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The News in Brief

Monday, November 13
Georgian President Calls on West to Stand Up to Russia

(WARSAW) -- Addressing the Warsaw Security Forum on November 9, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili called on Western nations to stand up to Russia, warning that Moscow’s aggressive actions would continue to cause “serious problems” far beyond its borders if the international community failed to act.

Margvelashvili began his remarks by drawing parallels between Russia’s hybrid warfare in Ukraine since 2014 and its actions against Georgia in the early 1990s.

“Russia’s direct engagement was a (key) factor when it isolated and occupied two of Georgia’s regions,” said Margvelashvili in reference to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, strategic districts where Moscow-backed separatists broke away from Tbilisi’s fledgling government in two devastating conflicts between 1991-1993 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Very often, I hear that it (Moscow’s on-going occupation of Georgia)started in 2008. No, the occupation of these two regions by Russia began in the 1990s,” said Margvelashvili, adding that Russia’s aggression can be traced to their hostility towards “Georgia’s decision to be free and independent…to have its own voice. It (Georgia) was punished (for this) through the use of hybrid warfare.”

Margvelashvili added that while “nobody applauded” Russia’s aggression against Georgia in 2008, the reaction of the international community was insufficient to prevent further aggressive moves by Moscow. He noted that a precedent had been set “by a nuclear superpower entering and changing the borders of neighboring countries long before the Russian army’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.”

“This will continue to cause serious problems (in the region), not only for Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, butRussia’s other neighbors.”

Before finishing his remarks, Margvelashvili called on Georgia’s allies to develop a rational and principled response to Russian aggression.

Ex-PM Burjanadze Says Georgia Needs its Own Putin

(TBILISI) – Pro-Moscow Georgian opposition politician Nino Burjanadze expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin in a new interview with German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“He brought Russia from its knees to its feet. You look at Russia, what it looked like 10-15 years ago, and what it is now. And frankly, I would like to see Georgia have the same type of president as Putin,” Burjanadze, who once served as interim president following the 2003 Rose Revolution, told DW’s Russian service.

In the interview, she predicted that Putin will undoubtedly win the upcoming elections set for March 2018. “People really support him…I think it will be good for Russia if Putin wins.”

Responding to the DW correspondent’s question about how she would compare Georgia’s ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili with Putin, Burjanadze said the latter is “a serious politician”, while the former is “impulsive”.

“And the fact that Putin is being criticized as an authoritarian leader, and no one in the West ever criticized Saakashvili is, for me, an example of double standards,” Burjanadze, said.

“I witnessed how my Western friends turned a blind eye to clear violations of the law and injustice towards me and my associates, precisely because they label us “pro-Russian”. It was very painful. I’ll tell you, frankly, I was very disappointed with real Western values. I began to doubt whether they really existed at all,” said Burjanadze.

Burjanadze had been a close ally of Saakashvili during the Rose Revolution and later served as the Speaker of Parliament. She and Saakashvili, however, fell out following the 2008 war against Russia, in which Georgia lost nearly a quarter of its territory to separatist and Russian forces.

Following parliamentary elections later that year, she failed to be reappointed as speaker and later moved into the opposition.

She has served as the leader of the Democratic Georgia party ever since and usually bristles at accusations that she or her party are allied to the Kremlin. In her interview with DW host Zhanna Nemtsova, the daughter of the slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, fervently denied that she is “pro-Russian”, but insisted that she is only “pro-Georgian”.

Keeping in line with her party’s platform of being both anti-NATO and anti-Western, the Democratic Georgia Party stands for the same sort of conservatism, economic nationalismand anti-liberalism that has been the standard fare of law makers in Moscow for the better part of a decade.

Her frequent visits to Moscow and face-to-face meetings with Russian politicians, as well as her increasingly anti-liberal statements, have failed to silence her critics who claim she is currying favor with the Kremlin in an attempt to solidify Georgia’s place inside Russia’s orbit.

Burjanadze, herself, admits that she opposes Georgia’s further integration with Europe and instead calls for closer ties to Moscow.

While commenting on former Prime Minsiter Bidzina Ivanishvili, Burjanadze also criticized the billionaire tycoon for his behind-the-scenes, “informal rule” of the country.

“There was no democracy in the country under either Saakashvili or Ivanishvili. Under Saakashvili, we were afraid of physical violence. With Ivanishvili, we have no such fears, but we witness corruption by people with huge amounts of money. Under Saakashvili, elections were rigged because people were frightened that they would be killed, kidnapped or imprisoned. Now people are bribed. Which is better? I don’t know which is better. Neither one or the other is acceptable,” said Burjanadze.

Known as an eccentric billionaire who earned his fortune during the wild privatization period of 1990s Russia, Ivanishvili served as prime minister from 2012-13 after his Georgian Dream coalition defeated arch foe, Saakashvili, in a hotly contested poll.

He formally stepped down 13 months into his term in office. Though he officially retired at the time of his resignation, Ivanishvili is widely believed to wield significant influence over the country’s domestic and foreign policy via the ruling Georgian Dream party.
(DF Watch)