Georgian dream requires 'icebreaker'
A member of the parliamentary delegation from the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, Ada Marshania, called an agreement on a 'new format' for dialogue between Russia and Georgia 'a breakthrough' and 'a great achievement', speaking at the press conference following the visit to Moscow and meetings with Russian counterparts. Along with the Geneva discussions on security in the Caucasus, as well as the 'Prague format' of talks between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Georgian Special Envoy Zurab Abashidze, members of the legislative bodies of the two countries are ready to set up another dialogue platform in the form of regular meetings between parliamentary delegations.
Three Georgian parliamentarians from the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia opposition party Ada Marshania, Nato Chkheidze and Georgy Lomiya visited Moscow precisely for this reason. In Moscow, they were received by the Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots, Leonid Kalashnikov, together with fellow members of the committee. Following the negotiations, they agreed to create 'informal groups' for further communication.
The question arises immediately of why 'informal', because the regulations of both parliaments provide for the possibility of institutionalizing deputy associations for targeted work with various countries. But the fact is that today there are no diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia and the two states are still divided by many differences. It is practically impossible to create a 'formal group' for communicating with Russia in today's Georgian parliament. The ruling Georgian Dream party is unlikely to support it, fearing allegations of pro-Russian behavior on the part of Mikhail Saakashvili's supporters from the opposition parties European Georgia and the United National Movement.
But judging by the statements of the Georgian Dream's leaders, the authorities will also not prevent the 'Patriots' from building relations with their Russian counterparts, since the visit of three deputies and communication with members of the State Duma had set an important precedent. There have not been any contacts between the deputies of the two countries for more than ten years. They have been reduced to a minimum since 2006, when a period of cooling in Russian-Georgian relations has begun, sliding them down to direct confrontation, and then they were completely severed after the five-day war of 2008.
First of all, the precedent is important for the ruling party. The Georgian Dream party leaders are still looking back at their main opponents - ex-president Saakashvili's associates, trying to avoid accusations of 'venality' and 'capitulation'. The former president and his like-minded people refer to the founder of the Georgian Dream party, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili as 'the Russian oligarch Ivanishvili', hinting at his personal commercial interest in 'surrendering Georgia to his northern neighbor'.
But the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia is an opposition party. It is not pro-Western, but 'nationally oriented', on some level, even nationalistic. Its leader, known in the past as a journalist, Irma Inashvili, played an important role in the defeat of Mikheil Saakashvili's party following the results of the 2012 parliamentary elections when she spread scandalous video of torture and bullying in Georgian prisons, after which the UNM's approval rating significantly fell.
Thus, the Alliance of Patriots, being a small party, but still a third political force represented in the parliament, plays the role of an 'icebreaker' for the Georgian Dream party to resume direct subject dialogue with Moscow.
Georgia is a parliamentary republic, and its government can always refer to the fact that it is the legislature that determines foreign and domestic policies.
Moreover, the 'Patriots' not only set a precedent and "cut through a new window for dialogue" with Russia, but also hinted at a possible agenda for future interparliamentary talks. Marshania announced a preliminary agreement to discuss with Russian counterparts "the problem of collaboration between Russia, Georgia and NATO".
It is not difficult to understand how the dialogue on this issue can be developed. Until now, the Georgian authorities have said that the course for NATO integration is beyond question and cannot be subject to negotiations with third countries, and Moscow has argued that the entry of the Caucasian country into the alliance is unacceptable for it.
Therefore, a seemingly insignificant visit to the Russian capital by a small Georgian parliamentary delegation representing a small parliamentary faction, having become an important precedent, creates a much broader context, which may in the future be substantive with the participation of other, more influential actors.