Another escalation in relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi.
Ukraine has asked the Georgian ambassador to the country to return to Tbilisi for consultations on the state of health of Mykhailo Saakashvili.
In Georgia, such a gesture was called an offensive interference in internal affairs, and the head of the ruling "Georgian Dream" Iraklii Kobakhidze absolutely ruled out any consultations in the Saakashvili case, but emphasized that his country is ready to remain with Ukraine "in the regime of one-sided friendship."
What kind of regime is this and what is happening in the relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi - ECHO of the Caucasus spoke with Georgian diplomat, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gigi Gigiadze from Tbilisi and director of the Institute of World Politics Yevhen Magda from Kyiv.
- Batono Gigi, help to understand the diplomatic component of this public aggravation. What does it mean to send an ambassador for consultations - de jure Georgia still has an ambassador in Ukraine, but de facto there is none and maybe there won't be?
Gigi Gigiadze: Yes, this is actually a very unusual decision of the Ukrainian authorities, because, as a rule, the host country cannot send the ambassador of a foreign country home for consultations.
This is done by the ambassador's country. That is, Ukraine could call its ambassador to Ukraine for consultations. But I think that it was a very well-thought-out step from the point of view that the Ukrainian side decided not to escalate relations to the point of declaring the diplomat an undesirable person, i.e. persona non grata. I think this question will be considered further based on what answer Ukraine will receive after the end of these 48 hours. I think that this was such a precautionary step on the part of the Ukrainian side, so as not to directly declare the diplomat an undesirable person.
And I think that after these 48 hours are over and based on the answers that the Ukrainian side has already received from the Georgian side, we can also consider the possibility that the Ukrainian side can lower the level of diplomatic relations to consular ones.
That is, there are different options for how the situation can develop in terms of diplomatic relations between Georgia and Ukraine.
- Mr. Magdo, Ukraine has not had an ambassador in Georgia for more than a year, and now it is not entirely clear whether the Georgian ambassador will return to Kyiv - perhaps, as Mr. Gigiadze said, only the consul will be there. Is this an effective strategy in the case of (Mikhail) Saakashvili or is there any other issue or other that is not left?
Evgeny Magda: I think that the choice is actually small, because despite the statements of the official Tbilisi about one-way friendship... It is, of course, quite funny, when within the framework of one-way friendship air travel with Russia is like? Does Georgia intend to become a springboard for Ukraine to attack Russia through its territory? The saying about one-sided friendship is quite comical.
You know, I was never a fan of Mikheil Saakashvili's political talent even during the heyday of Mykhailo Saakashvili's career in Ukraine. But what we saw the day before yesterday, I think, has very little to do with politics - it's more about humanism.
And I understand that in Georgia "Georgian Dream" and its representatives see Saakashvili as their opponent, I know that he arrived in Georgia illegally in the fall of 2021 - this is all true, but this is not a reason to turn a person in the literal sense into a pale copy of him himself Any person. If we are talking about Europe, about democracy, about values, about humanism - just abstract humanism in relation to any person.
- Batono Gigi, Kyiv's ultimatum to the "Georgian Dream" will be heeded, under what conditions and when can it happen? Is it a value difference between Kyiv and Tbilisi, or did the figure of Mykhailo Saakashvili really separate and quarrel everyone?
Gigi Gigiadze: We have already heard the statements made by the representatives of Georgian Dream since the day before yesterday, and we already know that Georgian Dream will not take any steps in this regard. And they are not going to consult with anyone, in particular, of course, with our ambassador to Ukraine, and they are not going to change the decision made by the court in Georgia regarding Mykhailo Saakashvili.
I think that relations between Georgia and Ukraine began to deteriorate after the coming to power of "Georgian Dream" starting in 2012. That is, the two countries gradually began to distance themselves from each other, and the culmination was, of course, Russia's direct military invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. After that, the positioning very clearly showed everyone that Georgia does not directly support Ukraine, i.e. Georgia does not stand by Ukraine - Georgia does not support sanctions against Russia, etc. All colors became much brighter after the military invasion of Russia.
Currently, I think, bilateral relations between Georgia and Ukraine are at the lowest level in the entire history of our independence. And at the same time, it should be taken into account that Georgia and Ukraine are strategic partners - both countries are members of the Associated Trio of the Eastern Partnership, and both countries expect progress in this direction at the end of this year. Georgia - especially, that is. Georgia should acquire the status of a candidate for the European Union, and it is very important now to be together with Ukraine. That is, it is very important that Georgia is considered by Europe as part of this trio - Georgia-Ukraine-Moldova. But, unfortunately, this is not happening at the moment. "Georgian Dream" is not going to address this issue at all and continues the same rhetoric we have been hearing since February 24, 2022, i.e. the situation, unfortunately, does not change.
- Mr. Magda, David Arahamiya says that "Georgians should make a wise decision in the upcoming elections" - he means the parliamentary elections that will be held in the country next year - and "there must be a change of government, and this will fundamentally change the situation" . It turns out that Kyiv does not see any sense in negotiating with the current government of Georgia and replacing it with the authorities in the country?
