Georgia’s Changing Russia Policy – RFERL
01 May, 2013
Georgia’s Changing Russia Policy – RFERL
Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFERL) published an article about Georgia’s new policy towards Russia, which changed after new government came to power in Georgia.
“Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says resolving his country’s conflicts with Russia is his “big dream.” But it’s a dream that has him locked in a war of words with President Mikheil Saakashvili and his allies.
Saakashvili slammed Ivanishvili on April 23 for saying, in remarks to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, that Georgia
made “many mistakes” in its relations with the pro-Moscow separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Whose hearts is he trying to win?” Saakashvili asked. “This will have consequences for Georgia’s sovereignty, freedom, future, and territorial integrity.”
Ivanishvili fired back at a seminar with NATO's Parliamentary Assembly on April 29, saying his government would like help "rectifying mistakes committed by the previous government" that included a "counterproductive stance" that led to Georgia's conflict with Russia in 2008.
The flap is just the latest example of ongoing friction over Tbilisi’s relations with Moscow since Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition defeated Saakashvili’s United National Movement in October’s parliamentary elections and became the ruling party. Under constitutional changes enacted last year, the main powers of the president, including control of foreign affairs, have been transferred to the prime minister and the parliament.
The tension over Russia policy between Ivanishvili’s government and Saakashvili’s presidential administration, analysts say, reflects a fundamental dilemma for Georgia in how it deals with its large and powerful northern neighbor, which still tends to view former Soviet states as virtual vassals.
Taking a more assertive approach, as Saakashvili did, risks a fierce backlash. But engaging Moscow too closely and accommodating it too willingly opens the door to constant meddling in Georgia’s internal affairs.
"Russia is an extraordinarily difficult neighbor for Georgia. It is very hard to deal with," Stephen F. Jones, a professor of international relations at Mount Holyoke College and author of the book "Georgia: A Political History Since Independence," says. "They still have this tendency to believe that former [Soviet] republics are their colonies. But there are avenues that Georgia can pursue. They're not going to solve the issue of Russian-Georgian relations or solve the political status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But they are mechanisms by which the relationship can at least begin to sort itself out."
Ivanishvili and his key foreign policy ministers say they are not altering Georgia’s pro-Western orientation or its drive to join NATO and the European Union. Like Saakashvili, they insist that breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia are integral parts of Georgia and refuse to reestablish diplomatic relations with Moscow until Russia reverses its recognition of their independence and withdraws the estimated 10,000 troops stationed there.
But at the same time, the new government says it is also seeking to turn down the temperature with Moscow and engage Russia on issues of common interest, such as trade.
Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s defense minister, notes that "a nuclear-armed country of 140 million people on our northern border will not disappear." Like it or not, he adds, Tbilisi needs to “deal with” and “outsmart” Moscow.
"We don't have any illusion that Russia will change its policy toward Georgia, on its territorial integrity, or our aspirations to join NATO. But we want to get breathing space by calming the rhetoric so we can develop ourselves," Alasania says. "We want to tone down the rhetoric so we can have a workable relationship on trade, so we can develop our institutions and our economy and give ourselves more space to deal with the Abkhaz and the Ossetians. This is the idea. We call it a realistic approach to Russia."
And for the time being, the approach has overwhelming public support. According to a recent poll commissioned by the U.S. National Democratic Institute, 68 percent of Georgians believe the Georgian Dream coalition can best handle relations with Russia and 54 percent trust it to steer the country into NATO.
The government has negotiated the return of Georgian products, including wine and mineral water, to the Russian market. In the absence of formal diplomatic relations, Ivanishvili has also appointed a special envoy, Zurab Abashidze, to coordinate its dealings with Moscow.
Giga Bokeria, who is Saakashvili’s national security adviser, says the ruling coalition’s new policy risks undermining Georgia’s interests.
"The trade issue is a legitimate issue to focus on," Bokeria says. "But if the bargain [means] that the issue of Russia's interference in Georgia's domestic affairs -- not just the occupation but attempts to undermine Georgia's Euro-Atlantic path -- [is] sidelined at the expense of this, I think it would be a mistake. The message is blurred and contradictory and that all creates anxiety."
Some of that anxiety was evident during a rally by Saakashvili’s supporters in downtown Tbilisi on April 19 -- despite the public’s overall support for the government’s approach.
Giorgi Sibashvili, a 21-year-old student who came to the demonstrations with his face painted in the colors of the Georgian and European Union flags, says he is worried about Georgia moving too close to Russia and too far from the West.
"Now Georgian wine is returning to the Russian market. But what do we get from this?" Sibashvili asks. "I think first they need to return our territory to us and then we can discuss the wine."
The new government says that while Georgia’s goal of reintegrating Abkhazia and South Ossetia has not changed, the tactics for doing so have.
While Saakashvili shunned the de facto authorities in the territories, the Ivanishvili government says it plans to engage them and to initiate more contacts with the Abkhaz and South Ossetian societies as well. Getting Georgia closer to membership in the EU, admittedly a far-off goal, is also a carrot they intend to use to entice the regions, which de facto left Tbilisi’s control following brutal wars in the early 1990s.
And they also hope to capitalize on growing disillusionment in Abhkazia and South Ossetia with Russian domination of the territories.
"We need to give them a choice between Russia, as it is, and a new Georgia, a democratic Georgia that will be a part of Europe," Paata Zakareishvili, Georgia’s reintegration minister, says.
In response to their critics, members of the government note that despite Saakashvili’s anti-Russian rhetoric, under his rule critical parts of Georgia’s infrastructure were sold off to Russian companies. They also note that Saakashvili did not veto Moscow’s bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), thus allowing Russia to join and giving up a key bargaining chip.
