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The Russians won’t come, says Saakashvili

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, April 15
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has ruled out another large scale Russian military aggression against Georgia despite the mobilization of Russian forces in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region and given some reasons why.

Speaking about the current political situation in the country on April 14, the President stated that the concentration of Russian forces within and near Georgia now exceeds that of August 2008 but the situation in Russia precludes large scale military adventures.

“I still think that Russia is not in a position to renew the conflict. All its moves were designed to take advantage of internal unrest [in Georgia], but as recent developments have clearly shown, no matter how much money they spend and what they do, Georgia is a stable country and it is impossible to trigger serious unrest here. We also have much more international support today than we had last August,” Saakashvili stated at a new medical centre in the Varketili District of Tbilisi yesterday, where he was monitoring the implementation of the Government’s cheap health insurance programme.

Saakashvili talked about the possibility of reinstating dialogue with Russia. “The Russians keep saying: we want good relations with Georgia, but only if its Government is replaced. But when they say Georgia, they do not mean Georgia as the rest of the world means it – a country including Psou [in breakaway Abkhazia] and the Roki Tunnel [in breakaway South Ossetia], but only Kartli, Kakheti and Imereti. This is the extent of Georgia for Russia today,” Saakashvili said, adding that this is why Georgia should strengthen its international relations and economy in order to convince Russia that it is impossible to trigger unrests in Georgia.

“So in order to prepare the ground for a real dialogue with Russia, our task is to strengthen our international positions; to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures, as we have a unique chance to do this now and strengthen our economy, in order to convince Russia that it is impossible to trigger unrest in Georgia whether from within or outside. All these steps will give us much firmer ground for holding a correct dialogue in order to overcome the misfortune which exists in our bilateral relations reflected in the occupation of our territory,” Saakashvili stated.

The President added that some people are dreaming about a more extensive occupation of the country, but the main focus should not be on the occupation of the rest of Georgia but the complete de-occupation of the country.

Lincoln Mitchell, a leading U.S. expert on Georgia at Columbia University, commented on the current unrest in Georgia in an interview with the New York Bureau of RIA Novosti on April 14. According to him both Georgia and Russia nowadays are counselling doing things that will upset each other. “So if any provocations occur, you can see the Russian propaganda machine saying that there is a crisis, we have to respond now and go another few kilometres into Georgia. I think that would be terrible, a big mistake through which Russia would demonstrate to the West that it is simply an aggressive imperialist power again. What would be achieved is that all those comments Saakashvili has been making about Russian aggression would become accepted in the West as unquestionable. And this would jeopardize any kind of rapprochement between our two countries,” the expert stated.

Mitchell said that the Georgian side waging a new war would be terrible for Georgia and the United States. However he highlighted that if there is further aggression from the Russian this will not go unanswered.

“So I think - is it possible that Russia could provoke Georgia again, seeing its weakness? I think that in the long run that would be a really bad mistake for Russia. I think Russia overplayed its hand in the war in August, and lost a lot of support,” he said, adding that the chance of conflict re-escalating is less than it was three months ago, something which can be explained by Russia’s domestic problems, which are more economic than political.

“Things depend on how deep the economic downturn becomes. It's had a very strong effect on Russia, so who knows what the Medvedev Government might need to do to stay in power? But I don't think we're at that point yet,” the expert concluded.

Meanwhile the opposition continues its rally outside Parliament and the President’s residence, demanding Saakashvili’s resignation. Mitchell said that the President will not resign.

“Saakashvili is not going to resign today. I mean, it would be a shock if Saakashvili resigns today. If I were sitting next to Saakashvili, I would say: "Don't resign, that would be dumb." And I'm sure that the people sitting next to him now are saying that,” Mitchell stated, suggesting that the authorities and opposition find “a way to move forward together at a time that I think is of paramount importance for their country.”