Ivanishvili vs monsters27.11.2012 | 16:00
Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili refuses to come to Russia as long as Moscow does not recognize the territorial integrity of Georgia. Despite the general anti-Russian color of the statement, political scientists do not believe that it contradicts the original intentions of the new Georgian government to improve relations with Russia. The reason of Ivanishvili's refusal - this is political prudence, Washington's impact on the country and Moscow's tough stance, the expert said in an interview to the Georgia Times.
Ivanishvili said that he would not go to Russia while Russian embassies stay in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, on November 22. Earlier, on October 9, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, summing up the meeting with a colleague from the RSO David Sanakoyev, ruled out the possibility of negotiations with Georgia on the fate of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
According to the head of the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation George Khutsishvili, Russia has officially shown the new Georgian government that normalization of relations was only possible under certain conditions that must be met by Georgia unilaterally. "Ivanishvili is doing a great job. Even before the election, he set a goal to improve relations with Russia", says Khutsishvili. "But subsequent statements by Russian officials were adamant: you first recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and then we'll talk. This is deliberately unacceptable conditions. All other areas of possible cooperation are directly dependent on the decision of this issue. Actually Moscow's position is blocking any attempts to normalize relations between the two countries. Against this background, one cannot expect from Ivanishvili some active unilateral steps. Now he's showing his dignity and principles. There will be no concessions on his part. And it is easy to understand. In condition of severed diplomatic relations the Georgian Prime Minister's visit to Moscow would have looked at least strange".
Khutsishvili believes that Kremlin's sturdiness is related to the fact that it "is continuing to assess the size of the interlocutor". "Russia is building a relationship on the old principle: we are a big country, and we are not interested in you, and if you want to build a relationship with us, get at our service. But this will not work!"
However, the Georgian analyst is convinced that Moscow's official position does not reflect the mood in Russian society. "We, the independent experts, members of non-governmental organizations, are trying to find out attitudes of Russian society towards Georgia through our own ways. And we suggest that people have more positive perception of the possibility of establishing relations between countries than it looks in the official statements of the leaders. This gives us some hope. Russian and Georgian societies require changing the background of relations through traditional diplomacy. We need to focus on mutual interests. When the overall situation changes, progress in the negotiations will be possible. And then I do not exclude that Ivanishvili changes his mind", concludes Khutsishvili.
President of the Foundation of assistance to the people of Georgia Badri Meladze also relies on public diplomacy: "The most important thing for us - for Russians and Georgians - is that we love each other. Our task is to pass this love to the politicians. Politicians come and go. But they should act on our behalf. We need help them to ensure steps forward. Since our people miss each other".
Meladze links Ivanishvili's statement with insufficient independence of the Georgian leader. "I know the situation in Georgia", he told the GTimes. "Ivanishvili still cannot behave differently. Influence of America is so great that if he makes another statement, he would have been overthrown tomorrow. I do not blame him. He's cautious. We should not forget that Saakashvili is sitting and waiting for a mistake on the part of Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili first must get rid of his monsters, which follow his every move".
The expert believes that the establishment of relations with Russia can be a major Ivanishvili's mission in his post: "I know that Ivanishvili intends to improve relations with Russia, but would it happen ... We must do everything to help him avoid being dismissed from post without real work. We have no other way. Unfortunately, it's impossible to dramatically improve relations. There were too many mistakes, wrong steps in the nine years of Saakashvili's rule. And the war started. Now we have to move slowly, verifying each step".
The head of the Caucasus Department of the CIS Institute, Russian Ambassador to Georgia in 1996-2000 Felix Stanevsky is more skeptical in estimates of prospects of improvement of relations between Georgia and Russia. "Major changes in Georgia's policy towards Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not take place", says the researcher. "It's obvious. We shouldn't count on the opportunity to establish economic relations, without establishing diplomatic relations ... I think that this is not a practical approach. I do not think Russia is very interested in the trade and economic relations with Georgia. Georgia is far more interested in the development of relations with Russia. And as for the security, for us lack of the military threat from Russia is essentially important. And here the questions about Georgia's attitude towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the question of the relations between Georgia and NATO, arise. Unfortunately, nothing positive is happening in this direction".