We shouldn’t start with “red lines”
By Vestnik Kavkaza
These days the round-table discussion "Russian-Georgian dialogue. Views of young experts" is being held in Moscow. It is part of a visit by a delegation of young Georgian political analysts in Russia, organized by the Gorchakov Fund for Public Diplomacy.
Natalia Burlinova, Program Director Gorchakov Fund for Public Diplomacy
I am glad that our Georgian partners, colleagues and, I dare to hope, friends supported the idea of this dialogue, because the main objective of this project is to create a forum where young political scientists, experts, young politicians can discuss the complex issues of our relationship. The project includes meetings of our Georgian colleagues with various well-known people in the Russian Federation. Yesterday we had a meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin. We will have a meeting with reporters, we will have a meeting with political scientists. Now there is an incredible interest in Russia in the subject of Georgia. With the changing political situation in Georgia, of course, there was the activation of public organizations and community projects. The Gorchakov Fund is an organization that was established to promote public diplomacy in Russia, first of all for those interested in establishing a social dialogue.
Georgy Kanashvili, Executive Director of the "Caucasian House" Center for Cultural Relations
We are going to develop this kind of project, and we hope that we will be able to organize exchange visits with the Gorchakov Fund. Yesterday we had a meeting with Mr. Karasin and we were able to ask all the questions that concern the Georgian side and got interesting answers. Some of our group was in Vladikavkaz and Makhachkala, and we are very pleased that these contacts are intensifying. Looking forward, there are clear areas in which progress is possible. It may be the economy, it may be human communication. There are, of course, red lines or issues where our views will not correspond in the near future, but we should not start with these red lines. The Georgian side has recently taken some steps – they appointed a special representative for relations with Russia, it is Zurab Abashidze; it was stressed that Georgia will take part in the Olympics and adjust its policy in the North Caucasus. The rhetoric of the Georgian authorities significantly changed. There are some changes in the law on the occupied territories.
Constantine Tasits, Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Research
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new generation grew up that does not have the experience of living in one state, common cultural values, which to a large extent already does not know each other. In this sense, a route for further normalization should be connected with the restoration of confidence. It is fundamentally important, it is what precedes any other action. So we need to do some work so that the Russian side can trust the Georgian side, and the Georgian side does not perceive Russia's actions as provocative.
Georgy Gvimradze, analyst at the Center for Strategic Research
I have the impression that we are slowly in small steps moving away from the mutual accusations that have characterized Russian-Georgian relations in recent years. Unfortunately, there are people who see a problem in Georgian-Russian interaction, but, in my opinion, this group in Georgia is becoming marginal. In reality, according to surveys, about 80% of Georgian society believes that it is necessary to establish relations with the Russian Federation; economic, cultural, but, of course, also political.
Andrei Sushentsov, Senior Lecturer at MGIMO
There are issues on which compromise or consensus is impossible. These issues did not appear in 2008, they had been maturing for quite a long time, they have their genesis, and it is necessary to deal with this. I think the main lesson that we were given by the conflict in 2008 shows that our illusions that we know each other and that we understand each other were wrong. Remaining from Soviet times, the feeling that we lived in one state and therefore can understand the logic of the other side was wrong. This observation was confirmed during our visits to Tbilisi, when we faced trite interpretations of Moscow's policy in the South Caucasus, which have nothing to do with reality. In the absence of any professional contact among young and mature political scientists, among the media community, a person is left alone with an information flow that cannot be checked. I hope that this will lead to a two-way process that will develop a trusting relationship. Removing barriers to communication is the first step to ensure that even the most difficult and long-standing conflicts will gradually be resolved.