Staunton, January 31 – Russia is as much a loser as Georgia by making barbed wire the symbol of Moscow’s policy there, Tedo Japaridze says. It would be far more profitable for Russia to “have banks rather than tanks” in Georgia and its efforts to have both at once are “counterproductive.”
In a comment posted on the Russia in Global Affairs portal, the longtime participant in the elaboration and conduct of Georgian foreign policy argues that it is time, on the tenth anniversary of the war between Russia and Georgia to adopt “a different optic,” one that would allow both countries to benefit (globalaffairs.ru/global-processes/Drugaya-optika-Gruzi-19326).
Over the last decade, he notes, “our countries not only have not been able to find a common denominator in their relations but have become mentally still more distant from one another. But mentality doesn’t do away with geographic propinquity.” At the same time, however, military power can give only short-term “success” but not “long-term dividends.”
Georgia thus proposes that the two sides approach their relationship in terms of “a different optic,” one of “positive regional cooperation” that does not “forget about their own problems or ignore their strategic goals” but rather seeks to build on those places where they do have shared interests.
Russia can’t feel “completely secure by weakening its smaller neighbors,” because they like Georgia “will not turn away from the path chosen by its people or retreat from strategic goals or allow themselves to become units of exchange in big political games, Japaridze continues.
Both Russia and Georgia suffer from the current period of unpredictability; and both would benefit from a more predictable set of arrangements, the Georgian diplomat argues. The West must not assume that such stability can be achieved by having Tbilisi simply defer to Russia’s interests and sacrifice its own.
It is unfortunate that in Georgia (and not only in Georgia?) nothing good is expected from Russia. Russia frightens rather than attracts, and the barbed wire installed by Russian military forces in the heart of our land [not only] contradicts the principles of 21st century thought but has become a symbol of the policy of Russia in Georgia.”
The more than a million Russian tourists who come to Georgia each year can see this: Moscow needs to see it as well. The “divide and conquer” strategy the barbed wire reflects has failed not only in Georgia but also in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where people do not feel they have achieved their goals either.
“We in Tbilisi have always maintained the following position: Georgia’s movement toward Europe does not mean a rejection of normal relations with Russia. This movement is not directed against Russia because in the contemporary world nothing ‘anti-‘ works or at least works for the long term.”
Tbilisi is thus “prepared to be a reliable and responsible part for all our neighbors, including Russia. But Georgia too has its own ‘red lines’ and for us they are no less important than for Russia’s.” But Russia doesn’t recognize them and since 1991, we have not known with any precision “just what Russia wants from us.”
Does Moscow want Georgia and all its other neighbors to be afraid of it? If so, then just what model of coexistence is it in a position to seek? “This isn’t even a policy of carrots and sticks; this is only the sticks, the sticks and the sticks yet again,” Japaridze says. “We want to live in peace with Russia, but we do not want to live in Russia.”
Russia must play a role in resolving this situation as must the West. “Russia says that it doesn’t intend to withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and the Tsivalsk region (South Ossetia) and appeals to use and the international community to accept a certain new reality it has created in the South Caucasus and to conduct direct dialogue with ‘the new states.’”
“But this is a path to nowhere.” Tbilisi is always ready to have direct dialogue with its fellow citizens” but not under the pressure of Russian military force. And if Moscow insists that is the only way, it will not achieve the stability which it needs in the Caucasus just as much as Georgia does. The time has come for Moscow to recognize this reality.
“Today,” Japaridze says, “there is a chance to reach complex resolutions via dialogue between the West and Georgia, between Russia and the West and between Georgia and Russia.” But that won’t be possible if one of the participants remains committed to a policy that can be protected and advanced only by barbed wire.
“What will Russia have acquired for itself by losing Georgia” in this way? “Nothing! Has it become stronger by installing military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia? No, the political and diplomatic harm these things have brought to Russia have transformed ‘success’ into ‘a Pyrrhic victory.’”
“We are not members of NATO, but our ‘Article Five’ is in our stability, in our political and economic development, and in our movement toward the Euro-Atlantic community with the help and the support of our partners. I am sure,” Japaridze concludes, that “a strong, reformed and stabile Georgia corresponds to the interests of Russia as well.”