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Foreign policy priorities

Thursday, November 6
Just a few months ago, Georgian foreign policy priorities were clearly fixed. All political parties, and the Georgian people, were almost unanimous in support of Euro-Atlantic integration. Eventual NATO and EU membership were priorities. However since the August Russian aggression there have been controversial discussions in the country about its foreign policy orientation.

Officially there are expectations in Georgia that the December NATO summit will grant Georgia a MAP. After the August events some Georgian officials expressed their disappointment that the Bucharest summit failed to do this. The critical remarks implied that if Bucharest summit had made the contrary decision Russia would not have attacked Georgia. However, despite the fact that during the crisis many NATO leaders repeatedly stated that its door was open for Georgia, and no third country should influence NATO’s decision, Georgia will most probably not receive MAP this December. We may find it difficult to acknowledge this, but this is precisely due to the influence of a certain third country and its relation to Georgia. Everyone sees this, speculates about it but refrains from stating what is obvious.

Some NATO members are very positive about Georgia’s MAP ambitions but no consensus has so far been achieved. Political analyst Shalva Pichkhadze, head of the NGO Georgia for NATO, highlights three main reasons for this: the confrontation with Russia, unsettled conflicts on our territory and an insufficient level of democracy. Whatever the real reasons are, Georgia’s aspiration to NATO membership is far from realization. Consequently Georgia has been unable to secure its safety, on the contrary it has become a victim of Russian aggression. Georgia miscalculated the level of Russia’s possible aggressiveness and paid very dearly for it.

The observation of public opinion gives us grounds to conclude that the pro-Western orientation of the Georgian people has been put much in doubt by the August and post-August events. Many people think that the Russian aggression was very much determined by Georgia’s Western orientation. There is a feeling in the country that dismissive attitude towards the realities of Georgia’s geographical location has hindered practical progress towards integration with NATO, the US and the EU and led the country to this tragedy. These types of sentiments have recently become rather popular, although we have conveniently forgotten that separatism in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was encouraged by Russia in the 90’s of the last century when Georgian leaders did not dream of NATO or the EU. The idea that Georgia should be a neutral country is now appearing. Leader of the New Rights Davit Gamkrelidze has criticized this position, and thinks that it is indirectly pro-Russian. “Moldova fixed neutrality in its constitution but did not regain its breakaway Dnestr region,” he argues, although other neutral states such as Switzerland have expanded since they took this stance some centuries ago.

Russia conducted itself so outrageously in Georgia that no serious openly pro-Russian political force can be found in Georgia. However this is no guarantee that Western influence will prevail, taking into consideration the very active anti-Western activity of the worldwide Russian propaganda machine. Furthermore, if the West, which is now promising so much, is perceived to have let Georgia down, anti-Western feeling might replace anti-Russian sentiments for many, whose memories may perhaps become a little shorter than they should be.

Of course in the current situation, with a new US President just elected and a new administration to be established in the next two-three months it is very difficult to predict what the US’s tactical moves in the Caucasus will be. However it is most probable that its strategy will remain the same. The Russians, for their part, hope that they will manage to preserve their presence in the Caucasus, and will continue permanently working in this direction, new US reality or not.