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Georgia’s place in Obama’s programme

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 23
Everyone both outside and inside Georgia is waiting for President Obama’s first move in different political and economic spheres. Here in Georgia there is much hope that we will soon receive a serious signal that the Caucasus region has firmly established itself as the cornerstone of US strategic interest.

In Georgia we attentively watch the new US administration’s moves not only towards Georgia itself but the region as a whole, and of course towards each of Georgia’s neighbours. Will the US seek to settle the Karabakh conflict, thus challenging Russia? How will it balance Armenia-Turkey relations? How will it facilitate the functioning of an East-West energy corridor involving Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey? And most importantly, what will its relations be with Russia while the latter challenges US interests, not only in this region but worldwide, claiming to be a superpower and a key world player?

Russian political analysts and politicians have always insisted that Georgia was encouraged to get involved in the military conflict in August last year by the USA. Thus they indirectly claim victory over the US, having defeated its ally. Some political analysts maintain that close US-Russia cooperation is necessary to resolve crises in different hot spots, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. This seems however to be a very naive point of view. Russia will not cooperate with the West and will not lift a finger in the direction of civilization unless it receives direct profit for itself and serious concessions from the West. More and more often nowadays Russia shows us its openly aggressive face. And it works! The form of its aggression varies: military action against Georgia, a ‘gas attack’ against Ukraine and indirectly Europe. Even its cynical attempts to ‘mediate’ in the Karabakh conflict are a disguised form of aggression, designed to show the world who its final arbiter is.

The US is wary of Russia. For example, independent Georgian political analysts predict that the Obama administration will delay discussing NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine for the time being, simply because the question irritates Russia so much. However for Russia this is just one of many issues, one further claim to dominate the post-Soviet space which serves deeper imperialist goals. Russia uses every possible lever, including military or economic pressure, to achieve its ends. Will the US delay everything connected with Eastern Europe just because it does not want to upset Russia?

Most of Georgian politicians and analysts, except the pro –Russian ones, are unanimous that generally the US administration’s attitude towards Georgia will not change, and that the US will remain one of the essential agents of calming Russian aggression. The question is how the new administration will interpret and implements the clauses of the US-Georgia Charter signed on January 9. Georgia obviously wants the formal, contractual support of a superpower. But what was America seeking to achieve by signing this document?

The most acute question, at least for the opposition and the general population, is what the Obama administration’s attitude towards the internal political situation in Georgia and President Saakashvili himself will be. It is a generally accepted opinion here in Georgia that the Bush administration favoured Saakshvili and his team. Will this still be the case, or will Obama insist on deeper democracy being introduced and practiced in Georgia? It would appear, given the lack of concrete promises in the rest of the clauses, that this is the most important aspect of the US-Georgia Charter as far as the US is concerned. This is the change America would most like to see in Georgia, on which future support in all areas will depend.

The January 9 Charter clearly stated that there needed to be a strengthening of democratic institutions in Georgia. The new US administration has the means to facilitate such developments in this country and thus gain the sympathy of its people, which it may need if things get rough with Russia in the months and years to come. .