Ramaz Sakvarelidze: Russia has “raised” Saakashvili’s rating06.11.2008 | 10:09
The sea, barbecue and good humor - this used to be the image of Georgia for Russians missing the sun. The faces of Georgians would relax in broad smiles when Moscow was mentioned. Now the peoples are set apart by the war and reciprocal offences. What is going on in Tbilisi now? How will neighbors live further on, how will relationships be patched up? We asked Ramaz Sakvarelidze, a Georgian politologist, to answer these questions.
- Thanks God there are mo more war news from Georgia's borders. However domestic situation in the country has heated up, Russian and Georgian mass media are informing of the opposition becoming more active in the country. In your opinion why was the moratorium given by the Georgian opposition broken so quickly giving a rise to full-scale criticism of the authorities?
- The opposition broke the moratorium that had been given at the time of the August events after the "hot phase" was liquidated. As soon as the military operations were over due to the effort of Georgia and many European states the opposition raised a question: who was guilty of what had happened? The answers to these questions are necessary to prevent new attempts at aggression.
- Do you think the repetition of military operations is possible?
- I would like to hope not. Though Russia is often saying that such a menace exists. Besides declamations from both sides remind a lot of the pre August period. That is why a certain set that keeps track of the situation analyzing it has a feeling that the August events in this way or another might occur again.
- In your view can the war really be prevented as the opposition asserts?
- This opinion is expressed not only by the opposition. The thing is that a highly ranked representative of the West (the interviewee has refused to name him - Auth.) that supported Georgia during his recent visit to Tbilisi said to the journalists that it had been difficult to prevent the conflict but it had also been absolutely necessary not to allow Georgia to be its initiator. Now Europe criticizes Russia for an inadequate feedback and the actions of Georgia that caused it are not disputed.
- However Georgia's authorities keep contradicting the fact of attacking Tskhinval. By way of evidence at the first meeting of the Parliamentary Committee for the inspection of the August events they declared that they had only responded to the Russian provocation...
- The catch is in interpretation. Georgia insists that the military operations started from the gunfire from Tskhinval. Russia and the West consider the Ossetian border crossing the point of reference. It is most probable that both parties will lobby their own point of view.
- In this way or another the opposition is now plotting new anti-government actions for the next week. Pessimists are forecasting last year's scenario when the political meeting was dispersed by OMON. Is this course of events possible?
- I believe the final will be smoother than last year.
- Because the authorities have learned their lesson well?
- In fact it is rather difficult to forecast anything. Nobody in Tbilisi had ever thought that Georgia would rush into this war... And it turned out that common sense dictated one thing while the actions were directly opposite.
- In August I was in Tbilisi. Most of your colleagues were assuring the war was impossible. Meanwhile before it the financial crisis struck in Georgia. Maybe with the help of the war the authorities decided to distract the people's attention from the economic problems?
- I don't think that was the government's objective. Now however it is accused of both - the war and the economic problems.
- And what was the objective then?
- I will reply in this way: lack of experience and impulsivity - purely human imperfections - showed up.
- Yes, but during the first hours of the military operation Tbilisi was full of persistent rumors that there was a kind of secret covenant between Moscow and Tbilisi. Like now we're going to get Tskhinval, then Abkhazia will be divided and Russians and Georgians will live in peace and well-being...
- The facts prove this information was no more than a legend. Russia did not surrender Tskhinval and moreover increased its sphere of influence in the region.
- But the authorities keep insisting that Georgia has won this war...
- Now this is not mentioned even by Saakashvili's supporters. What is meant here is that Georgia has won a diplomatic war on the international arena. And here it must be confessed that not Georgia was the winner but that Russia was the loser.
- The diplomatic victory is becoming still more doubtful too. Then why does Europe criticize Georgia still more often?