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On starting dialogue with Russia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, December 18
Of course Georgia was not expecting to receive a Membership Action Plan at the last NATO summit. However it probably did not expect that NATO would recommend it to start a dialogue with Russia. This recommendation puts the Saakashvili administration in a very awkward situation. The Kremlin refuses to conduct dialogue with Saakashvili personally or his administration. Many times either the Russian President or PM have confirmed this. So far the Georgian administration has not seen any possibility of conducting dialogue with Russia either, as the only topic for possible negotiation would be the de-occupation of Georgian territory. So Moscow will most probably try to use this request for dialogue against Georgia and its leadership.

As Saakashvili’s spokesperson stated on December 15, all Russia's efforts are targeted at demoralising the Georgian people and suppressing their will to resist. Analyst Andro Barnov has observed that the NATO recommendation has created confusion in Georgia, and not only among analysts. He suggested that maybe NATO itself has a viable plan for initiating Tbilisi-Moscow dialogue. Gia Nodia, a former Minister of Education in the current administration, has stated in 24 Hours that as Russia has very definite position of not wanting to talk to Georgia’s current leadership and the latter is also not very happy about conducting dialogue, “this recommendation has a mostly ritual character and will not be implemented. I do not see any solution in the near future.”

Former Ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze has stressed that the regulation of relations with neighbouring countries is one of the requirements of the NATO Membership Action Plan and therefore this recommendation should be taken into consideration. Kakha Gogolashvili thinks that Georgia has never rejected dialogue which would address the results of the August war and achieve the deoccupation of the country as well as normalising general relations.

On the other hand the NATO recommendation strengthens the opposition’s position that since Georgia is obliged to conduct dialogue with Russia and Moscow refuses to negotiate with the current Georgian Government that Government should be changed. Irakli Alasania, one of the most prominent opposition leaders, suggests that for the next 10-15 years Georgia will have to have some sort of dialogue with Russia’s current political leadership whatever difficult there may be in doing so.

Alasania thinks that dialogue should be established on the basis of Georgia and Russia's common interests. He reckons that an integrated, democratic and strong Georgia can become a stable and reliable partner for Russia and dialogue should facilitate trust between the countries. Under these circumstances he considers it quite realistic that Russia will withdraw its forces from Georgia. However this is a very bold supposition, because Alasania has never heard Russia make such a commitment to the international community and neither has anyone else.

At present it is very difficult to conduct dialogue between our two countries as equals because of Moscow’s stubborn position. But what alternative does Georgia have?