The Club of Experts has already written in its earlier article about how Moscow was carrying out search for support of its own policy in Georgia and strengthening of new figures all the time. We noted how the Kremlin made a bet on Shevardnadze, Igor Giorgadze, Aslan Abashidze, Zurab Nogaideli and we were asking who would be next.
This question is logical as Russia's attempts to get involved in internal politics of Georgia and break a fortress from inside is inevitable. This is ingrained in its national character. It was always like this and will be in the future as well. Answer to this question did not take much time as our publication was just out when ex-Chairman of the Georgian Parliament Nino Burjanadze hurried to Moscow.
Just before leaving the leader of the radical Georgian opposition told us that she was going there to make big politics. We can look back at "small politics" that Nino Burjanadze had been doing for years and try to analyze why small Georgia's political space was no enough for this "big politician".
Nino Burjanadze worked in Georgian legislative body over 15 years. In 1992 she started as an expert-consultant when the war was raging in Georgia. This fact is interesting because she knows very well what kind of time Georgia has passed since restoration of independence. From 1995 she was a member of the parliament and the Chairman of the Parliament from 2001 to 2008. Therefore along all the period when Georgia had to stand against Russia Madam Burjanadze was the second person of the country. Not to mention those two times when Burjanadze was an acting president and knows well how Georgia-Russian relations were developing.
During a period of her being the Chairman of the Parliament always has a tough although quite diplomatic position towards Russia. Then she was not hiding who was an enemy of Georgia. Neither was she hiding that Georgia was occupied. Statements of Burjanadze of that time show that she always tried to defend Georgian interests and sometimes she even had very tough position. This refers to a process of withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, as well as withdrawal of Russian "peacekeepers", Russian embargo etc.
On March 2nd 2002 in a resolution that was approved in the period when Burjanadze was the speaker of the Georgian Parliament it was noted that "the CIS peacekeeping forces deployed in Abkhazia fail to perform the duties envisaged by their mandate.
Territory of Abkhazia is uncontrolled and it is turned into a shelter for international terrorists and extremists and into a zone of arms and drugs trade.
While there are uncontrolled and unregistered armaments on the territory of Abkhazia, Russian military forces continue to supply the separatist regime with heavy military equipment and armaments. Granting Russian citizenship to the citizens of Georgia, residing in Abkhazia, further escalates the situation. It is an evident attempt on the part of Russia, to interfere in the internal affairs of Georgia with a pretext of protecting the interests of "own citizens".
Despite the fact that the heavy military equipment has been withdrawn from Gudauta military base in compliance with CFE (the treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe), The Russian side has not fulfilled the obligation, taken by the decision of the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit regarding the withdrawal and closure of Gudauta military base.
With this regard the Georgian parliament issued a statement that was also signed by Nino Burjanadze which stated that "The Parliament of Georgia expresses its indignation with the Russian federation's recent intensified anti-Georgian propaganda and considers such development of relations between two neighboring states as inadmissible... " that ".. is a clear threat against Georgia's territorial integrity, the attempt of rude interference in its internal affairs and the demonstration of the fact that Russia considers Georgia not as a friendly independent country but as a sphere of own influence....". At that the Georgian Parliament severely criticized the statement that was made by the State Duma on establishment on unilateral, direct relations bypassing official Georgian government with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and stated that such steps of Russia "goes against both a principle of good-neighbourly relationships between states and universally recognized norms of international law. Such statements can be perceived only as a preparation of political environment for the implementation of aggression against Georgia and will again act in accordance with own legitimate interest in future and will not admit interference in its internal affairs, violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity ".
In August of the same year the Parliament of Georgia addressed the State Duma and the Federation Council of the Russian federation where it called official authorities of Russia for constructiveness and also assesses quite severely a fact of bombing of Georgian territories by Russian air forces as well as illegal processes of granting Russian citizenship on the occupied territories. The statement stated that "the Parliament of Georgia expresses its extreme indignation about barbaric bombing of territories of Georgia by military air forces of the Russian Federation as a result of which civilian population was killed and wounded...
