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Whose election campaign will Georgia-U.S. summit benefit?

by | Jan 30, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch – People in Georgia are looking forward to today’s meeting between the U.S. and Georgian presidents in Washington, both of whom are near the end of their terms.

Analysts speculate that the summit may be part of either of their election campaigns, or is payback for Saakashvili accepting Russia as a member of the World Trade Organizations last year.

Most agree that when Saakashvili walks out of the White House later today, he will carry with him another confirmation for U.S. support for Georgia and a warning to Russia. Some in Tbilisi also hope Obama will ask Saakashvili to conduct this fall’s election in a democratic way.

The first official meeting between Barack Obama and Mikheil Saaksavhili will be held at the Oval Office in the White House. The Georgian President is already in Washington, having left for the U.S. on January 25.

According to the White House website, the two presidents will discuss strengthening relations in trade, tourism, energy, science, education, culture and security, within the framework of the strategic partnership charter signed in 2009.

President Obama will underline the importance of cooperation with Georgia, including the importance of the Georgian contribution to the ISAF operations in Afghanistan.

The White House also informs that Barack Obama will confirm U.S. support for Georgia’s territorial integrity with its internationally recognized borders.

“The president also expects to review the upcoming elections in Georgia and reforms which will provide to form Georgia into stable, democratic country,” the webpage says.

It’s 20 years since diplomatic relations were established between Georgia and USA.

Tbilisi states that the U.S. support during those 20 years have been important for the protection of Georgian independence and sovereignty, also for the development of democratic reforms and economy, and success on the way to the Georgia’s NATO integration.

Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Jalagania said at the traditional briefing on January 30 that the presidents will be talking about all the aspects of the cooperation, including strengthening the cooperation within the frameworks of the strategic partnership. The discussion will also be about the situation in the region and the world’s ongoing events.

Jalagania also says that the meeting between the U.S. and Georgian presidents is held by the personal invitation of the U.S. president. This has been the subject of debate among commentators in Tbilisi.

Political analyst Gia Nodia tells DF Watch that various assumptions can be expressed regarding the reason for Obama’s decision to meet Saakashvili. He thinks as one of the main factors the internal condition for the USA.

“Congress and the Republicans criticize Obama for not appropriately supporting Georgia and it seems Obama decided that some demonstration is needed to show that he supports Georgia,” says Gia Nodia, who is Chairman of the Tbilisi-based think tank Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development.

Kakha Gogolashvili, a political analyst who heads the European Research Center in Tbilisi shares this position. He says that this meeting can possibly be used in the presidential campaign in the U.S.

He says the election campaign in the U.S. has already begun. Accordingly, any high level meeting is the subject to attention. So it can be said that Georgia is really important to the American people, because the Georgian president was invited to the U.S. exactly during this period.

In addition, he assumes that the U.S. president needs this meeting right before the NATO summit in Chicago in May ‘to find out how USA should act with its partners, what Georgia will agree to and what not.’

Gia Nodia also assumes that the desperate situation around Iran can also be discussed at this meeting and can be an additional reason for it being organized.

Akaki Minashvili, chair of the Georgian Parliament’s Foreign Relation Committee views the meeting as a warning to Russia. In his opinion, it will once more confirm that Georgia continues to develop as a country.

But Nodia thinks that ‘if the meeting was scheduled, naturally Georgia’s internal political issues will also be discussed.’

“A main topic at the meeting will also be the elections that the democratic and transparent elections should be conducted in Georgia. They will once more remind Saakashvili what ambassador Bass uses to say, that these elections are important and that the level of Georgian democracy will be measured by these elections,” Nodia says.

Commentator Khatuna Lagazidze assumes that Saakashvili will also be reminded of the importance of conducting democratic elections. But she doesn’t exclude that the Georgian government could use this meeting for the election campaign “to demonstrate that America still remains a partner of Georgia and the positions of the U.S. administration haven’t changed.’

Foreign media has also been discussing the reasons for the meeting, about which no one talks in Georgia. Carnegie expert Thomas De Waal, who is familiar with the Georgian reality wrote in his an opinion piece published in the Washington Post that this meeting is connected with the Georgian President’s agreement about Russia’s WTO membership.



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