Saakashvili as an Inspiration
28 December, 2017
Saakashvili as an Inspiration
His reputation has certainly been somewhat diminished in Georgia (and Ukraine), but it appears that Ex-President Saakashvili’s divisive persona still fascinates people far and wide. Among those who admire him and his achievements is Christina Pushaw, a development specialist from the US, who was one of the organizers of the rally in support of Saakashvili in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Washington DC this month. Christina, who has spent several years working in Georgia, was glad to share her
insights on the man she calls her “political mentor” and “inspiration”.

You know the man personally. What’s your Saakashvili’s story?

My Sakaashvili story is interesting. I was studying history, Russian history specifically, at university. It was in 2008, of course, that many of us really heard for the first time about Georgia, during the war. I was always Republican and volunteered for John McCain’s campaign as a student. When McCain said “today we are all Georgians”, I started to look into the country and its leader, and soon realized what he had done for his country: quite significant accomplishments compared to its neighboring countries, and I admired him for that. Then I began volunteering at the Reagan Library in California, where I am from; he was speaker there a couple of times so, I knew him. My family is sort of political. I’d say we move in the same circles, especially on the Republican side. When I applied to move to Georgia after I graduated university, Saakashvili’s government was running a program for native English speakers to teach English in villages. That was originally my motivation to go to Georgia. I went to Georgia, loved it, had a couple of different jobs, mostly in education. It’s a quite long story, but in the end, I think it gives me quite a different perspective on the political situation in Georgia and now in Ukraine.

There is quite a glorifying assessment of Saakashvili on your Facebook page. You call him the Simon Bolivar of Eastern Europe and your mentor.

First of all, he calls himself that. When I was getting my MA in International Development and Economics last year, I did my field research in Ukraine. Me and my 10 classmates had a meeting with Saakashvili. During that meeting he called himself that because Bolivar was one of the few people in history to lead two countries. So, I liked that. I thought, he is not a leader of Ukraine yet, but I can see so many parallels as far as Ukraine’s great struggle against corruption, against Russia, occupation, etc. I think he was joking a little bit, and my class laughed, but we all understood that some truth might be in it. As for political mentor, I’d say more of a political inspiration because, as I said, I’ve always been active in politics in the US and I wish we could have people over there as committed to fighting corruption and special interests as he is. That’s what I will aim to do in my own career. A lot of Americans look up to that because we see how much bravery it takes to stand up to in countries where the rule of law is weak.

There is also a motto – never surrender! That’s probably also applies to Saakashvili


It’s from Winston Churchill’s famous speech against Germany. That was Saakashvili’s office quote. I like it; it suits him very well. Because something about him that’s interesting from my perspective is that he could have been living in the US right now teaching or enjoying life, but he chose not to. Most people in his position, who were presidents of a country facing controversy at home, would love the lifestyle he could have had in the US as a political exile. Instead, he went back to Ukraine at the risk of his life and health, at risk of arrest. I think he’s really a political animal, with no other interest in life than pushing forward, fighting for what he believes is right.

His reputation in Georgia in the five years since the end of his 9-year governance is damaged. How is it in the US?

That depends who you ask. Let’s start with experts in Washington. I have to say it is very divided along partisan lines. A lot of conservative republicans support the government in power right now, while democrats tend not to support it. A lot of experts from the Atlantic Council or various reputable think tanks, which focus on the post-Soviet sphere, get donations from people in power in Ukraine. Many experts have personal consulting businesses in which they advise businessmen who’d like to invest in Ukraine or Georgia. So, in order to carry out those businesses successfully, you cannot be critical of anybody who is in power in those countries. Even though they are experts, expertise is kind of for a sale there, and here, I’m referring to those who are writing that Saakashvili is destabilizing Ukraine. If you look at their backgrounds, many have consulting businesses that rely on a good relationship with the Ukrainian government.

As for what Americans think in general, it’s split, and there are people who legitimately criticize him. But whose opinion matters? Not mine, not the Atlantic Council’s. Kurt Volker, our president and those people who actually have the position to make policy. Volker, special envoy to Ukraine, is very careful not to take a side publicly because he’s a diplomat, but he said after Saakashvili crossed the border in Ukraine, which Kyiv said he did illegally, “No, let him have a fair trial and I trust your country to fight corruption”. So, reading between the lines: Volker is a little supportive of Saakashvili. So, I’d say the people in power right now in Washington, while not jumping on his side and defending everything he does, are maybe more sympathetic than Obama’s admin was or your government is in Georgia.

What’s your take on the current Georgian government? Were they brought in by Russian forces as Saakashvili claims?

I have nothing negative to say about the current government in Georgia, though I have lot to say about current government in Ukraine. On the current government in Georgia, I think, there is a lot of speculation as to how they came into power and I’ve spoken to many Georgians who supported and voted for them. Saakashvili’s biggest achievement was stepping down and peacefully transitioning power to the new government. I can’t tell you how rare this is in your part of the world, you know: it almost never happens. We were amazed in the US to see that peaceful transition of power and that he didn’t start a war to try to stay in power. I respect democracy. If people voted for this government and still support them, which it seems, as recent elections show, who am I to say you cannot support them or you are brainwashed by Russia? You cannot overturn the results of a democratic elections.

What’s ahead for Saakashvili in Ukraine?


When that judge released him from prison and said: no house arrest, I was shocked, but after that we saw that our President signed an act authorizing defense assistance to Ukraine, basically increasing it quite substantially. I think there are many things happening behind the scenes that we don’t know.

So, that act on defense assistance is related to Saakashvili being free to go?

