Expert opinion
Two Positions divided by Deep Crevice
16 September, 2010

Interview with Zurab Abashidze, Doctor of Political Sciences
In today’s world, new spheres of influence are emerging. In this context, it is of primary importance to have a sensible assessment of the situation our country is in; get a clear picture of political, economical and cultural aspects.

The future of the country depends on it. If a person is ill, unnatural attempt to depict his state in overly heavy or light terms won’t help him recuperate. We discussed current and future

political perspectives of Georgia with Zurab  Abashidze, Doctor of Political Sciences:




Q: In Tennessee, the United States two priests burnt the Quran. Another desecration of the sacred book of Muslims happened in Manhattan during the commemoration of 9/11 tragedy and its victims. How successful was the past nine years in fighting against international terrorism? What was the result of this fight?
A: In fact, we felt the turn of the 21st century right after the 9/11 tragedy. There was a new profound feeling that we were witnessing a new reality with that extremely dangerous phenomenon. Talks about international terrorism did not start overnight but it was after 11 September, 2001 that this factor acquired a completely new meaning.
In one moment it flashed in our minds that all those risks and threats that humankind has been dealing with for centuries, swelled out to include a new trend called international terrorism. Then we were immediately shaken with Iraqi and Afghanistan events and fierce war with international terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Taliban. And this new breed has been ever since expanding to incorporate other similar movements mushrooming here and there.

Q: Nine years passed but situation in Iraq remains complicated. Nobody knows what would happen after the coalition forces leave the country. Will the Authorities there manage to retain stability? Will confrontation spiral up again leading to new rounds of massive internal bloodshed? Will Iraq be able to remain integral ultimately? Maybe a new dictator is being brewed to take over the power and get the situation under control using violence. Nobody knows answers yet.
A: Well, there are certain optimistic scenarios and calculations but overall pessimism predominates. No less complicated is the situation in Afghanistan, despite the alleged successes they are talking about – such as localization of Al Qaeda in specific regions and waning sympathy of locals towards this formidable force. Certainly, resistance in Afghanistan is immensely strong. Something always happens there every day. Like Iraq, too many feel things may drastically deteriorate there. The neighboring Pakistan is also suffering from incessant turmoil. Destabilized Afghanistan would be a serious threat to its neighbors.
Next to these current deadlocks, new hot spots such as terrorist acts in northern Africa and countries of South-East Asia aggravate the matter further. All these things are a bad omen. Terrorism is still gaining the ground, despite the extensive war waged against it. It is also marked with increasing confrontation between Muslim and Christian worlds. World leaders incessantly underline that the war is not religion-driven. By the way, most of the terrorist victims are Muslims. Yet, the fact is that the factor of religion looms large, which is a dangerous development.

Q: Last week, a horrible terrorist act shook North Ossetia, which constrained Daniel Benjamin, new coordinator of counterterrorism at the Department of State, to declare that the US Administration sees links between terrorists operating in North Caucasus and other regions, namely, with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan; and that the United States is ready to help their Russian partner.
A: First of all, I would like to convey my condolences to the victims – the people who are our neighbors and brothers. It’s destructive to whitewash terrorism. After the August, 2008, violence in the North Caucasus has been on the rise. This is often argued by Russian politicians and experts, who insist that there is no connection between the developments in the North Caucasus and Tskhinvali events, namely, recognition of so called South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. They prefer to seek for other purported reasons behind the North Caucasian calamity.
I do not claim everything what happens there is an exclusive legacy of the August events. However, it is a fact that heads of North Caucasian republics themselves used to point out after the August war that violence in their respective regions had doubled. By the way, statistics prove that the sharp rise is an indisputable reality. I am surprised that Moscow cannot see this obvious truth. Perhaps, they do not want to. This is one thing I wanted to talk about. Another thing is that these events in the Caucasus – widespread unrest and escalations – are not good for any side.
I do not rule out Russia may have to abandon the whole region in this or other form, should the events escalate without limit. While there is no sign of this radical solution, things may get rotten to such an extreme that we could see formation of international nest of terrorists fraught with clan and mafia wars. Take stock of the likelihood that in case of major international upheaval, interests of Russian and world politics may clash with unpredictable consequences.

Q: The puppet Sokhumi regime made two contradicting statements. First, they noted they wanted to allow UN observers to their borders. Next, they claimed stationing of UN Mission or observers in Abkhazia is something in the domain of theory. These led Georgian politicians to believe that Abkhazians did not want to be left alone with Russians. Is there really that kind of mood in Abkhazia?
A: No doubt, whatever Abkhazians want, they will not spell out anything unless it’s pre-agreed with Russians, their Big Brother. We will see what they have in mind. There is this format of Geneva negotiations. If something clicks, Russians may still decide to raise the question during these negotiations. The situation in Abkhazia differs from what our Abkhazian colleagues imagined after Russia recognized their independence in 2008. It appears everything goes in line with Russian plans. Accordingly, Abkhazian plans are thwarted. This means the total control and utilization of the region and ringing bells of alarm to anything Abkhazian. That some processes are underway in Abkhazia is clearly visible, which is confirmed by the Likhni meeting – if it has happened at all. However, Russians are so firmly grounded in Abkhazia, so deep is their penetration that I do not see any chance of Abkhazian resistance.

Q: During his meeting with American Congressmen, Davit Usupashvili noted that however important is the participation of Georgian army in the international operations, the United States should not turn a blind eye on misgivings of Georgian democracy. These sorts of accusations were more usual during the Bush administration. Have things changed?
A: I understand Mr. Usupashvili. He raised a very serious issue which needs a discussion. But is the US Administration really turning a blind eye on the matter? I would not be all that sure oft it. At least all traditional forms in the arsenal of American diplomacy and politics are fully operational as regards Georgia, American politicians regularly visit Tbilisi, meet opposition; a permanent dialog and information exchange always takes place. Everyone can see that not a single week passes without such meeting. As I know, strengthening of democracy is always on the agenda of these meetings. Maybe some people believe America have not enacted all the resources so far.
We also lack instances of objective analysis. Probably, it requires a serious scrutiny. It looks as if the public and many experts mostly see the events in completely black or white shades. One part says everything is just brilliant and that we are in the second place in the world; however, others lament that genocide of Georgian people is underway. These two positions are divided by a deep gap. The Authorities have more resources and instruments to present their positions. Compared to them, the opposition is much more underprovided. But it is also the fact that our public is characterized by radicalism. Whatever event happens to be in the limelight, we are at odds with objective reasoning about it, falling short of grasping a bigger total picture.
Whatever the Authorities do, it becomes the object of rampant criticism by the opposition. The Authorities in turn are bogged down with excessive intransigence to the words of criticism uttered by the opposition. Well, let us pay justice to the past twenty years and recognize that there are indeed a few signs of improvements. Our society has comprehended and understood many things since then.