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Letting politics influence policy

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, February 23
In today’s political atmosphere, the Russian issue has become a critical litmus test of patriotism and reliability. If one wants to insult a rival, one need only smear them as "pro-Russian". On the other hand, if you want to prove yourself progressive and democratic, you are "pro-West". It is not surprising, then, that the Saakashvili administration, recognizing the legitimate electoral threat posed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, has taken every opportunity to slur him as a "Russian project". That the billionaire's coalition, Georgian Dream, has stated that they intend to repair relations with Russia only helps this cause. The group now has the unenviable job of proving themselves a serious alternative to Saakashvili's United National Movement, as well as fighting a perception that they are not Western enough in outlook.

This attitude, while frustrating in Parliament, is dangerous when applied to policy. During the Munich conference earlier this month, the Georgian official delegation met head of the Russian delegation and chair of the Russian presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov. Neither the Georgian media nor the administration publicized the meeting. The news was shared only on February 18, by Ivanishvili's spokesperson, Maia Panjikidze. She praised the meeting and any other efforts designed to restore dialogue with Russia. This statement put the administration in an embarrassing situation, and forced them to explain both why they met with the Russian delegation, and why they concealed that information.

Many political analysts believe that dialogue with Russia is necessary, whether it is conducted by Saakashvili or Ivanishvili, as the politics of ignoring one another cannot last. Both sides have acknowledged that dialogue is necessary; so why is the government not moving to define positions, appoint negotiators, and move forward? Perhaps they, too, do not want to fall victim to their own smear campaign.