A result of unconstructiveness of Russia is blocking of discussion and approval of projects on which representatives of the UN and all friends of Goorgia. A fact that Russia established visa-free system with Abkhazia and Tskhinvli region without consulting central authorities of Georgia is a gross violation of norms of international law and is actually an attempt to annex part of the Georgian territory. Fast track granting citizenship of the Russian Federation to citizens of Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia can be considered as another attempt of secret annexation. 80% of population of these regions are already citizens of Russia in violation of the Georgian legislation...". In This statement Georgia expressed its full readiness to conduct dialogue with Russia in order to avoid turning the situation into "political tensions between these countries, aggressive attitudes towards each other and basis for suspension of relations".
All this was happening in 2002. So Madam Burjanadze had this position back then when she was the Chairman of the Parliament during Shevardnadze's presidency and she can easily boast that she was the first to conduct political and diplomatic war with Russia on international level - Russia that today has already been recognized as an occupant and was defending principles of territorial integrity of Georgia.
We purposely mentioned resolutions of the Parliament of 2002 as then Nino Burjanadze was the head of the Parliament and it was back then when she lay foundations for conduction of tough policy against the background of harsh statements of Russia. Starting from 2003 and already during the current authorities Burjanadze did not change her rhetoric with regards to Russia that was no less intense.
Burjanadze always opposed Russian authorities with regards to building of the Georgia army. "It's nobody's business how much we will spend on building of our army. We are acting in accordance with international standards. Georgia is an independent state. It needs its own army. Excuse me, but why Russia should have nuclear weapons and Georgia should not have its own army that will defend its interests? There is a red line - territorial integrity of Georgia, sovereignty of our state, its political orientation and our political orientation – to be a part of NATO and be closer to the European Union - this does not mean bad relations with Russia. Exactly the opposite" – used to say Burjanadze in her interview with Russian newspaper Novie Izvestia.
In 2006 the Parliament of Georgia adopted a resolution on the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the conflict regions, which Nino Burjanadze, who had vast experience in politics, called a historic decision. And in her statement she did not shy away from tough remarks about Russia. Additionally, she accused the Kremlin of double standards, violation of international norms, consistent policies of incorporation of territories of Georgia into Russia and demanded termination of the Dagomys agreement.
She believed that Russia should not interfere in the case the status of the separatist regions and that this is business of Georgia and the international community. "I do not think that Russia is to be addressed. Actually, I do not think of this, I'm sure of this" - Chair of the Parliament of Georgia said in 2006 and urged Russia to use the model of Kosovo in its territory, if it liked it so.
In 2006 neither mass deportation of Georgians from Russia escaped attention of Burjanadze. In her interview to Kommersant newspaper published on October 20th 2006 she heavily criticized Russian nationalist policy towards Georgia. According to her "An image of the enemy was modeled out of Georgians. Real persecution is taking place. It seems that everything associated with Georgians is criminal. What is now happening in Russia is a disgrace. I have a feeling that someone in Russia is specifically cutting remaining threads that bind us". This "someone" was Putin then who issued an order to deport Georgians in masses and as a result of which Georgians were chased after all over Russia. Russian security services stooped to that that they started to register Georgian children in schools and kindergartens. To say nothing about demeaning mechanisms of deportation itself. But we cannot not mention those several facts when several Georgians were sent in coffins to their homeland because they were refused primary medical assistance. And after all this and "to make a big politics" Burjanadze with a status of guilty goes to bow to the author of all the above mentioned punitive measures who does not even care a fig for his own citizens. And thus she practically canceled her own previous evaluations.
A position of Burjanadze after her going into opposition is also interesting. Namely, Putin's position with regards to conduction of negotiations with the Georgian government was unacceptable for Burjanadze. On August 16th 2008 one of Russian publications quote Burjanadze: "Statement by Russia that it will not speak with the legally elected President of Georgia goes beyond international law. This is disrespect to the choice of the Georgian people".
After all these words it is surprising how Burjanadze, to satisfaction of enemies of Georgia, is severely criticizing government and president that were legally elected by the Georgian people.
Also interesting is those evaluations and position of Burjanadze that she stated on November 19th 2008 in her interview with Euronews. Burjanadze gave very negative assessment to military intervention of Russia that happened in August 2008 even when she was in the opposition of the government. " Russia sent an army to a sovereign country, violating the borders of a sovereign country, violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, which is a member of the United Nations ... The people in Georgia united at this time against the Russian aggression and, of course, the people united around the president at a time when Russia was trying to change the regime, because it is not Russia's place to decide who should be president of our country, only the Georgians themselves can decide who can speak on behalf of the Georgian population. Neither Russia nor anyone else has this right! ". It is interesting that if Burjanadze is responsible for every word uttered by her then why was that she went to that country and met with those people that openly declared that their main goal is to change Saakashvili government!
