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Speculation over Noghaideli’s Moscow trips

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 12
Georgian politicians and analysts speculate a lot about former PM Zurab Noghaideli's frequent visits to Moscow, and in particular his February 9 initiative of signing a memorandum of cooperation with United Russia (Edinaia Rossia), the ruling party of Russia. Most commentators condemn this action but there are some who welcome it. Interestingly, the latter not only justify Noghaideli’s actions but attempt to build up a line of reasoning which could prove him right.

The authorities have unanimously condemned Noghaideli’s step and declared it treason. Neither Noghaideli nor Putin will achieve anything through cooperation as Georgian society has an absolutely different approach to theirs, and therefore this can only be treason, thinks majority representative Goka Gabashvili. Since the Rose Revolution the ruling party has used the label ‘pro Russian’ to attack the opposition with and such an orientation has been seen as shameful in Georgia, but ironically since the August 2008 Russian invasion this situation has changed. Many in Georgia think that the Georgian population's frustration with the West's half-hearted support for this country is the main reason for this, and this is a serious factor in domestic politics which cannot be ignored.

The Georgian authorities as well as the West should seriously assess the current situation in Georgia. Noghaideli has been the first to openly contact Russia, travelling to Moscow and visiting The Kremlin, but others will doubtless follow if they feel it will further their personal ambitions. Public disappointment at the West's approaches to Moscow and Tbilisi has created the situation where politicians feel that being pro-Russian can be a vote winner not a vote loser, something unimaginable even eighteen months ago.

After the Rose Revolution the new leadership hoped that Georgia would be invited to join NATO by 2008 and later the EU. This became a matter of public policy. But in that year Georgia was invaded by its northern neighbour precisely because of its Western orientation. Conservative leader Zviad Dzidziguri has stated that the US and Western friends of Georgia did not and could not take the steps which would rescue Georgia in 2008, but the stereotypical assertions that if you contact Washington you are a patriot but if you contact Moscow you are a Russian agent has backfired on the Government. The notion that NATO's doors are open for Georgia has been ridiculed, as the door might be open but Saakashvili's Georgia won't be allowed to go through it. The hysterical screaming for membership of NATO has resulted in a lost war and occupation and Russian President Medvedev has now adopted a military doctrine which says that NATO expansion to the east is the biggest threat to Russia.

Many of the opposition parties who held daily protests against the Saakashvili regime for almost four months last year are also frustrated as they feel they have not received adequate support from the West. Often they state that in Western parlance democracy is just another word for desired regime change not a principle to be upheld. Kazakhstan assuming the Presidency of the OSCE, despite its anti-democratic recent record, is one example of this attitude which could be cited. Furthermore the West has recommended that Georgia conducts a dialogue with Moscow. As the Government refuses to do so some opposition members are simply taking the West at its word, a sensible step for those who wish to have friends on all sides.

It is not yet clear what Noghaideli and the like think they are doing. What will dialogue with the Russians yield? Will it restore Georgia's territorial integrity? Rather, it makes this less likely, as these contacts give Russia more confidence that it can win over its opponents and it has frequently stated that it will not renounce its recognition of the occupied territories. It is very probable that the present pro-Russian forces will become the blind executors of Russian policy in Georgia.