Saturday, December 8, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Georgians and New Georgian Government Want to Talk to Russia but Join NATO

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 8 – Much of the commentary on the change in government in Tbilisi both in Moscow and the West has suggested that in indicating its willingness to talk with Moscow, Tbilisi and the Georgian people are turning away from their commitment to integrating with Western institutions like NATO.

            But the results of a poll conducted by the International Republic Institute and released this week and statements by senior Georgian officials make it clear that Georgians overwhelmingly see their interests as best served by pursuing simultaneously both talks with and closer ties to Western institutions (

            According to the poll, 94 percent of Georgians support dialogue with Russia, 84 percent of them “completely” and 11 percent “partially, with 84 percent believing that the results of the recent Georgian elections improved chances for such talks. But at the same time, 82 percent back Georgia’s becoming a member of NATO, 65 percent completely and 17 percent “partially.”

            These popular attitudes have been echoed by officials of the new Georgian government.  Zurab Abashidze, the special representative of the Georgian prime minister for relations with Russia, said this week that “Tbilisi is ready for dialogue with Moscow despite the radically divergent positions” of the two countries (

            Overcoming such differences is the task of diplomacy, Abashidze said, noting that in addition to what Georgia and Russia disagree on – in the first instance, the status of Abkhazia and South Osetia – there many issues like combatting terrorism and trade where the two sides can find common ground.

            And new Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Pandzhikidze stressed that in seeking talks with Moscow, Tbilisi would “never” change its commitment to the principles of “the territorial integrity” of Georgia and of Georgia’s right of “free choice” in terms of forming alliances in the international community (

            “The chief task of [Tbilisi’s] foreign policy,” the minister said, “is to never give Russia the opportunity to accuse Georgia of something.” That is because “we want to drive Russia into a corner so that it will be forced to positively respond to our positive steps” and would suffer politically if it did not.

            Not unimportantly, NATO welcomed the appointment of a Georgian special representative for relations with Russia and, in its annual report on cooperation with Georgia, said that it looks forward to expanding ties with Tbilisi in the future (

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