit function of Georgia?
A: Certainly it may. You can do nothing regarding competition (honest competition) in transportation and any other sphere. I am more concerned about the complete silence of the Government about the news that construction of Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway has been halted due to termination of funding for an indefinite period.

Q: During Barak Obama’s meeting with Democratic Party supporters in Philadelphia, somebody threw a book at him. As the North American press writes, rating of Obama in public polls sunk as low as the worst rating of Bush. Why has Obama’s rating gone to the dramatic slump?
A: If we look a the US history, we would see that rating of American Presidents and their parties often move more or less downwards from the Presidential elections till the midterm elections. According to American political experts, this phenomenon is not related to any particularly significant negative event during the period. Rather, it is a sign of a certain degree of discontent that mounts in the electorate, which usually follows excessive promises of Presidents made at the time of their elections. Normally, it is the first two years that bring most of the disappointment.
Obama’s rating has indeed declined. It is also expected that Democrats would loose seats in the Congress and Senate in the midterm elections. Nevertheless, I doubt that radical changes are in the offing in the US politics.

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