Georgia’s main problem - 14 September, 2002

The crisis in relations between Russia an Georgia seems to be gradually affecting Georgia’s domestic political life. Although President Eduard Shevardnadze is trying to divert people’s attention from the crisis caused by his regime, he is no success with it yet.

Today chairman of the Ertoba (Unity) opposition political organization, Alexander Chechiya called upon Shevardnadze for resignation and organization of extraordinary presidential elections. He appeared on Rustavi-2, Georgian television, and said that the president “had led up the country a blind alley and currently can hardly settle the problems that Georgia faces.”

Chechiya blamed President Shevardnadze for inability to establish constructive and trusting relations with the Russian government.” In his words, restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity and economic revival are impossible without friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Russia.

However, Shevardnadze is unlikely to heed the appeal of the opposition. Next presidential elections are scheduled for 2005 only, and the president will hardly give up the seductive opportunity of ruling the country for the next several years till 2005. Eduard Shevardnadze has already demonstrated within the years of his presidency that he can struggle for the power.

Basically, response of the Georgian government can be predicted. At the least, the opposition will be  blamed for treachery of Georgia. This may also result in prohibition of disagreeable parties and organizations, which will be explained with patriotic spirits of the Georgian people. European countries are unlikely to react positively  to it as well; the USA will remain Georgia’s main hope in this situation. Although the dilemma is really very complicated, Shevardnadze can easily find a way-out. He has got rather useful experience at the post of the Soviet foreign minister.

It is an open secret that friendly relations with Russia also meet Georgia’s national interests. It won’t take much effort to deploy US military bases on its territory instead of those Russian. And the USA will certainly hail the idea on the eve of an offensive in Iraq. But will the USA be concerned about Georgia’s problems as soon as the operation against Baghdad is over? Especially that ruling  methods there are far from the standards of western democracy.

So, Russia and Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge are not the main problem for Georgia at all. Eduard Shevardnadze is currently the main problem of the country. To settle the problem, the Georgian president should establish a dialogue with Moscow. Certainly, it isn’t a panacea for all problems in the country. However, it will be the first step forward.  

Vasily Bubnov

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Author`s name Michael Simpson