Possible reasons for Saakashvili’s invitation to White House
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 20
The fact that US President Barak Obama has for the first time invited his Georgian counterpart to the Oval Office for a face to face meeting on January 30, has caused great resonance and controversy between Georgian political forces and analysts in the country. As the time approaches, all sides have emphasized the importance of the outcome at the same time as the probable topics for discussion at the meeting were outlined in the US Administration’s press release.
According to the US administration, 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Georgia and the two presidents will discuss further strengthening the US-Georgia charter on strategic partnership signed in 2009, “by enhancing cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, energy, science, education, culture, and security”.
“President Obama will underscore the importance of our defence cooperation with Georgia, including Georgia’s substantial contributions to international security operations in Afghanistan,” the White House said.
It was also mentioned that President Obama will reconfirm U.S. support for the integrity of Georgia’s territory within its internationally recognized borders. “The President also looks forward to discussing the upcoming elections in Georgia and the reforms that will ensure Georgia’s continuing transformation into a vibrant and stable democratic state.”
The Ambassador of the United States to Georgia John Bass made a comment regarding the upcoming meeting and mentioned that besides the security and foreign issues that the US will be interested in, “Georgian citizens have an opportunity to elect the future leader of their country and achieve more economic success”.
Government representatives have assessed the planned meeting as “extremely important and significant” especially in the run up to the Chicago summit. According to the Minister of reintegration issues Eka Tkeshelashvili, all important issues within the partnership charter will be discussed. “President Obama will underline the Georgian contribution to international security operations”. Vice Premier Giorgi Baramidze has underlined the importance of the meeting before the NATO Chicago summit. “This meeting is of great importance for the deepening of relations between the states both in terms of security and defence directions.”
The authorities also believe that the meeting can only be taken as an expression of support towards the Georgian Government from the US rather than the United States’ possible support of change within the country. “This meeting one more time reveals that the US is our partner and ally state, which at the same time as resetting policy is trying to express its interest in Georgia and encourage non strop democratic development of our country,” said majority MP Nugzar Tsiiklauri.
The parliamentary minority also consider the event to be very significant and mentioned its importance in the frame of Russian rhetoric and the planned military trainings from the Russian side - “Kavkaz-2012”. “The meeting reveals America’s interest in Georgia and the importance of deepening strategic relations, which is one of the most serious guarantees of our state’s security,” said representative of the National-Democrats Bachuki Kardava.
Unlike majority and minority representatives, non parliamentary opposition can read a different message in the meeting. As leader of the Conservative Party Zviad Dzidziguri told The Messenger, the fact that after several years of waiting Saakashvili has finally been invited to the White house exactly now, “is a hint that the United State will not allow Saakashvili’s return to politics again and falsification of the 2012 elections”. He also mentioned that such kinds of hints have been heard from some other serious officials lately. “Saakashvili would not dare to ignore US recommendations or demands, as he knows better than anyone what happened to Eduard Shevardnadze when he decided to ignore US advice …”
Based on analyst in international issues Levan Tsutskiridze, the US and some other states’ attitudes towards Georgia will be determined by the level of democracy in Georgia. “It is important that regardless of the economic crisis, pre-election period and foreign challenges, the US does not refuse to support the democratic process.”
Fellow analyst Paata Zakareishvili named four potential reasons for why Obama has decided to meet with Saakashvili. According to him, the US Congress made the decision to sell weapons to Georgia, however two weeks ago Obama removed this point from the budget, considering it less of a priority. “That created some kind of tension in relations between the two ally countries. Obama wants to improve the situation. He has studied Saakashvili well and knows that ‘taking a photo with Obama’ will be more important for Saakashvili than the state’s interests.” According to the second reason, the meeting “will make the Republicans silent, which claim that concerning the reset policy, Obama has distanced the US from its ally states. “The third reason is Iran. Obama knows that all the bordering states of Iran have more or less good relations with the state and no one intends to become seriously involved in an anti-Iran situation. One exception is Saakashvili, who might not to think of his state’s interests if he has the opportunity to have a prestigious photo session with Obama.” The analyst thinks that the fourth reason is the elections and Saakashvili’s real opponents coming to the political arena. “Obama will remind Saakashvili that democracy and holding free elections are very important for the US and also call on him to ensure equal situations for all sides unlike the current state of affairs.”