David Usupashvili, Georgia’s parliamentary speaker, says that Tbilisi’s new policy is strongly supported by NATO, the European Union, and the United States.
"We are doing the things that the Europeans, Americans, and NATO representatives were always advising Georgia to do," Usupashvili says. "On one hand, we believe we should do these things. On the other, this is what we were advised to do [by the West]," the article published by Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty reads.
Print
Other Stories
Eka Beselia: “You will not be able to stop me, to make me stay silent, to disappear me!!!
MP Eka Beselia has posted an open letter on her Facebook page, following reports of sex tape leak.
CORRUPTION PERCEPTIONS INDEX 2018: Georgia got 58 out of 100
According to the CORRUPTION PERCEPTIONS INDEX 2018, Georgia scored 58 and was consequently ranked as 41 among 180 countries.
83% of Georgians support integration into the NATO, 78% into the EU – NDI
83% of NDI respondents support Georgia's integration into the EU, - the poll results of the National Democratic Institute say.
January 25 – birthday of the second president of Georgia
The 25th of January marks the 91st birthday of the second president of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze.
Jack Shepherd from the UK detained in Georgia
A British man who went on the run last year after killing a woman in a speedboat crash on the River Thames has been detained in the former Soviet state of Georgia - says Reuters.
Georgia recognizes Juan Guaido as an interim president
Georgia recognized Venezuelan parliament speaker Juan Guaidó as an interim president.
Georgian PM aims to turn Georgian into a center of the region
Georgian PM Mamuka Bakhtadze is in Davos to participate in World Economic Forum. He gave interviews to two media outlets – CNBC TV and Deutsche Welle.
Judges that served the violent regime of Saakashvili should not be in the Supreme Court, says Eka Beselia
Eka Beselia, a member of the parliamentary majority, held a press conference in the Parliament today.
Possible confrontation within the Georgian Dream Party?
Eka Beselia, a member of the ruling party, will hold a news conference in the Parliament at 12:00 today.
13 dead from swine flu in Georgia, emergency treatment to be free for all
13 people died from swine flu in Georgia so far, but there is no risk of epidemy, says Georgian Minister of Health.
Georgian president Salome Zurabishvili not ready for launching diplomatic dialogue with Russia
I'm not ready to give any advice to the legislative body about the launch of the diplomatic relations or dialogue with Russia
Georgia suffering the steepest drop in democratic quality in eastern Europe
According to the statistics for the Democracy Index 2018, published by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU),
“Let’s see if you can wrestle with women”- Interior minister to the opposition
Female Police officers were mobilized in front of the Gurjaani District Court where the case of Davit Kirkitadze, the member of the United Opposition was considered.
Georgian citizens can apply for temporary residency in France
150 permits for young specialists as well as additional 500 permits will be granted each year to go to work to France.
Numbers of Georgians seeking asylum in Germany has significantly decreased
According to Ambassador of Georgia to Germany Elguja Khokrishvili, the drop of asylum requests has been due to recently taken steps.
U.S. Congress supports Georgia with a new bill
Unanimously the U.S. approved the act, which calls for imposing sanctions on Russian actors for the commission of serious human rights abuses in the occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
‘Horn wrestling’ between opposition party leader and police chef
Yesterday on the 16th of December, clashes occurred between Nika Melia, leader of the United National Movement and Teimuraz Kupatadze, head of patrol police department in the village of Velistsikhe, Kakheti region (eastern part of Georgia).
Salome Zourabichvili officially becomes the fifth president of Georgia
The inauguration ceremony of president-elect Salome Zourabichvili took place in Telavi, Kakheti (eastern region of Georgia) on the 16th of December.
Fight erupt in paliament between Georgian MPs during session
Verbal and physical confrontation has occurred between MPs in the parliament.
Famous Georgians invited at the Inauguration of Salome Zourabichvili
The inauguration ceremony of president elect Salome Zourabishvili will be held in Telavi, Kakheti (eastern region of Georgia) on the 16th of December.
Exclusive interview with Lincoln Mitchell, American political analyst and Georgia expert
More than 20,000 people responded to the appeal of the opposition and gathered in front of the former parliament building in downtown Tbilisi last Sunday.
The after-pains of the presidential election in Georgia
Yesterday evening, at a meeting with his supporters in the Philharmonic Hall, the defeated candidate Grigol Vashadze made it clear that he didn’t recognize the result of the presidential elections and called for early parliamentary elections.
National democratic institute publishes their findings about the presidential elections in Georgia
A delegation of the National Democratic Institute, which included observers from five countries, analyzed the election process.
International media about the runoff presidential elections in Georgia
Although it didn’t hit the headlines, newspapers and broadcast around the world report about Salome Zurabishvili as the first woman who became president in Georgia.
100% of the ballot counted: Salome Zourabichvili wins
Yesterday on the 28th of November, the second round of the presidential election took place in Georgia.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
20.02.2019
21.02.2019
USD
1
USD
2.6498
2.6574
EUR
1
EUR
2.9977
3.0146
GBP
1
GBP
3.4246
3.4629
RUB
100
RUB
4.0023
4.0421
Other Stories
On 26 May, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, joined celebrations in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi
Violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Assad regime has been strictly criticized
Exactly one year ago, Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the European Union.
Georgia’s ex-president president Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters managed to free detained Mikheil Saakashvili in the center of Kiev.
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.6498
EUR
1
EUR
2.9977
GBP
1
GBP
3.4246
RUB
100
RUB
4.0023