07/04/2022, 09.01
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Tbilisi dithers between NATO and Russia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Prime Minister Garibašvili says Georgia is loyal to the values of the Atlantic Alliance and Europe. Members of his party, however, attack the West. Expert: Georgian Dream trying to juggle pro-Russian and pro-European sentiments in Georgian society to stay in power.



Moscow (AsiaNews) - At the recent NATO summit in Madrid, Georgian Prime Minister Iraklij Garibašvili assured Western leaders that Tbilisi is loyal to the values of the Atlantic Alliance and Europe. At home, however, members and supporters of his Georgian Dream party are hurling accusations at the West, guilty of wanting to involve Georgia in the war with Russia at all costs. The chargs were so grave that they provoked a reaction from the US ambassador in Tbilisi, Kelly Degnan, who officially denied Washington's pressure on Georgian politicians, reminding them of their country's real friend and enemy.

Garibašvili's press office released an endless series of photographs of the premier with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other leaders of Western countries, as well as senior NATO and EU officials. The Georgian Prime Minister then posted a photograph on his Twitter channel together with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, writing that 'Georgia is one of the most reliable and effective partners of the Alliance, and intends to cooperate in the defence of peace, stability and the development of common values in our region and beyond'.

Such statements also accompany the handshake exhibited with Charles Michel, head of the Council of the European Union, assuring him that Georgia is ready to meet the demands that the Europeans made on 17 June for the granting of EU candidate status.

Garibašvili's such ostentatious readiness has caused dismay at home, after days of the premier's violent verbal clashes with the opposition precisely on European issues. Many recall his recent statements against the West 'which has failed to honour the blood shed by Georgians in the wars against Russia'. Garibašvili had harsh words for the EU itself, which rejected Georgia, while coming to Ukraine and Moldova. He also complained that 'only when Georgia has restored its territorial integrity with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, then it can join NATO'.

Some MPs who are particularly critical of the West have formally left the Georgian Dream, but remain supporters of the government, what is described by the opposition as a 'typical Ivanišvili trick', recalling the past manoeuvres of the party founder and former prime minister, who used to move MPs from one group to another according to convenience. Ivanišvili himself recently used this expression, celebrating his victory 10 years ago against President Saakašvili: 'I had to use a little trick, but not everyone understood it', alluding precisely to rather daring parliamentary games.

As constitutionalist Vakhušti Menabde put it, the change in the PM's rhetoric and the Georgian Dream's palace manoeuvres have the sole purpose of preserving power for the current majority: 'They try to juggle with the pro-Russian and pro-European sentiments of our society, trying to catch two chickens with one fox, but they will end up not catching any... they are only interested in power, whatever the cost, allying with the Europeans or the Russians.

To counter the ambiguous strategies of the Georgian Dream, the oppositions took to the streets in front of the parliament in Tbilisi with a rally rally under the slogan 'At home, in Europe', which started on the morning of 3 July and continued all night until the next morning, on the day the US celebrated its independence.

Throughout the country, not only in the capital, supporters of a change of government to appoint a 'technical' one, adapted to European requirements, received strong pressure from the local authorities to prevent the demonstrations. The diatribes have led to clashes, even violent ones, at the expense of several journalists, including the owner of the opposition TV station Pirveli, Vato Tsereteli, who was assaulted by three deputies on the territory of the US embassy in Tbilisi, during the reception organised to mark Independence Day.

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