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How does Georgia seem to America?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 22
The generally accepted opinion here in Georgia is that the Obama administration is not as supportive of Saakashvili's Government as the Bush administration was. Georgian officials and Saakashvili himself continually claim that the US and Georgia still have the closest relations, however many people here challenge this.

Recently Obama spoke to Saakashvili by phone and invited him to the Washington nuclear summit. Initially no meeting between the Heads of State was planned, but very unexpectedly the two spoke for a while. This meeting aroused considerable comment from the Georgian media and the authorities but there was more - President Saakashvili flew to Poland from the US to attend the funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and then immediately rushed back to the USA to hold meetings with various US state officials, businessmen and students. This was a really heroic and impressive step by President Saakashvili which proved that he is full of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. He displays the same characteristics in all his American appearances, offering an almost cheerful vision of Georgia. However the Georgian opposition, split into different fragments as they are, still unanimously criticise President Saakashvili and his administration and challenge his statements.

The opposition state that the Georgia presented by Saakashvili to the Americans is radically different from the reality. Saakashvili wants to assure the US public as well as its leaders that compared to Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, the other countries which experienced so-called colour revolutions supported by the United States at the beginning of the 21st century, Georgia has achieved success and the situation here is radically different. Saakashvili wants to convince everybody that good and effective reforms have been conducted in the economy and governance, that democratic institutions are being built in Georgia and democratic standards are being pursued and have been achieved, things are good in Georgia and the present administration is responsible for all this success. He is also trying to make out that the major achievement of Georgia’s leadership is resisting the Russian aggression. Saakashvili characterises the opposition as weak and unpopular, claiming that the authorities very tolerantly allowed almost three months of protest rallies in spring 2009 for the sake of democracy in Georgia despite the fact that the blocking of the central streets of the capital prevented the normal functioning of state institutions and caused the utmost damage to the country’s economy.

This official version of Georgia is designed to be pleasing for the American public and administration and thus determine that the US adopts a positive policy towards Georgia. This support will be very helpful to the Georgian administration as it prepares for a new cycle of elections, local ones this year and Presidential and Parliamentary ones in 2012 and intends to stay in power for quite a long time. But the opposition have a different view. They claim that reforms have not been sufficiently successful, and that the ongoing economic crisis, poverty, state-controlled media, lack of free and independent court system, discrepancies in the conduct of elections, lack of acceptable constitutional reform and the lost territories, this the most painful issue of all, show that things are not as good here as the Georgian population might wish them to be. The question is how much any of this matters to an American audience which equates democracy with all things good and instability will all things bad, and would therefore rather have a promise of democracy than a possibility of unrest it might have to get involved in.

Maybe Americans know the true situation in Georgia but prefer Saakashvili to the very diverse, unpredictable and unconstructive opposition. But whoever rules Georgia they will have to satisfy US and Western democratic standards and respect the rule of law, human rights, media freedom, judicial freedom and so on. If these standards are not met any claim that the Rose Revolution has succeeded will not achieve the desired effect and might it fact cause serious complications for those who made it.