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Meditation on Georgian-Russian relations

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 12
The large scale Russian aggression against Georgia in August and Moscow’s establishment and later recognition of parts of our territory as “independent states” have shunted Georgian-Russian relations into a dead end.

Russia stubbornly refuses to retreat and talks about “new geopolitical realities,” declaring that it will resume dialogue with Georgia only if the Saakashvili administration goes. This is a strange position, as no leadership of Georgia would surrender to Russian aggression. Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Russian Duma Konstantin Kosachev, in his interview with Rossiskaia Gazeta, has stated Moscow’s official position. “The road to normalizing relations will soon be found if a dialogue with Russia is started by politicians of a new generation, who can wind the clock back to the time before Russian-Georgian relations ran into a dead end. By the way, we, the Russian side, might also have to go back onto this road,” states Kosachev. His statement is clearly evidence that Russia’s sole policy position on resuming dialogue is that it does not want to negotiate with the Saakashvili administration. The talk about ‘politicians of a new generation,’ ‘winding the clock back’ and how Moscow graciously considers it might also have to go back onto this road look rather vague.

However Kosachev says more about possible Georgian-Russian dialogue. According to him it should be conducted without mediators and should be open. Kosachev assures us that the Kremlin is interested in having a non-aggressive Georgia as its neighbour. He also acknowledges that Russia should not interfere in the internal affairs of Georgia, such as its determination of values and principles of state organisation. Kosachev also considers that Moscow should start dialogue with the Georgian opposition, confirming once again that Russia does not intend to attack Georgia.

The Russian MP speculates on the factors uniting Georgia and Russia. The major one is the Orthodox Christian Faith. This sounds hypocritical against the background of the occupation of Georgian territories, ethnic cleansing and building military bases on the occupied territories. The question is whether Russia recognizes the responsibilities this common Faith imposes on its adherents, but Kosachev did not go into this.

There was an immediate response to Kosachev’s statement from Tbilisi. Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze announced, as he has done several times already, that official Tbilisi will start thinking of the possibility of resuming dialogue with Moscow as long as Russia meets three preconditions, which are the recognition of Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is high time, Vashadze said, that Russia perceives Georgia as an independent state and not as a sphere of privileged interests.

Vashadze has been categorical on this issue many times. Sometimes ago in his interview with Kommersant-Ukraine in which he stated that Russia should not hope that its size, energy resources and geopolitical location will play a significant role in furthering its interests and that the world will therefore forget about Georgia’s territorial integrity. These hopes will be frustrated, says Vashadze. By recognizing as independent the puppet regimes of Abkhazia and South Ossetia Russia has painted itself into a corner. There is no worse situation in diplomacy, says Vashadze. There will be no progress in bilateral relations until Russia respects Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Vashadze is sure that Moscow’s belief it can speak to Georgia while bypassing Saakashvili is an delusion, as is its idea that after Saakashvili a politician acceptable to the Kremlin will become President. If Moscow continues to conduct its present policy against Tbilisi the next Georgian leadership will be even more categorically opposed to it. However there is a great possibility that Russia is thinking not about a new leadership in Georgia but the aggravation of the situation here through civil confrontation, destabilization and possible tension in the country. Unfortunately the signs of such developments are already visible.

The time for the opposition protest rallies is approaching but the administration will not budge from its intransigent position. What will ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ mean when this is all over?