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Georgian public sentiment towards Russia shows signs of change

By Messenger Staff
Monday, April 29
For the last several years the same countries have been looked at as Georgia's most important friends and most bitter enemies. Among Georgia's closest friends was the United States, whereas Russia was named as Georgia's biggest enemy. However, over the last year, the number of people providing the same answer has changed.

According to the research conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), as a result of the Caucasus Barometer in 2012, 37% of the respondents considered USA as Georgia's greatest ally and 35% considered Russia as Georgia's greatest enemy. It should be noted that in 2011, 51% considered Russia as the enemy, while 44% considered USA as a friend.

Analysts have attempted to assess the reason behind such an evolution in public attitudes on the subject. Some attribute the initial opinions to the United National Movement's (UNM) intensive propaganda campaign, which idealized the US as Georgia’s best friend and painted Russia as the country's greatest enemy.

UNM propaganda presented the US as Georgia's strongest ally, which could prevent Russian aggression and its occupation of Georgia's breakaway regions. The second arguments were that Georgia’s policy of foreign affairs orientation should have been aimed in the direction of US. However, after the October 1, 2012 parliamentary elections, the overall anti-Russian rhetoric decreased, as the new Georgian Dream administration has stopped the active anti-Russian propaganda, and shown a more critical attitude towards the anti-Russian position of the former government.

The Georgian Dream coalition launched an investigation into the role the UNM played during Georgia's 2008 August War defeat. The current administration wants to pursue a balanced policy approach in order not to irritate its northern neighbor, or to confirm again that Russia is Georgia's greatest enemy.

In choosing a more balanced policy towards Russia, things must not be looked at as black and white, though preference should be given to Georgia’s attitude towards the largest and most influential countries. Thus, Georgia's dealings with Russia are not a zero-sum game and a more pragmatic approach does not have to yield a clear winner and an obvious loser. With a less critical approach, both sides can enjoy gains in the relationship.