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Russophobia vs economics: Saakashvili’s teammates and theater of Georgian absurd

Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze

Much Ado About Nothing – the title of this great Shakespearean comedy would best fit the political show that was recently staged by the Georgian opposition. Everything began with a report saying that the Georgian authorities had started negotiations with Gazprom.

As you may know, the Georgian parliament consists of representatives of two parties: the Georgian Dream, representing the majority, and the United National Movement, formerly the ruler and now the minority.

Everybody knows the political cliché “hard-nosed opposition.” Mikheil Saakashvili’s teammates from the United National Movement are very hard-nosed. They criticize everything the government does - even when there is no reason for criticism.

Just one example: this year, Khakhetia (Eastern Georgia) saw a very large harvest of grapes. The winemakers refused to buy all of it because of the low quality of the grapes and low demand for Georgian wine. The authorities were the last to blame here – especially as they promised to buy the unsold grapes - but the oppositionists were already there with protests and anti-regime calls.

No less hard-nosed they were regarding the Abashidze-Karasin initiatives to normalize the Georgian-Russian relations, to take Georgian products back to the Russian market, to restore the railway traffic from Armenia to Russia via Abkhazia and to re-open a flight connection between Georgia and Russia.

And now it’s Gazprom’s turn.

What’s the problem here?

According to the Georgian oppositionists, if Russian gas enters Georgia, the country will lose its reliable partner and strategic ally, Azerbaijan. Their key argument against this initiative is that its author is Bidzina Ivanishvili, co-owner of Gazprom.

The United National Movement is not alone here. The Free Democrats, the Liberals and the New Rights are not as influential as their bigger ally but are no less hard-nosed.

All of them want Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze to account for his “anti-national” decision.

In order to show the opposition that Georgia’s relations with Azerbaijan are out of danger, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili visited Baku and met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

He said before the visit: “We are not planning to revise our relations with Azerbaijan. They have been and will be a top priority to us. I am surprised to hear such absurd allegations from our opposition parties. We are not planning any diversification and are not going to replace Azerbaijani gas with any other gas.”

Kaladze explained that Gazprom was just going to enlarge its supplies to Armenia via Georgia. There is nothing bad here: Georgia gets 10% of the supplies, so, the more gas is supplied to Armenia, the more gas Georgia will get.

“There were no such problems when our predecessors cooperated with Gazprom. Even when we were at war with Russia, we were still receiving Russian gas and it was not a problem. Then most of those who are now in opposition were in power and openly said that Russian money had no smell. So, what’s the problem now?” Kaladze said.

The funniest thing here is that Georgia has imported Russian gas for a long time already.

And this makes the opposition’s calls look like a theater of absurd. How can they ensure Georgia’s energy independence by making the country fully dependent on Azerbaijani gas?

Despite attempts by some Azerbaijani mass media to trigger a gas war between Gazprom and SOCAR, CEO of SOCAR Energy Georgia Mahir Mammedov has made it clear that his company is not afraid of healthy rivalry and is ready to appear on the market with high quality and reasonable price.

This will benefit both consumers and buyers.

So, why have the Georgian oppositionists made so much ado about this? Simply, they have seen that the wave of Russophobia is growing and have readily joined it despite economics or good sense.

But ado can hardly affect objective development rules. So, all this ado about nothing will end in nothing.

Georgy Asatiani, analyst (Tbilisi), specially for EADaily

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