Tbilisi and Moscow have given some thought to starting a dialogue04.03.2009 | 17:49
The opposition "Alliance for Georgia" has called on people to stop making aggressive verbal attacks against Russia. For the first time since August, deputies in the State Duma have apparently spoken out in favour of resuming a dialogue with Georgia. But Tbilisi officials have viewed the prospects for a constructive dialogue with their northern neighbour sceptically. So can there be an agreement between Moscow and Tbilisi or not?
"The Alliance for Georgia" is far from alone in its desire to establish a dialogue between Georgia and Russia. The Labour party, the leader of the "Democratic Movement - United Georgia" party Nino Burjanadze, and the head of the "Movement for a Just Georgia" Zurab Nogaideli have already come out with similar initiatives. However, the Tbilisi government has reacted especially badly to the Alliance's appeal. At a traditional briefing, Georgia's Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze tried to be sarcastic, saying that he was prepared "to pay any money in order to see how the opposition would restore relations with Russia," he is quoted as saying by Day.az.
Meanwhile, the head of the Russian State Duma Committee on international affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, thinks that they need to return to a dialogue with Georgia. As he told Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the path towards normalizing relations will be found far quicker "if a new generation of Georgian politicians comes through to represent Georgia in a dialogue with Russia, who are capable of "rewinding" the situation quite far back to that intersection, from where we hit a deadlock". But, according to the head of the Duma International Affairs Committee, the same thing will also have to be done by Russia.
Your GeorgiaTimes correspondent has tried to find out how Georgian opposition politicians are intending to restore relations with Russia, and what Russian experts think about this.
One of the leaders of the Republican party, Levan Berdzenishvili, said: "I think that all the sides in the conflict - Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia - need to acknowledge their blame. In actual fact, everyone is to blame. Of course, the key issue in the negotiating process with Russia will be the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence. A new generation of politicians is ready to guarantee that, despite the fact that Georgia will never recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and will call on the international community to help to restore our country's territorial integrity, we will not use force to resolve the conflicts. Actually, Russia has taken away 20-percent of Georgia's territory. There is not a single Georgian politician who would come to power and say that he is willing to sacrifice these territories for the sake of good relations with Russia."
In Berdzenishvili's opinion, at this stage Russia is not prepared to retract its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence. But in time, everything is possible. He gives the epoch-making reunification of the FRG and GDR as an example: "Perhaps we should take this resolution as our model? But we need time to achieve that," thinks Berdzenishvili. At the same time, he notes that they need to start a dialogue with Russia by resolving the economic problems. But he did not give a very optimistic prediction: good-neighbourly relations will only be restored between Russia and Georgia if the leaderships of both countries follow civilized methods. And for that, they need to become politically stronger. So in the next five years, he thinks, no breakthrough should be expected.
As far as the Russian side is concerned, Vyacheslav Igrunov, director of the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies, thinks that the efforts to stabilize relations between Moscow and Tbilisi are, unfortunately, of little promise today. Negative relations have become established between the leaders of the two countries. If a change in regime occurs in Georgia and the opposition is able to govern the country, then it will be possible to bring about relations based on a degree of partnership. And this is not because the opposition has a better opinion on Russia. The entire Georgian elite has quite a negative view of Russia. Simply the opposition are more rational.
The problems in their relations, in Igrunov's opinion, will exist for a long time to come. Russia cannot offer Georgia anything that would fundamentally alter the situation. Moscow will not retract its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But this is a prerequisite for any Georgian politician. However, an improvement in economic relations is quite foreseeable for Georgia. On this issue, Russia is prepared to move towards Georgia. Dialogue is possible if at the very start both sides just pass over the most problematic issues. Otherwise any attempt will end up in further deadlock.
In conclusion, Vyacheslav Igrunov remarked: "A normalization in relations can take place on the following basis - Georgia will not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but will renounce any attempt to solve the problem by force, and will look to resolve it solely by diplomatic means. And also, reducing the anti-Russian rhetoric would do no harm whatsoever."