The messenger logo

Does Western orientation need extra constitutional guarantees?

By Messenger Staff
Monday, November 30
At first glance Georgia is clearly a Western-oriented country. Not only the ruling party but almost all the opposition ones are Western-oriented. However we should admit that the concept of Western orientation is under serious question in Georgia now.

The 2008 Russian aggression was a great examination of both Georgia’s Western orientation and the West's commitment to Georgia. The results of this aggression we can all see. The world helped stop the bloodshed and gave us financial compensation. However Russia still occupies 1/5 of Georgian territory, is building up its military presence in those places further and Georgia's long term territorial unity is under threat. So the ordinary Georgian citizen is calling the country’s Western orientation into question.

The Christian Democrats have demanded that Georgia’s Western orientation be confirmed by somehow enshrining it in the Constitution. Their initiative is that Georgia should refuse to participate in any military, political and economic union which does not confirm Georgia’s territorial integrity as defined by the national borders of December 21, 1991. This would mean Georgia could not join any union involving Russia, which has recognised as 'independent' the territories it occupies. Russian political figures are saying more and more often that here in Georgia only Saakashvili and his elite are Western oriented, and as soon as this administration is changed Georgia’s political vector will promptly move in a more northerly direction. Christian Democrat Nika Laliashvili has stated that according to the Russian political establishment Georgia’s return to the CIS is inevitable. Therefore the Christian Democrats are demanding amendments to the Constitution which will fix Georgia’s national position and prevent whoever comes to power next from changing Georgia’s orientation.

This is a controvercial situation. After the Russian aggression and occupation of Georgia’s territory it is not understandable why Georgia should take a pro-Russian position. But it should be admitted that the pro-Russia advocates base their case not on a positive image of Russia but on a deterioration in the West's attractiveness. Political analyst and former ally of Aslan Abashidze Hamlet Chipashvili thinks that a considerable chunk of Georgian society is sceptical about the country's relations with the US and NATO, as NATO's doors are practically closed for Georgia. Therefore there are some who think that a partial solution to our problems with Russia could emerge if we reestablish good relations with it.

Zurab Noghaideli thinks that Tbilisi should start a new dialogue with Moscow without any precondition. At present however both the administration and most of the opposition say that reestablishing relations with Russia is possible only if Moscow renounces its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and de-occupies these Georgian territories. The idea that there is such a thing as a kind Russia, and values which bring Georgia and Russia together such as a common religion and so on exists in Georgia, and we cannot ignore it, however after the August aggression such an approach is unlikely to yield any serious and positive results.

The partial fading of the West's attractiveness does not necessarily mean that the Russian administration will ever become a more attractive option. The idea that the Kremlin will all of a sudden become kind and stretch its hand of friendship and love to Georgia may ultimately prove even more frustrating.