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Russian is the new language of Georgian politics

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 22
Former Georgian PM and now opposition party leader Zurab Noghaideli has become the first Georgian politician since the August 2008 war to visit our northern neighbour and conduct Georgian politics with open Russian support. In December 2009 he even set a record, traveling to Moscow three times in one month.

The Russian leadership has received him at the highest level in appreciation of his interest. Noghaideli has met PM Putin, much to the consternation of Tbilisi. His activities have engendered a feeling in some that certain politicians will adopt openly pro-Russian sympathies. For a long time any contact with Russia has been condemned and those who dared make any were labelled agents and spies. Now things are changing, and the ‘dispute over orientation’ is underway.

Extra spin was given to this issue by the initiative of Conservative Party leader Zviad Dzidzguri that a public discussion on Georgian-Russian relations should start. Dzidzguri said that everybody should get involved in this discussion and give their opinion, including the Government and opposition, the Church, civil society and the general public. Dzidziguri stated that the Conservatives will start this discussion by organising conferences, round tables and TV debates. Dzidziguri said that once and for all the stereotype that anybody who wants to regulate Georgian-Russian relations is an agent should be exploded. He also mentioned that Georgia’s desire to join NATO should be debated publicly, as restoring Georgia’s jurisdiction over Abkhazia and South Ossetia is more important in his opinion, particularly as he says Georgia currently has no chance of entering NATO.

It is hard at present to assess how realistic Dzidziguri’s plan is because even before the August war Russia never said it would uphold Georgia’s territorial integrity in return for Tbilisi giving up trying to enter NATO. Moreover Russia has masterminded and supported the disintegration of Georgia through creating conflicts at the beginning of the nineties when Georgia never dreamed that joining NATO was possible, let alone made an application or took any steps in this direction. In fact Georgia turned to NATO to protect itself from the Russian aggression of provoking and supporting separatism in Georgia, so it is hard to believe that now, when Russia has made the very dramatic and controversial move of recognising the independence of the breakaway territories, it will reverse its position as soon as some Georgian politicians decide that Georgia should not enter NATO.

Since the August Russian invasion relations between two countries have been in deadlock. The official position of Georgia is that it can consider restoring relations with Moscow only after it leaves the occupied territories and denounces its recognition of them as independent states. Moscow meanwhile only wants to reestablish relations on the basis of the so-called 'new reality' of 1/5 of Georgia's territory being occupied by Russia and run by two proxy regimes, something Georgians will never accept.

Georgia’s situation is dramatic if not tragic. The West, on whose support Georgia was relying, has limited itself to giving financial assistance, signing resolutions expressing concern and making other verbal protests. Even though the EU-brokered ceasefire document which ended the August war is not being observed by Russia the West is doing nothing about this. Moreover NATO member France is ready to sell a most advanced combat ship to Russia despite the fact that one Russian Admiral has said that if Russia had had this battleship it would have completed the invasion of Georgia in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours. This lack of practical action against Russia is outweighing all the financial support, as the benefits this is supposed to create will be of no value if the country falls into Russian hands again.

Those who once secretly contemplated going back under Russia's umbrella but would not dare say this out loud while the country was so pro-Western are now triumphant. They can openly express their sympathy with the northern bear. The Georgian people however remember the old proverb - when the bear grabs you call him daddy. They see the West as a hunter who is supposed to kill a bear, and thus rescue its victim, but instead just waves anti-bear slogans at him instead of pointing his gun.

Will it be beneficial for the country if one illusion is replaced by another? In the romantic imaginations of Georgians, if they become good boys in Russia's eyes Moscow will open their arms towards us, the hearts of Russian politicians will melt and we will be best friends again. The disputed Georgian territories will thus be returned with flowers by our new devoted friends. Projecting such an illusion is either stupidity or a deliberate attempt to finally destroy Georgia's statehood. We have no ready made recipe for restoring relations with the Russians, but somewhere along the line both reality and principle have to be among the ingredients.