The recent statement of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili – that Georgia does not want to take any special position about its possible joining the Eurasian Union, but the country is watching this organization, and if there is anything beneficial for Georgia, a decision would be taken – has echoed through the society of Georgia. It was the first time when new leaders let out a secret about a possible joining with this post-Soviet creation, associated with the modernized Soviet Union. For Georgian western-orientated citizens, this scenario is even worse than just a rapprochement with Russia.
Before the elections in 2012, the Georgian Dream coalition asserted that they have a formula for normalization of the relations with Russia – they were going to solve the problem of the two occupied regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which Russia has recognized as independent states after the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008). Yet several months have passed since their triumphal victory and “good relations” with Russia still remain only a dream for the Georgian Dream. The reason? Despite the so-called positive signals from the new government of Georgia, there was no adequate response from Moscow.
One thing that Russia decided was to allow the import of Georgian wine (the embargo on Georgian products was put before the Georgian-Russian war) and some other agricultural products to the Russian market. It should be expected, since after the declaration of a new policy by the new government of Georgia – to improve relations with Russia – the new authorities not abandoned the strategic goals of the former cabinet regarding the country’s policy: integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Despite the fact that many people in the West and Moscow predicted Georgia’s quick turn to Russia, it hasn’t happened. Moreover, at all international stands Georgian policymakers have reaffirmed their commitment to the Western community and the country’s desire to join NATO and the EU.
In addition, as expected, the new government of Georgia doesn’t remove Russia’s status of an occupier, which it received after taking control over the two Georgian regions. And the northern neighbour doesn’t like when Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region are mentioned in the official documents of Georgia as territories occupied by Russia. In response, the Russian military has recently moved a notional border fence (indicating the border line) between Georgia and Russia twice: in one case in the occupied Tskhinvali region, and a few days ago – in the Kazbegi region of Georgia. These actions have already been condemned by the international community and Georgian authorities. Prime Minister of Georgia said that despite their desire to improve relationship with Russia, it is really much more difficult to achieve it than he could imagine. According to Ivanishvili, the former government of the country has messed up that relationship so much, that now it is very difficult to improve the situation. Ivanishvili stresses that he is always very prudent when speaking on Russia.
The statement of Prime Minister of Georgia about the Eurasian Union concurred with the approach of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius this autumn, devoted to the issue of signing agreements on associated membership in the EU with Georgia and a number of former Soviet republics (participating in the Eastern Partnership programme). Also it concurred with the news that Armenia’s ready to join the Customs Union.
It is noteworthy that after that unambiguous statement of Georgian Prime Minister, the other leaders of his team, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that Georgia remains true to its desire to join NATO and the EU. But it is clear that Georgia will fall between two stools if it still tries to get close to the Eurasian Union and at the same time continues to dream of NATO and the EU. It is possible that the Prime Minister made this statement to check how Moscow would react to a possible willingness of Georgia to get closer to the Eurasian Union. But that step of the still new Georgian authorities shows their desperation in the rapprochement with Russia. Obviously, the original plans of Ivanishvili to normalize relations with Russia have ended in failure. And it’s no surprise! Georgia and Russia have different national interests, and it doesn’t matter who in fact becomes a Georgian leader – authorities’ position towards the Kremlin will always be seen as in opposition.
Nevertheless the statement of the new Prime Minister creates some danger to the national security of the country and undermine its international image. It is noteworthy that international relations are a strong point of the new political leaders of Georgia. After coming into power, they have made already a lot of mistakes in this direction. Taking into account the previous mistakes, it is possible that this statement of the Prime Minister was not a part of strategy, but simply a human factor, ie the lack of experience. He said that Georgia has no clear position about the Eurasian Union, whereas in all the documents related to the national security of the country, it is clearly written: Georgia can not join such organizations. So Georgia has a well developed negative attitude towards that issue and the decisions in mentioned documents stand.
After the statement, Georgian diplomats have to work hard to prove Georgia’s loyalty to the Western allies. Over the years Georgia has built its relations with the West, and it’s not easy to gain the respect for such country like Georgia. And now the game (if it’s still a game) between Moscow and the West could do a lot of harm. Meanwhile, the former Georgian authorities actively work and purposefully try to show to Georgia’s Western allies that it’s Saakashvili and his political team who were the bearers of Western values in Georgia. They are trying to prove thatduring the elections in Georgia it’s not only one party – the United National Movement – who lost, but ” the Western idea” in general.
It is far from true – the Western values and commitment to the West are not “the exclusive” for a party or a political leader. The proof of this is the negative reaction of Georgian people, shown in social networks after the statement of Prime Minister about the Eurasian Union. However, there is one “but” – Georgia has long been committed to Euro-Atlantic structures, but the West doesn’t do enough to meet it halfway, and in Georgian society might believe that “no one is waiting for us there!” Right now Georgia looks towards the Vilnius Summit in November…