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Leaving CIS: pluses and minuses

By M. Alkhazashvili
Friday, August 15
On August 12 Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declared that the country would withdraw from the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), the political alliance created by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Georgian analysts consider this step appropriate and timely. They say that staying in the CIS now would be more than pointless, it would be immoral.

The Opposition has on many occasions demanded that Georgia withdraw from the CIS. There were expectations that this would happen after the Rose Revolution but for some reason or other Georgia retained its membership. Saakashvili once instructed then Prime Minister Noghaideli to calculate the economic consequences of Georgia’s withdrawal. No results of any such assessment have ever been made public.

Today there is a political decision to be taken. The economic aspect is of no consequence. We have to remember that Georgia has in fact been under a Russian economic blockade for the last three years. No more economic losses could occur if we withdrew from Russia’s economic and political orbit.

Senior economist, former Economic Minister and ex-MP Lado Papava thinks that to now sit down with Russia and discuss economic cooperation would be immoral. However there are other countries with which Georgia needs to maintain bilateral cooperation. The agreements governing these particular relations bring mutual benefit and safeguard the interests of both sides.

The Russian media, which is almost entirely state controlled, is cynical. Izvestia reported on August 12 that the Russian Duma thinks that Saakashvili jumped before he was pushed, withdrawing Georgia from the CIS before it was excluded anyway. Russian analysts insist that Georgia’s presence in the CIS brought the latter no benefit, just scandal.

Russian analysts also maintain that Georgia’s withdrawal from the alliance will do nothing but damage Georgian citizens’ welfare. This may well be true, but this would be as a by-product of the current anti-Georgian hysteria in Russia, which is already putting Georgians living there under huge pressure.