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Neutral Georgia: fantasy and reality

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, August 12
Some pro-Russian political figures and analysts in Georgia are using the Russian aggression last August as a reason for suggesting that Georgia reconsider its foreign policy. Their logic is simple: Russia got angry at Georgia because of its pro-Western orientation, and during the August war it became clear that Western support for Georgia is only verbal or financial, with assistance being given simply to defray the damage of the war. Therefore Georgia has to re-orient its foreign policy, declare neutrality and thus secure its safety, they say.

However these pro-Russian analysts forget that Russia has never promised to return the separatist-controlled territories to Georgia and has never even made any proposals, suggestions or hints about this. We have heard all this before: right after the August war some political figures started saying that Georgia should have had good relations with Russia and the Saakashvili administration harmed these relations rather than seeking to improve them. But once again those who made these statements ignored one undoubted fact: Russia has never wanted to establish good relations with Georgia on an equal basis.

No one doubts that it is better to have good relations with a neighbour than not, particularly when this neighbour is huge, aggressive and imperialistic, but we are an independent sovereign state and therefore insist on equality with any other. Russia wants to establish good neighbourly relations with its near abroad on the basis of the “new realities” which the Medvedev-Putin tandem claim exist. This means that Georgia must give up its claims to the Georgian territory occupied by Russia and acknowledge the puppet regimes Russia has established there before Russia will enter into friendly relations with it. If someone breaks into your house, barricades himself in and then steals everything of yours he can reach, it is a bit late for that person to then say they want to be your friend.

There is another view of what Georgia’s foreign policy should be. Labour leader Shalva Natelashvili has several times repeated, “Let both the Russians and Americans leave us alone.” Unfortunately this is a very dubious if not tragic perspective. Russia will never leave Georgia alone, as it is not in its character and political interest to do so, whereas if the US leaves us alone this will be absolutely disastrous for Georgia.

Russia continually promotes the idea that Georgia should be neutral. For instance, in May this year, there was a Congress of Georgian Peoples convened in Sochi at which Russian businessman of Georgian descent Alexander Ebralidze announced he would become Georgia’s President and achieve territorial integrity and economic prosperity through declaring Georgia neutral. This statement is totally absurd, as Ebralidze has no chance of becoming Georgia’s President, given that he is not even a citizen and has been out of the country for 20 years. Georgia’s former Ambassador to Russia Valerian Advadze, an economist by profession, has also said that there will be “no peace in Georgia, no territorial integrity and no prosperity,” without neutrality. Like Ebralidze he is ignoring historical experience. On May 26 1918, during the first Georgian republic, the country declared its neutrality. All this brought us was the Bolshevik invasion, as it left Georgia with no ally and no support when the Red Army came in 1921 and occupied and annexed Georgia. Georgia had also signed an agreement with Russia on friendship and cooperation prior to this invasion, but Russia took no more heed of this than it did the declaration of neutrality.

Let us put the question: what will change in Russian policy if Georgia declares itself neutral? Who can guarantee that territorial integrity will be restored? If anyone dreams that all of sudden Russia will become sentimental and full of friendship, tolerance and understanding, and thus agree to return the occupied territories to Georgia, they are very much mistaken.

Since the very beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia has been extremely aggressive, and particularly against Georgia, as it knows very well that the key to the South Caucasus is Tbilisi and if it can get hold of Tbilisi it can then control the Caucasus. Georgia is the only possible way Europe can receive alternative sources of gas and oil and this is what Russia is trying to prevent. Regardless of what foreign policy orientation Georgia has, these facts will remain.

If Georgia does not continue to try and ally itself with the West it is doomed to become a perpetual Russian colony. So let us forget about neutrality. Western support and Western goodwill is the only guarantee of the country’s safety, security and welfare.