Georgia considers dialogue with Russia to be "mandatory", but hesitates to take the first step

Georgia considers dialogue with Russia to be "mandatory", but hesitates to take the first step

The President and the Prime Minister of Georgia, heading two different delegations, visited the US and held meetings with local leaders and foreign guests. Before the "parallel visit" of the the two leaders, Tbilisi talked a lot about whether they are will intersect, if not with each other, then with the presidents of the United States or Russia. The Georgian Prime Minister was really able to talk with Barack Obama on the sidelines of the forum on peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the UN. They talked, standing in adjournment of the forum, but this meeting was no accident.

Georgia also discussed the possibility of a similar intersection of the Georgian President or Prime Minister with Vladimir Putin. But it was impossible considering the shortness of the visit of the Russian leader in New York. However, it is noteworthy that in the US, President Margvelashvili made a statement about readiness to start a dialogue with Moscow, and used a very interesting argument: "Dialogue with Russia is not a topic of choice – it is mandatory. But the right time should come for such negotiations. The Russian leadership and domestic political discourse must be focused on something, on a thing in which we will see something in common."

On the same days, for the first time since the independence of Georgia, a large rally with a demand to resume dialogue with the Russian Federation was held near his residence (Avlabar Palace). Its organizer was the Society of Irakli II, which insists on the state of Georgia declaring its neutrality. Immediately after the action, the Chairman of the Georgian parliament from the Republican party, David Usupashvili, who is considered to be one of the most pro-Western politicians in the country, stated that Georgia "should stop the practice of deterioration of relations with Russia." "What has been already ruined [in relations with Russia] is enough," he noted.

Thus, it may seem that all the preconditions for a dialogue already exist. The main one is the agreement of Russia itself on a full restoration of relations. Putin said back in 2014, during the Olympic Games in Sochi, that he was ready to meet with the Georgian President. I think he also would not mind a brief conversation with the Georgian Prime Minister, since according to the constitution he holds the real power. Such a meeting could take place, if not in New York, then at least on other international platforms. But the Georgian side is clearly not ready for this.

Tbilisi believes that now, Russian-Georgian relations have no positive agenda, which could be discussed at the highest or high level. There is a format of regular meetings in Prague, between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and the special representative of the Georgian government Zurab Abashidze. Moreover, in the course of dialogue between the two top-class diplomats, they actually managed to solve a number of important issues: the confrontational rhetoric of the Georgian side is reduced; Tbilisi refused to join the international sanctions against the Russian Federation; Russia opened its market to Georgian goods, and as a gesture of goodwill, released a few Georgians arrested in 2008 on charges of espionage from prison. The current Georgian authorities did the same in 2012 in relation to a number of Russian citizens sentenced for espionage; moreover, they were declared to be "political prisoners of Saakashvili's regime."

But everything that is "higher" than the level of the Prague meetings of Karasin and Abashidze, or affects more than trade, economic and humanitarian relations, contains serious risks for the ruling 'Georgian Dream' coalition, taking into account its never-ending confrontation with Saakashvili's party 'United National Movement'. The Odessa governor has already openly stated that in September of next year (on the eve of the next parliamentary elections), he will return to the land of his ancestors. "And no one will dare to lay a finger on me," the former president is sure. And yet, four criminal cases were initiated against him, that is, Saakashvili is counting on a new revolution.

In such conditions, President Margvelashvili and Prime Minister Garibashvili are hesitant to take the first step, because even the restoration of diplomatic relations with Russia will be announced as "total capitulation" by the opposition.

Nevertheless, much will depend on the development of events around Ukraine. Stabilization there will also determine the motivation of the Georgian leadership for the resumption of full-fledged dialogue with Moscow. In this sense, of course, Saakashvili was right when he claimed that "Georgia's fate is decided in the Donbas and Crimea."