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Hopes, wishes and reality

By Messenger Staff
Monday, January 5
For Georgia the beginning of 2009 is connected with the signing of the bilateral treaty with the USA. Originally the signing ceremony was scheduled for the end of December. Later it was supposed to be held on January 4, but this date has also been postponed for several days. Presumably the document will be signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze sometime later this week, as a Georgian delegation will be shortly leaving for Washington.

The text of this agreement has not been made public. The Georgian authorities highlight that it concerns defence, security, economic and energy issues, democratic reforms and diplomatic and cultural questions. But the document became the subject of intense speculation as soon as its existence became known. The administration has presented it as its greatest achievement, even though it will not tell us what it consists of, but some opposition forces are demanding the publication and discussion of the text before it is signed. Others consider the agreement at best useless, and more likely dangerous, for Georgia.

The authorities are playing up the security aspects of the agreement, so vital for Georgia. “maybe the treaty will not say anything directly about the deployment of US military bases in Georgia or give any guarantees, but the document could not avoid the issue of cooperation in the security sphere. The fact of the US-Georgia strategic partnership being confirmed by the treaty will in itself constitute a serious political warning to any state,” says Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze. Chairman of the Defence and Security Committee of Parliament Givi Targamadze thinks that the document could be considered a kind of a compensation for not receiving MAP. “After signing the document Georgia will receive extra tools to protect its statehood and build democracy,” says Targamadze.

The fact that Georgia needs additional guarantees for its security is beyond argument. Last December The Washington Post discussed how far a US administration could go in protecting Georgia, highlighting that if the US does not give extra guarantees for Georgia’s security there is a certain threat Russia could attack its neighbour again. The article also highlighted that the Russian armed forces are deployed 20 kilometers from Tbilisi and are building up their strength there. We might assume that the signing of the US-Georgia agreement is therefore a step coordinated between the new Obama administration and that of President Bush. But our hopes and wishes about what it might offer will remain exactly that until the text of the actual document is known.

Most of the Georgian population is enthusiastic and cheerful about the treaty, but there are critical voices in Georgia as well. The leader of the Imedi political union, Irina Sarishvili, is curious about why the outgoing US administration is in such a hurry to sign the document. Political analyst and former Gamsakhurdia-era MP Nugzar Molodinashvili thinks that the document will not be obligatory for the US next administration. The leader of Georgian Politics, Gocha Pipia, considers that the signing of the document damages Georgia’s statehood. He suggests that neutrality is the only option for the country. “Whoever speaks against the neutrality of Georgia is a traitor,” states Pipia.

Though such opinions are in the minority, and the majority of politicians welcome the bilateral agreement with the USA, reality will demonstrate whether the new US administration will fulfil any obligations it might undertake by signing the treaty, and what it thinks these are.