Friday, January 30, 2009

Opposition agrees on ousting Saakashvili but not much else

Twelve opposition parties called for Pres. Mikheil Saakashvili's resignation, but there appears to be little concerted momentum behind their declaration. reports Davit Gamkrelidze, the leader New Rights (Conservative) Party, said all parties were united behind removing Saakashvili, but their tactics might vary.

As a friend of mine once said: "Even if all Georgia wanted to throw Misha away, how would they agree on a date?"

Nonetheless, the concensus among the opposition is that Saakashvili will be gone by year's end. However, they don't seem to know how it'll happen.

Many believe U.S. Pres. Barack Obama will help by tying aid to democratic reform.

"Maybe it will take a year or two, but I am sure these reforms (media, electoral code, law enforcement agencies, human rights) will lead to the resignation of Saakashvili, because he can't act under free political environment," Kahka Kukava, leader of the Conservative Party, wrote in an e-mail to me recently.

Also, Kukava wrote, as Obama tries to restore America's standing abroad, he will not tolerate allies who might undermine his efforts, such as Saakashvili.

Of course, this assumes that the Obama administration believes Tbilisi (and especially Saakashvili) was responsible for starting the August war.

On the other side, as talks about Nabucco come up again, the U.S. will want stability above all else in Georgia, be it from Saakashvili or someone else. Saakashvili has appointed former-PM Lado Gurgenidze to lobby for Nabucco. Gurgenidze was very successful in attracting foreign investment to Georgia.

Joshua Kucera at reports that Turkey (and Russia, of course) might be a roadblock to U.S. energy policy (including Nabucco) in the Caspian Basin.

On another note:
The recent alliance between the Republican Party and New Rights Party was somewhat surprising. Both certainly want to see Saakashvili go, but the Republicans have focused more on institutional reform while Gamkrelidze has focused more on changing the head of state. Of course, the New Rights Party has a bigger support base.

Friday, January 9, 2009

US-Georgia sign charter before Bush departs

Israel isn't the only country attending to its agenda in the waning days of the Bush administration. Georgia and the United States signed a strategic partnership charter today, reiterating U.S. support for Georgia's territorial integrity and NATO membership aspirations.

“The U.S. supports and will always support Georgia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, as well as its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice said, according to

The charter is non-binding, but emphasizes US security and economic ties with Georgia. Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze stressed the importance of these connections during a teleconference with international press this morning.

The military ties seem to shift U.S. support towards more traditional military aid. Prior U.S. aid had focused a great deal on training Georgian troops to serve as peacekeepers in Iraq, which was not very useful during fighting in South Ossetia in August. The charter pledges U.S. support to helping Georgia increase its self-defense capabilities to NATO standards.

Vashadze did not specify what form the aid would take. In the past, the U.S. has not given Georgia some of its most advanced defensive weapons system, such as Stinger ground-to-air missiles or Javelin anti-tank missiles.

While the charter is non-binding, Vashadze said "military cooperation [will begin] in the very, very near future."

No doubt Georgia's leadership was eager to sign the charter before U.S. Pres. George W. Bush leaves office later this month. Pres.-elect Barack Obama has indicated he is less willing than his successor to send U.S. military aid overseas.

"The charter was agreed upon with the incoming administration," Vashadze said, but he declined to specify which officials from Obama's administration were involved.