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Pro-Russian supporters begin mobilizing

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 2
Just before the self-governance elections in Georgia, a mobilization of pro-Russian forces has been observed in the country. There stakes on the table are large: the country should reveal its foreign policy orientation. Will the people vote to stay on course towards the West, or will they support a pivot back to the East?

The last two elections have proved that Georgia can choose their politicians through democratic means. The recent parliamentary and presidential elections were a free expression of the will of the people. Therefore, the forthcoming elections will be an indicator of the country’s true will.

This is a challenge for the non-parliamentary parties to prove their worth and to receive more representation in the local self-governance system. With this background, the activities of pro-Russian forces have become visible in the country. This is also an indicator of the democratic nature of the current government.

Although certain groups of Georgians have recently been organizing rallies in support of the Russian-led Eurasian Union and waving Russian flags, they are not in great quantity. This is because the memories of the Georgian people are not short: Russia fought a war with Georgia six years ago, and Russia has since, occupied 20% of Georgian sovereign territory. The people who do support Georgia’s pro-Russian orientation are marginalized.

It has become a common PR tactic of rival political parties to call their opponent “pro-Russian”, a Russian agent, Russian spy, or a Russian project. This label serves to vilify or stain the reputation of one’s opponent.

For instance, the United National Movement (UNM) currently accuses the Georgian Dream coalition of being a pro-Russian project, whereas the Georgian Dream says that in fact the UNM has done everything to “please” Russia. It surrendered 20% of Georgian territories to Russia; it allowed the Russian capital to intensively be invested in Georgia and by doing so, created obstacles for Georgia’s final integration into the European Union and NATO.

No serious political party that wants to promote its policy in Georgia will ever claim that it is a pro-Russian force, because this step could lead to political suicide. At the same time, there are political forces, which claim that they are pro-nobody, that they are neither pro-Russian, nor pro-western, but instead– pro-Georgian.

The leader of Free Georgia Kakha Kukava who says that calling a party pro-somebody is insulting for the political entity of any independent state. The party should protect the interests of its country. As for the orientation of his party, Kukava highlights that Georgia should cooperate with all the governments around the world and especially – with its neighbors.

He says that Georgia should cooperate with anybody if it benefits the country. Kukava also thinks that with regard to Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the most logical step would be to align with Russia rather than NATO or the EU.

Many believe that the leader of Democratic Movement - United Georgia Nino Burjanadze is the most distinguished leader among the active politicians in Georgia who is openly showing her common sense attitude towards Russia. She also claims to be pro-Georgian, saying that it is not necessary to call Russia an occupier, but rather it is better to start a direct dialogue with Russia, otherwise the Russians can move further across Georgian territory and put an embargo on Georgian products. According to Burjanadze we should not irritate Russia. She cites the opinion of Georgia’s western friends who have advised Georgia numerous times not to irritate Russia and apply strategic tolerance.

Russia meanwhile is irritated by Georgia’s constant claims to join NATO. Therefore, there is some talk among the pro-Russian set in Georgia to hold a referendum or plebiscite regarding the country’s NATO membership. They claim that years have passed since the previous plebiscite, which revealed that nearly 80% support Georgia’s NATO aspirations.

It is a crucial question because if NATO rejects Georgia’s request for the membership action plan (MAP) at the NATO summit in Wales this year, which is absolutely possible, then the idea of accessing NATO will become so unrealistic for Georgian society that they might vote against NATO membership - maybe not for Russia, but at least for the country’s neutrality.

In fact, there are certain representatives in the Georgian Dream coalition as well who do not support the idea of Georgia’s western orientation, claiming that certain arguments could be harmful for Georgia’s economic policy in particular.

One extra argument for the pro-Russian crowd is the victorious image of Russian President Vladimir Putin who in fact has out smarted the West – first in Syria, and more recently in Crimea.