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Charter: pros and cons

By Messenger Staff
Monday, January 12
Almost the entire population of Georgia cheered the signing of the strategic partnership Charter between the USA and Georgia on January 9. Most politicians welcomed the event, considering it a guarantee of the resolution of many of the problems the country is facing. It is said that Georgia has made an epochal decision in favour of Western orientation, something long seen as the best option available for such a small and vulnerable country.

Such is the majority opinion. However there are some skeptical voices as well. One essential question is asked: how, and by what mechanism, will the process of maintaining Georgia’s security be implemented?

In this respect certain doubters recall the Georgievsk Treaty signed between Georgian King Erekle II and Russian Empress Ekaterina II in 1783. This document was supposed to guarantee the security of Georgia and its safety from possible invasion by Iran, Turkey and others. The treaty did not fulfill expectations in either aspect. It did not facilitate the restoration of the territorial integrity of the country and it irritated Georgia’s southern neighbours, provoking in particular a fierce expedition against Tbilisi, and its ultimate seizure, by Persia’s Aga Mohammed Han in 1795. Russia not only did not support Georgia but took advantage of its weakness and occupied it, turning it into a Russian colony.

Today Russia is the biggest enemy Georgia has ever had, and it is irritated by the Charter and every other pro-Western move Georgia makes. All its moves against Georgia, whatever it might say, are actually inspired by opposition to Georgia’s Western orientation. Since it is agreed by the most of the world community that Moscow is unpredictable and brutal it is difficult to make a reliable prognosis of how the Kremlin might respond to the Charter. What we do know however is that the Charter itself gives no direct guarantees to Georgia that would ensure its safety. As Matthew Bryza has stated, such guarantees would be received by Georgia only if it joins NATO.

Apart from its economic problems, which are common to the whole world, Georgia has obviously fallen short of Western requirements in the implementation of democratic reforms. This raises the next question: how can the Charter facilitate the necessary legal and practical changes which would bring Western-type democracy to this Western-oriented country? It may have words about this, but how far another country can intervene to impose its standards on a strategic partner is something yet to be tested in practice.

Despite the skepticism the signing of the document is a great achievement for Georgia. Newly appointed Ambassador of Georgia to the Unites States Batu Kutelia thinks it a guarantee of the security of the country, as Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are now part of the recognised interests of the USA. Some analyst however think it is premature to hail the Charter before we have studied it carefully and seen some results. Analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze recommends that we greet it with less ballyhoo, although the authorities are publicizing the agreement as much as possible. By treating it as a foreign policy success they thereby simultaneously present it as proof of their competence.

There is intense hope in Georgia that if the document does not guarantee the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity it will at least ensure that no other country will join Russia and Nicaragua in recognizing the puppet regimes. The opposition thinks it very important that the document facilitates the democratic development of Georgia, meaning big changes in the election law and securing the freedom of the media. However we should be aware of the dangers. The signing of the document became so important after Georgia and Ukraine were refused a NATO MAP. When the US signed the same sort of document with Ukraine Russia launched a “gas attack” on its neighbour. What surprises is it preparing for Georgia? We will probably soon find out, and then see whether the Charter can pass its first test.