I cannot say 100% for sure, but I think pressure from the US helped. Ukraine’s judiciary is very corrupt. There might be a good judge there and I’ll be happy to see that. I mean, she was brave doing what she did. I do think, though, it is more likely somebody, maybe not directly our president, maybe the special envoy for Ukraine, was behind the scenes in this. Saakashvili still has a lot of friends here. Ukraine values its relationship with the US, as does Georgia.

General Prosecutor Lutsenko said that there is a high chance that Saakashvili will be extradited to Georgia. I don’t see that happening because I don’t see why the Georgian government would want to do so. Extradition is a difficult process, taking several months, and I think if Saakashvili was to come back or be convicted of crimes and imprisoned, it would cause not only unrest in Georgia but also lead us to question what’s going on. We had presidents in the US who committed crimes…

Nixon, for example

Yes. And he wasn’t sent to prison. You have to have tradeoffs. In democracy, most important is avoiding anything that could be shown as political persecution. For somebody who admires Georgia for the democratic development, it looks bad, and I’d foresee some pressure from the US if it happens. This is far projection into the future, but all I want to emphasize is that we in the US value our bilateral relationship with Georgia very much and the reason we value it is that it’s one of the few democracies in the former Soviet space and we want to see it stay that way. That’s why it’s important to be careful with how you approach the very delicate issue of Saakashvili.


Author: Vazha Tavberidze

Source: Georgia Today
Print
Other Stories
Tbilisi Park is due to open in Buenos-Aires
Tbilisi Park is due to open in the capital of Argentina, Buenos-Aires. The decision was recently made by the city parliament.
Young people detained by occupying forces in the Truso gorge
Some young Georgian hikers have recently been detained by armed forces in the Truso gorge. They have been accused of illegally crossing the so-called border into the occupied Tskhinvali region.
Wildfire in Khashuri, Tseda village
Fire broke out yesterday in Khashuri, Tseda village, in the forest.
Travel between Ukraine and Georgia for both countries’ citizens to be allowed only by electronic ID cards
The Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze has announced that the citizens of Georgia and Ukraine will be able to travel in and out of both countries using only electronic ID cards.
Why does the Georgians love John McCain?
John McCain, Senator, and former Presidential candidate of the USA died on the 25th of August, 2018. He was diagnosed with lioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer last year.
The IBSU Conundrum
Teachers, students and students-to-be all took to the streets when the news broke that the International Black Sea University, one of the most highly regarded universities in the country, wouldn’t be admitting new students into its ranks this year.
Angela Merkel arrives in Georgia
German chancellor Angela Merkel has already arrived in Georgia.
German media about possible reasons for  Merkel’s visit to Georgia
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Tbilisi today, expectations are high and both the Georgian and German media are speculating about the possible results of the visit.
Angela Merkel to visit Georgia on August 23
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Georgia on the 23rd of August. Her plan is to visit the Caucasus states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Georgian presidential candidate to Journalists –“Shake your brain!”
“Journalists should shake their brains” – said Georgian presidential candidate, Salome Zurabishvili to journalists.
What does Giorgi Margvelashvili own?
The presidential election will be held on 28th of October, 2018 in Georgia. The President Giorgi Margvelashvili has not yet confirmed his participation in the election.
"Father returned for mother ... then the bomb landed …”
10 years on, this is a different August. But this month is a time of remembrance and of hard memories and hurt.
The World talks about the 2008 war
On the tenth anniversary of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, 20% of Georgia continues to be occupied by Russian military forces who also seem intent of further encroachment on Georgian territory.
Georgia hosts high ranking guests for the 10th anniversary of the 2008 war
Ten years have passed since the Russian military intervention in Georgia,in August, 2008.
 10 Years Anniversary of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia – “Mission supports stability and security on the ground”
10 years have now passed since the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia and still we face a huge daily threat. Certain parts of Georgia continue to be occupied even today.
Heroin seized near Georgia-Azerbaijan State Border
Border Police from the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs have arrested a 28 year old individual.
After ten years from the 2008 war, borderization continues
It is ten years since the 2008 August war between Russia and Georgia.
Multinational Noble Partner training 2018 has launched
The multinational Noble Partner training 2018 commenced on the 1st of August.
National Democratic Institute publishes the latest survey
Poll results released today by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC Georgia show growing dissatisfaction about the state of the country’s economy, environment, and political climate going into the presidential election.
Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze needs 5 more Regional Governors
At a recent Government press conference Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, announced that new Governors for the following regions are required:
German government plans to recognize Georgia among safe countries
The German government will shortly approve a law, which enables the countries such as Georgia, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria to be recognized as safe countries
Latvian MEP Andrejs Mamikins about Georgia’s prospects for EU membership
Georgia is a country that wants to become member of the EU, but how does it look from Brussels?
Military equipment and techniques created by Georgians
Delta is a Military, Scientific and Technical Provider.
What does Georgia contribute to the NATO alliance?
The idea that Georgia should join the NATO alliance was first suggested back in the 1990s. However nobody believed it would become a reality
Most liked and disliked ministers of Georgia
Mamuka bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of Georgia has announced structural changes in the government as a part of his plan to cut down on governmental spending.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
25.09.2018
26.09.2018
USD
1
USD
2.6226
2.6226
EUR
1
EUR
3.0868
3.0868
GBP
1
GBP
3.4416
3.4416
RUB
100
RUB
3.9814
3.9814
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
2.6226
EUR
1
EUR
3.0868
GBP
1
GBP
3.4416
RUB
100
RUB
3.9814