Tbilisi reacts to accusations of circumventing Moscow sanctions
According to the Georgian Dream, the ruling party, the country's exports to Russia have grown much less than those to other states. Imports of Russian products, however, have grown. Armenia used as a transit channel for Georgian goods. Supplies from Turkey enter Russian territory via Georgia.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The president of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Iraklij Kobakhidze, has responded to accusations levelled at the Georgian government in a CNN broadcast. In a conversation with journalist Christiane Amanpour, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen had cited Tbilisi as an example of the circumvention of sanctions, a practice that helps Russia resist economic pressure from the West for its attack on Ukraine.
Kobakhidze accuses Amanpour of spreading false information, and CNN itself of giving voice to a 'vast coalition directed against Georgia's national interests'. According to the data he reports to refute the accusations, in 2022 Georgia's total exports increased by 33%, while to Russia the increase is stationary at 7%. In comparison, trade with other countries is growing: China (20%), Azerbaijan (27%), Turkey (35%), the USA (36%), Bulgaria (67%), Armenia (129%) and Kazakhstan (148%).
Business with Russia, according to the majority leader, is not decisive for Georgian policy, on the contrary, it has shrunk, contrary to what was reported by CNN: 'If Georgia had exported sanctioned products to Russia, its trade balance should have increased proportionally'. Three quarters of the items that entered trade with Russia concern alcoholic beverages (Georgian wine has always been popular in Russia) and non-alcoholic beverages, agricultural production and ferroalloys, so nothing related to sanctioned goods.
On the contrary, the accusations are reversed against European countries, which 'pay hundreds of millions of euro daily to import goods from Russia'. In the period between February and August 2022, imports from Russia in Germany increased by 33 per cent, in Poland by 24 per cent, in Italy by 100 per cent, and with similar and higher percentages in almost all other countries, Kobakhidze claims.
According to him, there is a 'global war party', which intends to involve Georgia in war operations in various ways and formats. In fact, the majority leader fails to mention the data on the growth of imports from Russia, which increased by 68%, and the fact that Russia is Georgia's second largest trading partner, after Turkey. In this case, it is not a matter of circumventing sanctions, but of economic advantage derived from the Tbilisi government's condescending stance towards the Russian war in Ukraine, without in turn applying sanctions, while applying to join the European Union.
There is also a business case for Georgia's increased exports to Armenia: it is associated with the fact that Yerevan can export to Russia with substantial customs relief, adhering to the Common Economic Space agreements with Moscow, unlike Tbilisi.
The greatest advantage Georgia has gained from the situation created in 2022 is undoubtedly the 'tourist boom' and the real estate boom of Russians fleeing and in transit, which has brought the country gains in excess of USD 3.5 billion, with overall growth estimated at 182.5%. One member of the opposition, the leader of the For Georgia party Mikhail Daušvili, claims that 'the ruling party manipulates data and concepts, trying to show itself to be against the export of agricultural products to Russia, precisely in order to conceal its practices of circumventing sanctions'.
According to one of the leaders of the National Movement, Roman Gotsiridze, 'the doubts of Western politicians come not so much from the export statistics, but from the growth of the transit of sanctioned goods to Russia through Georgian territory', which is said to have increased by more than 100 per cent, transferring cargoes from Turkey to Novorossiysk, and using other road and rail corridors, becoming a 'mediating partner' without directly taking responsibility for the whole picture.