Evgeny Magda: Well, I would not absolutize, first of all, the words of Mr. Arakhamia. Let me remind you that in Ukraine, according to the legislation, the president is the person who determines foreign policy, and Arakhamia is perceived by the Georgian side as a strong irritant for a number of reasons. I really don't understand why he does this - in this case, why he escalates relations and makes statements that can be directly interpreted as interference in the internal affairs of another country. This is on the one hand. And on the other hand, believe me, Ukraine in the conditions of almost five hundred days of large-scale Russian invasion has much more serious problems than the change of the Georgian government. And I would not say that Ukraine has ever done something similar in any other country in its recent history. We would still have to deal with our government.
- Batono Gigi, why does "Georgian Dream" repeat this mantra that specific high-ranking officials of the Ukrainian government were involved in sending Saakashvili to Georgia, saying that they want to organize a revolution here, bring Mykhailo Saakashvili to power and open a "second front"?
Gigi Gigiadze: I think that this is a question, firstly, for them, and secondly, I think that this is the same propaganda and disinformation that the Georgian authorities have been continuing for quite a long time. They are trying to convince the Georgian population that someone in Europe or Ukraine is trying to open a "second front" in Georgia and draw Georgia into a war against Russia.
It is clear why they are doing this - they are trying to maintain their power, they are trying to mobilize their supporters and make it so that they can win the elections next year. This is all understandable, but I think it also goes too far - they are already directly accusing our European friends, our European partners of trying to…
- Do separate statements like Mr. Arakhamia's that the time will come to resolve the issue of territorial integrity of Georgia help "Georgian Dream" to promote this message?
Gigi Gigiadze: I think so, of course they use such statements. They, of course, paraphrase such statements and try to show it from their side, i.e. give this your explanation. This is the usual propaganda and the usual misinformation that we are now hearing from the Georgian Dream. It is also necessary to take into account the very important fact that, since February 24 last year, the only country that praises the Georgian government and the "Georgian Dream" is Russia. These are Ms. (Maria) Zakharova, Mr. (Voladymir) Solovyov and other famous Russian propagandists who are very satisfied with the policy pursued by the Georgian authorities. I think that says a lot and explains a lot of things.
In fact, I myself think that the Georgian population is already beginning to understand the falsity of this so-called politics led by "Georgian Dream" and it will be very, very difficult for her to win again in the next elections. Watching how the Georgian opposition will behave. If the opposition can unite and if they can somehow even out the balance of votes, then, I think, there will be a chance. But now the situation looks very difficult.
- Mr. Magda, in Europe today they are talking about the fact that the tandem of Georgia and Ukraine on the path of European integration, on the path of integration into NATO, may have fallen apart. How to get out of this circle of escalation - who and what should be done?
Evgeny Magda: I think that we have found ourselves in a situation where the Associated Trio has really become a "2+1" format, at least in the matter of European integration. Let me remind you that in 2021, Mr. (Jens) Stoltenberg, while in Georgia, distributed very generous advances regarding Georgia's future accession to NATO, but we see, for example, our own problems on the way to the North Atlantic Alliance.
I think that the point is not what the advances sound like, but the point is what is happening inside the country itself - how it is being reformed, how it is changing. And that's why not Ukraine... Ukraine, of course, is not perfect in this matter, but we also have the support of the population on the way to the European Union and NATO, which is really off the charts, and there is political activity in this matter - the establishment, which in words, at least , and in fact also says that he is going to NATO and the European Union. But Georgia, in my opinion from the Kiev bell tower, has certain problems. Therefore, to say that we can restore everything - well, for this there must be a movement from two sides, but what can it be when the former president of Georgia and at the same time the current citizen of Ukraine is in the state in which we have him we have seen, to be honest, it’s hard for me to imagine. After all, this is not a movie, but real life, and this visualization of suffering in the twenty-first century is quite sensitive for politicians and citizens, I think, of any country - for anyone who saw Saakashvili a few years ago.
- Batono Gigi, Iraklii Garibashvili will not go to the NATO summit in Vilnius, which will take place in a few days. For the first time, apparently, the country will not be represented by the first person at a meeting of this level. Why?
Gigi Gigiadze: I think that this is a very logical continuation of the policy that "Georgian Dream" has chosen since 2012. The European Union was a very active issue that was considered by us, the progress in this direction was very good, but if we look at the dynamics of relations with NATO, then since 2012 we have actually not heard any significant statement from the side of "Georgian Dream" - the ruling party - that they are going to do about NATO. This, I think, is very logical, because in the statements of "Georgian Dream" from the very beginning it was that they do not want to irritate Russia in any way. They chose this policy in order to maintain as far as possible a neutral position, approximately the one they believed Armenia was maintaining.
I think that "Georgian Dream" is not going to take any further steps in the direction of NATO. They understand very well that a lot of time has already been lost. Until February 24, 2022, nowhere, in particular in the countries of the Associated Trio, was there as much support from European and Euro-Atlantic structures as it was in Georgia. That is, we always had more than 70-75%. The situation has changed now, of course, but in Georgia the population has always been pro-European and pro-NATO. That is, what "Georgian Dream" is currently doing, goes against the wishes of the absolute majority of the population of this country.