“EU will sign Agreement with Georgia anyway”
13 February, 2014
“EU will sign Agreement with Georgia anyway”
An interview with Lincoln Mitchell, an Associate at the Harriman Institute and an Affiliate at the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University

We started our interview with the most important issue for the world currently: the role of the Russian federation in Ukrainian issues, the EU’s attitudes and possible mistakes, as well as the Ukrainian effect on Georgia’s European path. We also spoke about the Olympic Games, on Georgia’s options and future perspective. Alongside political assessments, Lincoln advised us to develop a baseball program good enough to field a team in the World Baseball Classic.
– How might the situation develop in Ukraine?
– It is very difficult to predict how things will resolve themselves in Ukraine. However, some things are clear. President Yanukovych has made a difficult bind for himself. Because of his ill-advised decisions, the issue is no longer the EU but his own corrupt and authoritarian behavior. That puts him in a much weaker position. It is also clear that a victory for the orange forces here will not resolve anything but will simply be the newest iteration of the orange-blue dynamic that has paralyzed Ukrainian politics for a decade. A third point is that the future of Ukraine is very much in doubt. There is no guarantee that the country will hold together, but if the country breaks up, it will have significant repercussions throughout the region. Lastly, although it is a cliché, the future is very much in the hands of the Ukrainian people. Russia has overplayed its hand, while the US has underplayed its hand, but the result is that neither outside power has as much influence as it would like.
– Can we somehow “accuse” the EU in the Ukr
ainian hardship?
– Not exactly. The EU acted reasonably but they underestimated both Russia’s interest in the question and Yanukovych’s perfidy. In this respect, they brought a baguette to a gunfight.
– What role might Russia perform in terms of Ukraine’s problems?
– It seems obvious to point out that Russia’s interests in Ukraine are very different from that of the US, Europe or a good proportion of the Ukrainian people, so Russia is unlikely to help Ukraine move towards the EU or greater democracy. Nonetheless, Russia is a major stakeholder in Ukraine and cares an enormous amount about what happens in that country. Given that, while Russia will not play a productive role, it will be very difficult to address this problem while ignoring Russia.
– During his speech in Munich, our PM Irakli Gharibashvili hoped that through the participation of Russia the situation in Ukraine may be regulated. How correct was the PM’s assessment considering Georgian-Russian relations?
– It depends a bit on how you interpret the comments. If the Prime Minister meant that Russia will be a productive partner in solving the crisis in Ukraine, then he was wrong. If he however meant that Russia cannot be ignored, then he is more right. My sense is that the second interpretation is more accurate.
– How might the situation in Ukraine affect the Georgia’s EU path?
– It may have little effect, as the two countries are significantly different. Most importantly, there is virtual unanimity about wanting to join the EU at both the elite and popular levels in Georgia. Thus, the situation is quite different than is the case in Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine demonstrates once again that Russia is not comfortable with countries like Georgia, Ukraine or Moldova moving towards the EU. However, Russia was able to exploit a context in Ukraine that does not exist in Georgia. It is also possible that the EU, badly wanting a success, will accelerate Georgia’s path to Europe.
– In case Georgia does not meet all the obligations for signing the Association Agreement in August of 2014, what do you think, will the EU sign the agreement with us anyway?
– My view is that the EU will sign the agreement, as they cannot be seen as losing Ukraine and abandoning Georgia in the same year or so.
– The Olympic Games have started. Our sportsmen are taking part in the games. How right was Georgia’s decision not to boycott the Sochi Olympics?
– If a larger boycott had formed with several participating countries, then Georgia should have participated in that. However, the world would not have noticed if only Georgia had boycotted the Olympics. My hope for Georgia with regards to sports is not so much that they will participate in Putin’s Olympics, but that in the next few years they develop a baseball program good enough to field a team in the World Baseball Classic.
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