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Georgia dreams while America inaugurates

By Messenger Staff
Monday, January 20
Since the results of US Presidential elections became known Georgian political life has put itself in standby mode. It awaits with utmost anxiety clarification of the crucial questions for Georgia: What will be the official position of the new administration on Georgian-Russian relations and what will be its attitude towards political processes in Georgia and President Saakashvili in particular?

It was evident during the election campaign that Saakashvili and his team were pinning their hopes on McCain. However, diplomatically enough, they did not state their preference openly and maintained a balanced position, stating that US policy towards Georgia would not change no matter who the President would be. This is the general belief and hope of Georgians of any political orientation, except those openly pro Russian. But despite this Georgia waits with anxious anticipation for the day of Obama’s inauguration and the day the new administration officially starts work.

What will be President Obama’s first statement on US foreign policy? what will be his opinion of the charter signed on January 9, 2009 perhaps the last international action of the Bush administration? Will it be valid for Obama? Will the US make the same commitments or ignore Bush’s promises? Or will a different format for co-operation be elaborated by Mrs. Clinton?

Georgian politicians and political analysts are mostly optimistic about these matters, as they think they can rely on stability and common sense in US foreign policy development. On this issue the Georgian administration and opposition have a common opinion. This is not the case however where the issue of Saakashvili and his rule is concerned, although the US attitude towards the incumbent President will doubtless shape it agenda in Georgia and the wider region.

There has been much gossip about the fact that Georgia’s former Ambassador to the UN Irakly Alasania, now in opposition, has been invited to attend the inauguration ceremony. If this is true, it sends a clear-cut message to the Georgian administration about this person and his place in US-Georgia relations. If he has not been specially invited we do not need to read anything into his presence there. Anyone can buy a ticket to attend the inauguration. We could also make comments about the invitation of two prominent opposition members, Davit Gamkrelidze and Davit Usupashvili, at the ceremony, though this is less widely debated at the present time.

More important than who attends the inauguration is the fact that President Saakashvili will not be there. No official invitations were issued to Heads of State but anyone can attend it as a private individual. If McCain had been elected, Saakashvili would have found a way to be there at any cost. Even now he can still go to the Obama inauguration if he wants to, but let us see if he will.

The non-Parliamentary opposition is cheerfully asserting that the Obama administration will be more critical of Saakashvili. Let us not dream that this issue is at the top of the Obama administration’s list of things to consider. But the US position should be clarified in a couple of weeks, although what it means for Georgia will take longer to emerge.