Today Burjanadze, as she is trying to gain back her place of the political stage of Georgia, is attempting everything. She is conducting a direct dialogue those people who issued direct order to annex Georgia and who were perfecting plans of full annexation of the country. And persons possessed with political power mania and old politicians who went to so-called opposition occupy an important place in these plans. Emergence of Ex-Chairman Nino Burjanadze on a path laid by Nogaideli towards the Kremlin even Russian experts assessed as their political failure in Georgia and as search for allies in Russia in order to retain their place in Georgian political space. In particular, according to head of the CIS department of the centre of political Science of Russia Sergey Mikheev current government of Georgia gained full support of the west and in this direction opposition forces do not have any support in Georgia. So the west unequivocally supports the current authorities and they should not even dream about changing of the authorities before the time and especially in non-legitimate way. "The Georgian opposition is seeking support from Russia, as Georgia's official authorities gained complete monopoly over support of the west. I think it is useless for the opposition to look for forces and resources in Turkey, Ukraine or anywhere else, except for Russia" – says Mikheev.
According to the expert, prospects of the opposition forces in Georgia are rather uncertain. Russia finally recorded that it did not intend to withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. So it is unknown what Nino Burjanadze will speak about in the Kremlin in this situation. According to Mikheev, with a view of future political fight Burjanadze plans to try to find allies in Russia.
In Russia it's not only Mikheev who is careful about Burjanadze's visit. There are other experts and politicians as well. For example, Vladimir Zhirinovsky thinks that should not have gone to Moscow. "There is not need to knock on the Kremlin's door. I welcome restoration of relations between Russia and Georgia but you wanted freedom and independence. You have a good president - Mikhail Saakashvili and representatives of the opposition do not need to come to Moscow one by one and kneel" – said Zhirinovsy. He actually indicated to the Georgian opposition that the Kremlin will only help them in exchange of independence and freedom.
Russian chauvinist position was explained in details by Russian political scientist and expert of international relations, director of the Russia and Eurasia Project at the World Security Institute based in Washington Nikolai Zlobin. In his article he discusses trips of Georgian opposition representatives to Moscow and analyzes them as to how the Kremlin can use them.
The expert discusses trip of our opposition in the light of recognition of the occupied Georgian territories and notes that despite the fact that Nogaideli and Burjanadze are assuring everybody that loss of territories and August war is Saakashvili's fault there is not a politician in Georgia that will agree to losing of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And according to him the Kremlin needs exactly this kind of politician in Georgia. "In the end Russia does not need in Georgia politicians that would try to get bring back Abkhazia and South Ossetia using "other methods". It more needs politicians that are able to change not only the current president but to get Georgian society to accept losing of the Georgian territories and start restoration of the relations with Moscow on these grounds" – notes Zlobin and says with sadness that "so far there is no such politician in Georgia ".
According to him again Burjanadze as well as Nogaideli are not opposition to Saakashvili "in the issue that is of paramount importance to Russia and stability in the Caucasus". "Although direct dialogue with them can shake political base of the current regime and lead to an emergence of post-Abkhazian generation politicians" – Mister Zlobin absolutely laconically and concretely talks about insidious plans of Russia.
Though if we remember one of the latest statements of Burjanadze according to which "policy of ignoring Russia conducted by Georgian leadership is irresponsible" change of her views should not be surprising. But policy of ignoring Russian-Georgian relations came from the Russian authorites and coincided directly with Putin's leadership . Then this policy of Russia was criticized by Burjanadze herself. It seems that her attitude towards future of Georgia has been radically changed and now she sees this future as being under the Russian boot.
Against the background of all this Nino Burjanadze's trip to Moscow is absolutely incomprehensible. A woman who constantly recognized occupation of Georgia and annexation of its territories by Russia today is avoiding such assessments and is going to the enemy camp to make "big politics".
This trip aroused turmoil. One way or the other a certain process of disclosure is under way. And those who think that integrity of Georgia is a paramount of course criticized Nino Burjabnadze. But also there are those who are ready to discuss issues of direct air service with Russia even if it is at the expense of territorial integrity of Georgia.