How will Russian-Georgian relations change?

How will Russian-Georgian relations change?

The new Georgian authorities do not intend to return the country to the CIS, Gia Khukhashvili, aide of the leader of Georgian Dream Bidzina Ivanishvili, told Interfax. “This issue is not on the agenda for the new Georgian authorities,” Khukhashvili emphasized, commenting on the statement by Alexander Lukashenka that he is ready to initiate talks on returning Georgia to the CIS. “Probably President Lukashenka would convince Saakashvili to return to the CIS. Moreover, Saakashvili could agree on accession to Russia or even Belarus for the sake of his survival,” Khukhashvili said.

Unlike Minsk, Moscow doesn’t urge Tbilisi to return to the Commonwealth. However, it is obvious that the bilateral relations will change in the near future. VK experts discuss possibility of transformation of Russian-Georgian relations.

Sergey Mikheyev, the head of the Center of Political Situation, told VK that the internal situation in Georgia began to change not today, but ahead of the voting: “The elections only confirmed that people who are dissatisfied with Saakashvili surpass his supporters; and it is a serious change.” Mikheyev thinks that developments will depend on real relations between Saakashvili and Ivanishvili: “At the moment it is to ddificult to predict these relations: some people believe Ivanishvili is ready for compromises with Saakashvili, others say that there are no sharp contradictions between the politicians, the third consider them to be hostile enemies. Ivanishvili urged Saakashvili to resign, even though the current president said that he is ready to cooperate with the winner. Their real relations are the most significant.”

Mikheyev noted that Russia doesn’t have illusions about Ivanishvili’s victory: “Due to certain reasons we like Saakashvili’s opponents. However, we clearly realize that the majority of the Georgian opposition leaders are directed to the West. They have already established sound contacts with Americans and Europeans. There are no pro-Russian positions in Georgia, and they would hardly appear in the nearest future. However, Saakashvili’s resignation from active politics will open new opportunities for improvement of trade-economic relations.”

As for politics, the relations will probably remain the same. “One shouldn’t expect a political breakthrough, first of all, because of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – nobody is going to change positions on this issue. Georgia politicians will not refuse from their claims on these territories as it would be equal to suicide, while Moscow has already made its choice and will hardly change it. Secondly, approaching of Moscow and Tbilisi positions is prevented by the course for joining NATO declared in Georgia; Russia is strictly against extension of this organization to the East,” Mikheyev is sure.

As for possible development of economic relations between Georgia and Russia, he noted that a progress in this sphere is beneficial for Georgia and the Georgian Diaspora: “For Georgia isolation from the Russian market is a painful moment. It is very significant for the Georgian Diaspora to build normal communications with Russia. That is why Russia can expect steps from Georgia in this direction. What can Georgia offer and how will she build the dialogue? If they start just like Saakashvili – from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, that won’t do.”

The similar view is shared by the director of the Center of Socio-Political Studies, Vladimir Yevseyev. He told VK that the period of Saakashvili couldn’t be called simple: on the one hand, there were certain achievements; on the other hand, these achievements were “decorative” in most cases. “The elections confirmed that the majority of the population of the republic is not agree with the course provided by Mikhail Saakashvili. The victory of Georgian Dream might improve positions of not only this political force, but also of other parties which stood against the policy of the current president. So far as the power will shift from the president to the prime minister, the current authorities will lose weight. The Georgian internal political life will be reformatted,” Yevseyev said.

As the Russian authorities have many times stated on impossibility of any contacts with Mikhail Saakashvili and considering the shift of power to the prime minister, today the conditions for normalization of Russian-Georgian relations are being established. “Elimination of the trade barriers which were launched under Saakashvili is real. In this case we can try to rebuild economic contacts, establish regular air flights between Moscow and Tbilisi, and cease some unnecessary visa-restrictions. According to many experts, the economic situation in Georgia is determined by unrequited credits; but in the context of the economic crisis such an approach cannot be reliable for a long time,” Yevseyev is sure. “Nobody wants to take Georgia under the protection for a long term. Therefore, economic independence is very important for Georgia.”

Development of economic cooperation will contribute to development of Georgia itself and improve prosperity of the Georgian people. The existing barriers disturb both countries. For some Russian regions elimination of unnecessary barriers would be positive as well. Today the opportunities are established, which have to be used.

“For Russia the results of the elections might contribute to diminishing of Georgian interference to the North Caucasus affairs. For example, exaggeration of the Circassian problem will stop,” Yevseyev believes. “Russian and Georgia are interested in deepening cooperation in the economic sphere, while in the political sphere changes won’t be significant.”