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Georgian Dream and Foreign Policy

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, October 25
The Georgian Dream coalition' prospective foreign policy was a favorite target of the UNM. It frequently accused the coalition of being pro-Russian and its possible victory would mean Georgia’s return to the Russian orbit. After the elections were over however, the Georgian Dream once again confirmed its commitment to Euro-Atlantic structures. The UNM however, continued to try and find fault in the Georgian Dream by labeling the coalition simply pro- European rather than pro- American.

During a meeting with the parliamentary minority, future Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze and future Minister for European Integration, Alexi Petriashvili fielded a series of provocative questions from UNM members concerning the country’s future foreign policy. Panjikidze emphasized that the country’s future foreign policy direction will be consistent: they will continue the push towards EU and NATO integration. The same was confirmed by other Georgian Dream coalition members.

As for the assertion made by the National Movement minority that Georgia’s orientation will be mostly pro European rather than pro American, in principle there is not much difference. Both directions are pro Western stances. The United States is counter-balancing Russian pressure, whereas Europe makes certain concessions to the Russians as Russia exercises manipulative tactics on Europe via its natural resources– natural gas in particular. On the other hand, coalition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili announced clearly that his first foreign visit will be to Washington, though later Ivanishvili stated that his first visit would be Europe instead.

Georgia's relations with Russia meanwhile still remain very complicated and it will be very difficult for the Ivanishvili-led government to simultaneously maintain a pro-Western direction while trying to improve relations with Russia. As for Russia, the Kremlin paid very close attention to Georgia during the elections. Russia gained a lot from Saakashvili’s leadership in Georgia. However, Putin and his staff generally welcomed Saakashvili and his party's fall from grace. That said, the Kremlin expected a different scenario. They would have preferred that Saakashvili would win be means of manipulating the elections. The Georgian opposition would come out into the streets protesting and civil unrest would create chaos in Georgia. This scenario would definitely please Russia. In turn, Russian would label Georgia an unstable country.

However, the wisdom of the Georgian people frustrated Russian expectations. The ensuing political events in Georgia developed in a very unusual way. The Georgian people expressed their will by mobilizing and saying no to Saakashvili; Moscow could have never predicted that Saakashvili would give up his power so quickly at the end of the elections on October 1 and conceding defeat 24 hours later. Moscow is not satisfied by only the defeat of Saakashvili and the victory of the Georgian Dream. It is essential for the Kremlin that Georgia rejects its western orientation as well. Some analysts even predict that pressure on Georgia might increase. Some analysts compare the situation in Georgia to the situation in Ukraine, where after five years of governance, the Orange Revolution leader Viktor Yushchenko was substituted by the pro Russian Viktor Yanukovich. However, the situation in Ukraine was different because Russian orientation in Ukraine has quite a bit of popular support overall. Conversely, Moscow’s unwise and often brutal policies in Georgia have practically destroyed any hopes of pro Russian forces achieving any success in Georgia.

At the end of the day, many Georgians would like to see relations with Russia regulated, but it does not want to deviate from its pro Western orientation. With Washington fully occupied with its own elections, it still finds time to express its commitment to Georgia. European structures also want to comfort Tbilisi. As for the relations with Moscow, there are still many question marks...