Intervention in Putin’s style25.05.2010 | 17:10
Russian PM Vladimir Putin does not consider contacts with Georgian opposition as interference in Georgia's domestic affairs calling it manifestation of friendship between the nations that Mikheil Saakashvili's government loused up. However, Russian experts don't think this is the right way to restore relations with Georgia. Tbilisi points to Russia's other methods of bold intervention in Georgian political life.
Moscow is not going to interfere in Georgia's domestic affairs as Russian PM Putin told journalists.
"Meetings with representatives of Georgia's current opposition only mean that Georgian public realizes: there has to be at least some normality in interstate relations", - said Nr.2 man in Russia (still number one for some).
More than once did both Georgian and Western media unveil ex FSS head's plots to appoint pro-Russian candidates to the post of Georgian president. First it was Alexander Ebralidze, a businessman from Saint Petersburg who was called a favorite of Russian security services. Now Zurab Nogaideli's and Nino Burdzhanadze's trips to Moscow are also viewed with suspicion.
No one can believe that Russia will not replace the only "orange" leader in post-Soviet space by a more Russia-loyal figure. That is why the visits of oppositionists to Russia are considered as preparation for a coup d'état.
Putin refutes the rumors saying that for him the visit of ex chairperson of Georgian parliament Nino Burdzhanadze - "is a good precondition to settle normal interstate relations with Georgia". Since "politically the speaker was rather close to the current president" and was one of those "with whom it was quite difficult to deal a short time ago". Now they speak a common language.
Still even if pro-Russian politicians take over it will not be enough to discuss rapid normalization in Russian-Georgian relations, Sergey Mikheev, deputy director general of the Center of Political Technologies Foundation believes. Just like Putin, he doesn't consider contacts with the opposition interference in Georgia's internal affairs.
- These are free people in a free country. They go wherever they want to go and meet people they want to meet. I don't know why this can be viewed as interference. This happens everywhere. After all, Georgian journalists or diplomats used to work or keep working in Moscow holding necessary meetings. It was not called interference in Russia's home affairs, was it? We used to meet with representatives of the authorities too.
- Public opinion polls in Georgia show that Georgians condemn contacts bypassing the government. At the same time they favor restoration of air communication, earlier they approved of release of Georgian teens in Tskhinval. Does that mean that Russia has found a key to Georgia's heart?
- In reality the situation is still quite complicated, there is no outlook for serious improvement. The territorial issue is there to stay. I don't see any possibility that the status quo might change. That however does not mean that practical contacts shouldn't take place.
- Please, comment on rumors that Saakashvili himself is seeking contacts in Moscow?
- I have no information about it. It might be so. Once Saakashvili did try to settle contacts with Kremlin but on conditions that seemed quite weird to us. Yes, he may be seeking contacts. But the only contacts that may affect the situation are Putin or Medvedev with whom he burnt all bridges. That is why if he starts communicating with members of government that won't mean anything. This will all be in vain.
- Do you know that ex Poland's president Alexander Kvasnevsky after his talk with Georgian FM Grigol Vashadze said that Georgia is ready for negotiations without preliminary conditions. However, deputy FM refuted the statement. May it be that the government thinks of putting Abkhaz and South Ossetian issue aside for a while?
-Well, if they do put it off for a hundred years there will be a topic for talks. But I rather doubt that - for Saakashvili it would mean acknowledging his complete defeat.
This is the advice Georgian expert Mamuka Areshidze, head of Center for Strategic Studies of Caucasus NGO, gives to Georgian authorities: to start bilateral cooperation talks with Russia as soon as possible leaving out deoccupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As for Kremlin's intervention in Georgia's domestic processes, according to Areshidze, this is strongly palpable in Georgia - even inside the parties that are not holding talks in Moscow.
- I don't think that contacts mean real influence on Georgian affairs. Georgian leaders pursue these contacts with people that oppose current authorities. With certain journalists, culture figures and some politicians. But I wouldn't call it intervention in Russia's interior affairs or vice versa. As for other things, Russian intervention is glaring - everyone knows it.
- You mean Abkhazia and South Ossetia?