The Messenger, Georgia
Dec 2 2004

Georgia benefits from Ukraine's revolution

Over the last week the Georgian administration has declared its
position regarding the political turmoil in Ukraine, including
obvious statements in support of the opposition by Parliament, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Mayor's Office and even an allusion
by President Mikheil Saakashvili that the country is proud to see
other countries in the region following Georgia's example.

In a comment published by the International Herald Tribune on
Tuesday, Saakashvili signed off noting that Georgians "also see that
the message of our revolution - that democracy is universal and can
be successful in post-Soviet states - is widely spreading in the
region."

His political opponents have begun speculating that the Georgian
revolutionary leader has been contaminated with 'Trotsky' and 'Che
Guevara' illness and wants to export revolution. Leaders of the Labor
Party say that it would have been better for Georgia not to openly
assert its sympathies so as not to irritate Russia.

But Russia's increasingly obvious meddling in another country's
presidential election have backfired not only in Kiev but have also
drawn greater attention to Moscow's inclination to interfere into
neighboring countries' affairs, including Georgia's. Tbilisi's
current support for the opposition, and for democratic norms like
fair elections, serves to increase this attention.

Russia under Putin has drifted farther from democracy and is
gradually backing away from democratic reforms. It continues to
export its own administrative model to neighboring countries so as to
exercise its influence in post-Soviet countries. But already there is
a tradition of notable failures. In Serbia Russia supported Milosevic
yet he lost. In the last two months Russia has supported Khadjimba in
the Abkhaz presidential elections, and Yanukovich in Ukraine's; but
in both cases popular support has been expressed for another
candidate; and there is the suggestion that support for Baghapsh and
Yushchenko is partly due to Moscow's interference.

Although in Georgia one year ago Russia did not openly support
Shevardnadze, it did demonstrate its staunch support for Aslan
Abashidze. Within months Saakashvili was hailed as a hero in Batumi
and Abashidze was on a plane retreating to Moscow. Here too,
undemocratic interests in Russia lost.

The Georgian political establishment is trying to foresee future
developments in Ukraine and its impact on Georgia. Some forecast that
2005 will be very difficult year for Georgia no matter what: if the
Orange Revolution in Ukraine fails to materialize, it will equate to
a victory of Russian neo-imperialism and Georgia may become the
target of Russia's next attack. If Yushchenko wins, some Georgians
worry that Russian imperialist forces will try to take revenge on
Georgia to compensate for their failure in Ukraine.

While Russia meddles, Georgia has taken a remarkably prudent approach
to elections in Abkhazia. The Tbilisi administration has taken very
wise steps from the very beginning, ufficials refusing to comment and
withholding statements even when the situation began to boil over.
Such an approach deprived neo-imperialists in Russia of the ability
to speculate on Georgia's threat to Abkhazia.

Until recently Russia has demonstrated 'skilled' experience in
supporting separatism in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Georgia),
Transdnestr (Moldova) and Karabakh (Azerbaijan). Recent events
indicate that policy managers for these regimes are losing their
grip. The worry in Ukraine is that Russia is increasingly desperate
and determined to prove that it can still influence satellites as it
did two decades ago.

Of course the best development for Georgia is the victory of
Ukrainian democracy, which will open the way for this country into
European integration and accelerate Georgia's movement toward Europe
as well. This will facilitate further close collaboration between two
countries keen on European integration.

It will have inevitable repercussions for other post-Soviet states
too; and even in Russia questions will be asked about how long a
country can stand against the desire for genuine democracy.