Problems of Georgian-Russian relations

Image removed.

Paata Zakareishvili – Expert on Conflict Issues, Member of Republican Party;
Malkhaz Saldadze – Political scientist, I. Chavchavadze State University
Moderation: Giorgi Gvakharia

On May 6, 2009 at the Office of Heinrich Boell Foundation the following topics have been discussed: developing and changing of Georgian-Russian relationship, similarities and differences between two countries and the reason of causing problems in their relationship, Russia’s expectations towards Georgia and the reason of its aggression, the public order and perspectives.

Political scientist Malkhaz Saldadze began his speech by the description of Russia’s political system for explaining the reason of developing Georgian-Russian relationship in this direction and Russia’s foreign policy towards Georgia. He spoke about topics related to Russia’s political development after the destruction of the Soviet Union. 

As Saldadze mentioned the destruction of the Soviet Union has been interpreted as development of democracy in the West, in former republics of the Soviet Union including Russia, however processes have developed in another direction.

In 1993 steps have been made which should cause skepticism in Western experts towards Russian democracy. So called liberal reformers elaborated economical and democratic development programs which contradicted public views in relation to the further development of Russia.

Economical policy was the second factor. The Chubais-Gaidar group offered the Russian society liberal reforms, which would be worth much for the society. For the purpose of carrying out liberal reforms the government headed for making antidemocratic steps which resulted in a sharp critic towards Russia’s democratic level in 1999. There was no space for expressing critical and alternative views in the period of Putin’s and Eltsin’s governance.
Saldadze spoke about similarities between Georgian-Russian political systems. He said that one of the serious reasons of tension appeared Georgia’s aspiration towards the Euro-Atlantic space. Georgia which desired integration into NATO contradicts the project which is called arrangement of the Eurasian continent according to the Russian view. This is the main problem standing between political elites of two countries.

Conflict scientist Paata Zakareishvili mentioned that this topic is the subject of constant discussion and speculation in Georgia. The war with Russia has not finished yet, there is carrying out the process of formalizing what has been received by Russia in August.
Paata Zakareishvili spoke about Russia’ positions towards Georgia as well. He said that Russia needed a strong and reliable country in the Caucasus in order to resolve problems together. This idea worked in Russia, in particular during the period of Shevardnadze-Eltsin. However, this position has continued in the first period of Saakashvili-Putin as well. The first meetings of Saakashvili and Putin have been hopeful. Zakareishvili mentioned the meeting held on July 3, 2004 when a serious agreement on the Caucasus has been reached. Soon after this meeting the relationship between two countries has radically changed. The political situation showed that Russia was not such aggressive and sharp in relation to any other regions like Georgia.

Zakareishvili and the audience focused on conflict regions in Georgia and the policy carried out by the government in this direction, as well as on NATO factor which became one of the reasons of worsening relations between these countries. Zakareishvili said that today we have a wonderful chance to review economical relations with Russia and relate this subject to diplomatic restoration.

The Office of Heinrich Boell Foundation held public debates on the following topics:

  • Principal dependence with Russia or the policy of conceding, narcissism or infantilism, the problem of mentality and messianic position;
  • Grounds of Georgia’s political elite’s view, construction of political system and directing political activity in the direction which should strengthen Russia’s imperial image in the Western view;
  • International mission of the survival of small nations and post-imperial injury which was difficult for Russia to overcome;
  • Russia’s pragmatic actions and the order of the Georgian society;
  • Puzzled relationship and the way out of the existing situation.