The messenger logo

Anticipating Biden’s visit

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, July 14
In Georgia, the country of hopes and reading between the lines, there are high expectations of US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. First of all the visit is considered material proof of US support. Secondly, it is considered that Biden will bring genuine and first hand information about what was really decided in Moscow and thirdly it is expected that Biden will clarify the US position on the current situation inside the country, meaning the confrontation between the authorities and the opposition and the passions surrounding this.

Here in Georgia we consider Obama’s clear cut statement about rejecting Russian claims to a sphere of influence and his confirmation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity should be followed by some concrete steps. Analysts suggest that Biden’s visit to Ukraine and Georgia is the logical continuation of the US President’s visit to Moscow. Obama’s phrase that “Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure and to their own foreign policies,” has become a sacred mantra for Georgian politicians and the general population.

However Georgia’s optimism may be less than well-founded, as some political analysts don’t share it. Not many still believe that some senior US officials will frighten Moscow and force it to give up its aggressive plans. This is a significant observation when we take into consideration that so far we don’t know that any kind of solution to the Georgian problem was taken in Moscow. Joe Biden will bring detailed information, it is believed. Maybe he will give the Georgian leadership extra details of what was discussed and decided in Moscow behind closed doors at a private and confidential level.

Georgians expect that Biden will give some precise details of what the USA will do if the situation gets more complicated. Last year Russia conducted an aggression against Georgia and showed the West that it ignores the rules of international law, a sovereign country’s foreign policy orientation and its formal membership of the CIS. It generally sticks two fingers up at the existing world order and democratic rules, knowing beforehand that nobody will lift a finger of their own against the Russian bear. In Georgia there is a saying, “the dog barks, but the caravan moves ahead”. Russia is a big player and it has become more confident after the August war.

Only a very naive or biased person can think that the Georgian leadership started the war with Russia. Moscow wanted confrontation, it provoked it and did what it had always intended to do. Moreover, it went further, established puppet states, recognized them and is now building military bastions in the South Caucasus. What have the West or the USA done? They have condemned Russia’s actions, but in return the Kremlin has blocked the continuation of two very important international observer missions, the OSCE one in South Ossetia and UNOMIG in Abkhazia.

Just after the Russian aggression Moscow was almost excluded from G8 group but pretty soon it recovered and now Westerners are flirting with the Kremlin just as before. So the question arises – is the West able to invent and activate any efficient mechanism which would prevent Russia repeating its aggression, force it to abolish its recognition of the puppet regimes or stop it building different military bases – air, naval, infantry - on occupied Georgian territory? The immediate answer to this is no. Neither the West nor the USA possess the tools to do this, at least for the time being and in the foreseeable future.

So what guarantees can the West provide Georgia that it will not be attacked again and again and that its breakaway territories will be returned? This is the most important thing Georgians are interested in. Maybe there were some promises made in Moscow by either Medvedev or Putin, but what is a Russian promise worth? Whatever the US will let it be worth, is the hard truth of this matter.

As for Georgia’s internal affairs, pro-opposition analysts want to read clear messages in Obama’s statements. “When Obama states that America supports Georgia’s democracy but not a particular individual, this should be seriously considered in Government circles,” suggests Soso Tsiskarishvili. He also thinks that the new US administration will abandon the practice of the previous administration, which conducted bilateral politics by maintaining private relationships. But before doing this the West, and the US in particular, should identify the Georgian political force it has the most confidence in and sees as most reliable. Tsiskarishvili suggests that most probably the Americans understand that supporting something like the Rose Revolution would not be justified, as that revolution has shown.

Most analysts suggest that the US administration is unlikely to make hasty decisions. It will continue to observe how different groups in Georgia would seek to develop democracy, confirm the country’s pro-Western orientation and strengthen its commitment to democratic values, as these are the courses the US has said it wants the country to take. Therefore what Biden sees in Tbilisi may prove to have much more valuable than what he says when he is here.