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Strategic partnership

By Messenger Staff
Friday, April 17
At this very uncertain time for Georgia the US administration confirms its support for Tbilisi. This support will take different forms, economic as well as political, and will be designed to facilitate democratic development in Georgia. This is the main outcome of the visit of Georgian Foreign Minster Grigol Vashadze to the USA and his meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The meeting has been commented on by both sides. US Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft has confirmed that Georgia remains an important strategic partner for the US and the Obama Administration will assist Tbilisi in its drive towards democratization and strengthening Georgia’s statehood. The US Government has allotted USD 242 million more of the USD 1 billion promised in postwar assistance by the George W. Bush administration. So far Georgia has received USD 768 million from the US.

Furthermore the US has once again confirmed its position on Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It will defend Georgia’s sovereign rights to make its own alliances, as Hillary Clinton stated. The option of transforming the Strategic Partnership Charter between the two countries into an action plan was also discussed by the two ‘foreign ministers.’

President Saakashvili of Georgia immediately responded to the meeting, highlighting the US position and Obama’s support of Georgia’s sovereignty. However Saakashvili understands US support of Georgia as support for his administration. Although supporting Georgia’s international position it is obvious that the US administration is concerned about the internal situation in Georgia as well. The State Department expressed its position on April 11 when it called the Georgian opposition’s demand for Saakashvili’s resignation Georgia’s internal affair, highlighting that peaceful protests are a right and part of the process of building a democratic state. This means that the US does not intend to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs.

The Georgian opposition regarded this statement as the refusal of the US administration to take Saakashvili’s side. However the statement was simply a confirmation of the general Western position, which is that both sides should do everything to ensure that events develop peacefully and no force is used. US political analyst Lincoln Mitchell suggests that November 2007-type conduct will not be tolerated by Westerners but at the same time expresses his confidence that President Saakashvili will not resign.

Meanwhile the opposition protests continue. Maybe the US could use its authority to play the role of mediator between the sides because so far it has become very difficult to turn the confrontation into dialogue. It should be noted here that general confidence in the US’s ability to influence the situation in the South Caucasus has been deteriorating since the August Russian invasion. There were very great, and maybe exaggerated, hopes in Georgian society that the US would more active intervene in that conflict, hopes engendered by the romantic Georgian mentality. Expectations were higher than reality. But Georgia has nevertheless made its bid to join the West and both sides, the Georgian administration and opposition, claim to support such an orientation. If this is the case, and both sides therefore trust the West, the latter should do its utmost to ensure confrontation is replaced by dialogue.