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Saakashvili has decided to become a “dove”2009-03-02 10:01
On 25 February, Mikheil Saakashvili spoke out in support of restoring diplomatic relations with Russia. At the same time he declared that he would never submit to the three Russian embassies on "Georgian territory", hinting at the diplomatic missions in the neighbouring republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"We don't want broken-off diplomatic relations with Russia," Newsru.com cites the president. "We want there to be functioning embassies both in Tbilisi and in Moscow. Our peoples really need this to be the case." According to Saakashvili, he supports the presence of Russian business in Georgia and dialogue with Russia on the condition that it comes to Georgia "not as an occupier, but as a good neighbour".
Saakashvili did not just make his statement in any old place, but in the infamous museum of the "Soviet occupation". And also on the "Remembrance Day" of the local Junkers who died in battles with the Red Army. So much attention was paid to this event by the authorities, and so many events took place, which have been regarded by a series of political commentators as "lessons of hatred", that none of the commentators were going to take the "reconciliatory" speeches of the Georgian president seriously.
But the main point is not Mikheil Saakashvili's capacity for hypocrisy. There is a more important question: why has he started to talk about this, and what does he hope to achieve? There is no doubt that at a time when the presidential seat has started to tremble, it is time for him to give serious thought as to how he can appease the dissidents. His speeches will not, of course, influence the opposition politicians. But he wasn't addressing parliament; he was talking to young people. Who are potentially, along with other sections of the population, a force which could present a genuine threat to the regime if the spring protest actions promised by the opposition come to fruition. It is now important for him to seize the initiative, which is a strategically wise decision. While the opposition remains disunited, and the public is disorientated. This is an opportunity, albeit a small one, especially if he appears before the inexperienced young people as the saviour of Georgia's statehood and the defender of the Fatherland. Some of his old allies could also possibly be taken in by this ruse.
This is far from Saakashvili's first attempt to turn round the situation developing within the country for his own ends. Only recently he was wanting to deflect the public's attention to foreign policy problems, appealing for consolidation against the common enemy, Russia, which, he says, is "intending to attack Georgia" in the spring. It didn't help. The leading opposition politicians heaped criticism onto him.