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Hillary Clinton’s visit: great expectations

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, July 1
The forthcoming visit to Georgia of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is eagerly awaited. It is being said that as this visit comes right after Medvedev and Obama’s negotiations in Washington it should be understood as a clear signal of the US' interest in and support of Georgia in particular and rest of this region.

Both analysts and politicians expect that Georgian foreign policy will be adjusted following the Obama-Medvedev meetings. Much comment has been made about President Obama using the word ‘occupation’ to describe the presence of the Russian armed forces on Georgian territory. There are attempts to give the word political and military connotations rather than the purely linguistic and neutral ones Obama may have meant. The Georgian opposition has another concern, hoping that during this visit the US administration will express a negative opinion of Saakashvili’s plans to stay in power after his Presidential term expires in 2013. Whatever side you are on, big guest, big expectations.

Clinton will visit Georgia on July 5 during her Eastern European your. She will also visit Ukraine, which under its new President has given up trying to join NATO and decided to reorient itself to Moscow, and Poland, where after the tragic death of President Kaczynski The Kremlin will face less opposition. Georgia is the final stop on her visit to the South Caucasus, in which there is a very complicated geopolitical situation after the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.

While determining its policy on the Caucasus Washington must very seriously consider Russia's position. As usual it is trying to dominate this region. The US also has to consider Turkey’s position, having continually denied it access to the EU and therefore driven it to flirt with Russia, despite being a member of NATO, and finally the US has to consider the position of Iran, with which it has very tense relations. As is known, Iran considers any Western involvement in regional affairs to be a threat to itself. When it took office the Obama administration mainly concentrated on Turkish-Armenian relations, supposing that by resolving this situation they would make a huge breakthrough in the region. However this tactic failed because normalising Turkish-Armenian relations became bound to the Karabakh problem and therefore involved Azerbaijan too. Resolution of the Karabakh problem is now again in the hands of The Kremlin, but Moscow has no interest in resolving any conflict in the South Caucasus. It understands that as soon as the situation there calms down Armenia will not be so dependent on it, and it will no longer have the leverage it needs to fulfill its plans by political means.

Georgia understands Clinton's visit as a demonstration of support for Georgia. While in the USA Medvedev stated that relations with Georgia could be improved, and although he excluded conducting any type of negotiations with the Saakashvili administration the US administration expressed its complete support for the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Of course we should not expect miracles, but the key issue in terms of US support will be the relations between the Obama administration and the current Georgian leadership, in particular President Saakashvili. If there is mutual trust, the support for Georgia may go beyond words, although no one is holding their breath.

The opposition hope that Clinton’s visit will derail Saakashvili's ambition to stay in power as PM after 2013, but the President and his administration portray it as an expression of support for both the country and the administration. In just five days we will discover which message Clinton will convey to the Georgian people.