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Former prime minister: return the refugees, not get back the republics2009-01-22 21:41
Georgia's former prime minister Zurab Nogaideli, who is now head of the opposition party "Movement for a just Georgia", announced his foreign and domestic policy programme on 20th January.
He presented a model for settling the region's conflicts, which he has been proposing for the last five years. Dialogue between the sides should be the basis of this programme. But this time Nogaideli also announced a plan for the country's defence capabilities, which few people expected from the recently established party.
The country's president has frequently declared that his dream and main priority is to create a battle-worthy army that meets NATO standards. But at the same time, to judge by Saakashvili's many statements, such an army already exists: "Georgia has the most well-equipped and technologically advanced army in the region", "Georgia needs its army not for war, but for victory in the establishment of peace", "for the first time since the Second World War the Georgian army made Russian generals flee the battlefield".
Zurab Nogaideli gave a diametrically opposed assessment. According to him, the results of the war showed that the command was totally unprepared. "Building up the army was the personal project of Mikheil Saakashvili, and the responsibility for its failure lies on the president himself."
The former prime minister put forward his model for structuring the army. It should be made up of only professional soldiers, and only former soldiers should be enlisted into the reserve force. Expenditure needs to be reduced. "Only two percent of GDP should be spent annually on the armed forces, not seven as it was last year, or four percent as is envisaged for this year," he said.
At the same time he stressed that today nobody disputes the fact that Georgia should not have got involved in the provocation. "If correct policies had been made, we had opportunities to solve the conflicts that have lasted for many years peacefully."
The "Movement's" model for settling these conflicts is as follows. The regime needs to fully renounce the use of force, demilitarise the Akhalgori and Gali regions and the Kodori gorge, as well as ensure the safe return of the refugees. "We must replace the existing slogans of "Let's get back Abkhazia!" and "Let's get back the Tskhinvali region!" with the slogans, "Let's return the Abkhazians to Abkhazia!" and "Let's return the Ossetians to South Ossetia!" said Nogaideli.
The regime has not yet made any response to his proposals. Although when the former prime minister left to join the opposition in early September, the reaction was rather caustic: they said that he went over to the regime's opponents once he was deprived of access to the state's finances and budget.
When Nogaideli was head of the government, he emphatically distanced himself from political issues and dealt exclusively with economic problems. As a result he was even regarded as a nominal figure deprived of any influence within the regime. However following the August events he became actively involved in political activities. Starting with a statement that Saakashvili's regime needed to answer to the people for "the shamefully lost war, the loss of territories, the emergence of 50,000 refugees and the ravaged economy".
Venerable opposition politicians regarded the appearance of this figure among their ranks with some scepticism. As it was Zurab Nogaideli himself who was head of the government in the fateful November of 2007, when the regime brutally dispersed a peaceful rally. Admittedly, he resigned almost immediately after these events, refusing to allocate money from the budget for an extraordinary presidential campaign...
This aforementioned cool reception did not trouble Zurab Nogaideli. He gave the following comment then to the Georgian media: "It's actually very good if society doesn't regard me as a genuine opposition politician, because I don't intend to remain one for long.