President-elect of U.S. Donald Trump sworn in as the 45th President on January 20. On the same day, in his first address to the American people, he promised to build “American dream” and “make America great again.” For Americans “American dream” is an example of democracy and freedom of speech, while for Georgia “Georgian dream” is something different: jobs, developed economy, supremacy of law and, of course, the ruling party Georgian Party. At present, the Georgian people have to think of maintaining and enhancing the partner relations with the United States dealing with the new Administration of Donald Trump.
Yet long before the presidential election in U.S. when Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton were still candidates, the Georgian political establishment covertly supported ex-secretary of state to follow global tendency. Everyone were sure that Clinton would win. That is why they did not even consider Trump’s presidency as an option.
Furthermore, in April 2016, referring to Washington Free Beacon, Newsru.co.il reported that Russia’s Sberbank and billionaire, ex-prime minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili that were mentioned in Panama Papers over offshore companies had ties with the then candidate for president Hillary Clinton. Sberbank and Clinton were tied with Podesta Group – a lobbying company opened by John Podesta, the head of the election campaign and the campaign headquarters of Hillary Clinton and his brother Tony Podesta. A month prior to it, in March 2016, Sberbank started using Podesta Group’s consulting and lobbying services to trade in shares for its U.S. customers amid economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States. Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili (informal leader of Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia ruling party) is a teammate of German Gref, Head of Sberbank, and has ties with Clinton through her closest adviser Sidney Blumenthal.
On the day of presidential election in U.S., on the eve of November 9, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia organized a reception and invited Georgian diplomats, political and public figures. They held a symbolic voting and most of those present voted in favor of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Actually, Georgia was unprepared for Donald Trump’s election. No one could even imagine that Georgia will have to deal with Trump.
Although, Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashivili said in late December 2016 that the first contacts with the administration of the newly elected U.S. president were held, Georgia is still passive in the given issue. There are three reasons behind that passivity.
- Georgia’s government is closely connected to the EU and is waiting for Europe’s steps towards Trump.
- Georgia’s authorities have no idea how to start communicating with Trump whom they considered an outsider of the presidential race.
- In Tbilisi they do not know how the new president will act towards Georgia.
All concerns of Georgia are connected with Donald Trump’s skeptical statements concerning the future of NATO and EU and flattering remarks about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Having tense relations with Russia, Georgia does care for its ties with NATO and EU and the political support by U.S. At the same time, Georgia had a kind of triumph card – an old friend, Republican John McCain, who travelled to Tbilisi on January 1 2017 and openly slammed Russia on his arrival at the administrative border with Tskhinvali region (on the border with the Republic of South Ossetia – EADaily’s note). By some unconfirmed information, in the new Administration of U.S., Michael Flynn, Trump’s adviser for national security, specialist in Middle East, will be in charge of Georgia.
Donald Trump is no stranger to Georgia. He travelled to Batumi (a resort town in Adjara) in April 2012 and announced construction of a Trump Tower skyscraper. However, the project was not implemented and was cancelled after he was elected as president of U.S.
Summarizing the abovementioned, the situation is not as hopeless as it may seem at first sight. Just remember the presidential race of 2008 when Democrat Obama’s rival was Republican John McCain. Then Georgia’s political elite staked on McCain, but Obama was elected as president. Then, the Georgian leadership managed to build constructive relations with Obama’s Administration and maintain the strategic partnership. Let’s wait and see if Georgian Dream ruling party will manage to achieve the same results now or this will remain a dream.
Artyom Avakimov (Tbilisi) for EADaily