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A measure of Georgian self-defence with US help14.01.2009 | 17:25
Georgia's State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili has called the Strategic Partnership Charter between the USA and Georgia signed in Washington on 9th January a historical document for future generations. And he has suggested that Moscow's reaction to this agreement will be extremely negative...
"The Charter will work," he said on 11th January on the Imedi TV channel. "Its main strength is as a signal sent by America to Russia in response to talk that Georgia lies in the sphere of its strategic interests. There's absolutely no doubt that the USA will help Georgia to defend itself. At this stage I don't want to say what form this will take. That wouldn't be right. But apart from the military component there are numerous other components - political, economic, diplomatic and so on." In the minister's opinion, Moscow will definitely respond to this agreement. Inevitably, in a negative way.
"For the time being Russia is remaining silent, primarily because it's busy dealing with Ukraine and because very recently it had not a gas war, but a totally different war with Georgia - involving tanks, bombs et cetera. I think that at the moment it's busy sorting out issues with Ukraine and Europe, but that doesn't mean that we should just sit back. I think that most acts of provocation can be expected on the so-called administrative borders with the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia."
According to him, "surprises" have been stockpiled for Georgia in Russia's arsenal, and Moscow will not limit itself to creating an atmosphere of tension in the country's conflict regions. However, Yakobashvili noted that "Georgia's choice is correct, and no acts of provocation will change it".
Abkhazia was the first to respond to the minister's comments. The republic's Foreign Ministry called the charter a continuation of Georgia's "unwise policies".
"It is a provocative move leading to a worsening of relations with Russia," was the assessment that the head of their foreign policy agency Sergei Shamba gave of the document in an interview with the TV station Rustavi-2. "Georgia is continuing its provocative policies which have already brought it deplorable results."
According to him, Georgia "needs to think for itself how it should act in the region and how to live alongside its neighbours".
Yakobashvili, in turn, also failed to bite his tongue.
"The USA-Georgia charter provides the prospect of development and a better future for the Abkhazians, and it would be good if the Abkhazian side seized this opportunity," he was quoted as saying by abkhazeti.info.
Meanwhile an unofficial response from Russia has appeared in the media. It was by no means as scathing as Yakobashvili was envisaging. A source for ITAR-TASS in the Foreign Ministry reported that the document was not legally binding and that it contained nothing new. According to him, although Tbilisi is trying to present the charter as a great achievement, they are having to "make the best out of a bad situation".
"It's more a case of it being a summary of all those propagandist clichés that have been used in the last few years to describe the relations between Tbilisi and Washington," affirmed the source. "Here we can see partnership to the benefit of the two nations, the commonality of their democratic values, Georgia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions, the strengthening of international security, and the development of their energy infrastructure."
In the main, this comment by the Russian diplomat is similar to the opinion of a series of Georgian political commentators and some opposition politicians.
Most scepticism is caused by the clauses in the Charter which are meant to promote Georgia's security.
"It's all a question of window dressing," noted the Secretary General of the party Iosif Shatberashvili on 11th January in an interview with Kommersant, "aimed at reassuring the people and suggesting to them that in the case of any further aggression from Russia the USA would apparently give military aid to Georgia. But we all saw in August what kind of help the USA is capable of giving its allies."
In the opinion of the Labour party, most of the Charter contains items of propaganda, rather than being aimed at ensuring actual results.
The Charter between the USA and Georgia merely underlined all the directions in which cooperation between the Georgian authorities and the USA has developed before. This was the opinion of the expert Gia Khukhashvili.
According to him, they are trying to consolidate this partnership before the new president enters the White House.
"I don't have anything against that, but these are quite generalized wishes. I'd like there to be something more concrete. There is nothing new in the Charter. Cooperation between Georgia and the USA in that military direction was already quite intensive, it's just that a charter hadn't been concluded. I don't think that from that point of view anything will change. There was already talk before of that trade framework," stressed the expert.
Meanwhile, Tbilisi has started to prepare a raft of documents which are meant to give concrete expression to the general clauses in the Charter. When and in what form they will be signed is not yet known.