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Tbilisi’s geopolitical dilemma: being a corridor or becoming a hub

Earlier this week, on December 19, the final round of negotiations between Georgia and the Swiss company SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance, SA) completed in Berne to sign a contract within the framework of the agreement between Georgia and the Russian Federation “On the main principles of the customs administration and trade monitoring mechanism" of 2011. Thus, one of the stages of the long and difficult journey that began as part of the negotiations on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was over. At that time, the authority of international organizations was much higher, as the generally accepted rules were more stringent around the world, and Russia's certain positive expectations were associated with membership in the WTO.

Today one could ask how the economic sanctions imposed on Russia are consistent with the principles of the WTO and whether they are a flagrant violation of those principles. The formulation of the question is purely rhetorical, since the West has quite openly replaced international law with the law of the jungle. However, in 2010, decency, at least externally, was still respected. For a long time, Georgia, which would not give its consent, was an obstacle to the accession of the Russian Federation to the WTO. And according to the charter, it was the consent of all the member and participants that was an indispensable condition. By that time, the criminal clique of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili had already managed to unleash the bloody conflict in South Ossetia, and after Russia compelled it to peace within several days, severed diplomatic relations with it. Saakashvili rejoiced at any opportunity to harm Russia, and once it wanted to join the WTO, impeded it in every possible way. But the puppet is a puppet, since it acts according to the will of its puppeteers, and not at will. Americans were quick to explain to Mishiko what was what, and he, of course, immediately agreed.

In the absence of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, the need for a mediator arose, and Switzerland was the best candidate for this role, whose centuries-old neutrality became a national brand along with watches and cheese. Thanks to it, the Russian-Georgian agreement "On the basic principles of the customs administration and trade monitoring mechanism" was signed.

Geographical position of Georgia is such that transit opportunities are a very significant economic resource for the country, and resources are useful only when they are used. Consequently, from an economic point of view, cargo flows from Russia and to Russia through the Georgian territory bring an undoubted benefit, but the economic situation is significantly complicated by the political aspect. The economic benefit is, of course, a good thing, but one should try to annoy the opponent as much as possible - therefore, within the framework of the agreement it was decided that the third neutral private company should be involved in monitoring the trade in the three corridors mentioned in the document. At the end of the tender, the Swiss SGS, which was supposed to monitor and record all the cargoes passing through the corridors and mark them, came out a winner.

The Russian Federation and Georgia, separated by a large Caucasian ridge, are connected by three overland transport arteries. One of them, which today bears the main load, passes through the Kazbegi district with access to North Ossetia. There are modern checkpoints in Kazbegi and in Upper Lars. The other two routes are much more problematic from the political point of view. The fact is that they pass through Abkhazia and South Ossetia - former autonomies that broke away from the metropoly and declared themselves independent states, which was confirmed by Russia and a number of other countries, and that officially changed their status in the world. This process was accompanied by bloody military conflicts, which today, fortunately, are in a frozen state, but the severity of the ideological confrontation does not diminish from this. For Tbilisi, there is only the principle of the territorial integrity of the state, whereas for the new republics the very idea of returning to Georgia is unacceptable.

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It is clear that such a position can turn areas of contact into chronic wounds for many years, neither a single person nor whole states cannot live well with unhealed wounds. The way out of this dead end can be humanitarian, personal contacts between people. The best example is the famous fair in the village of Ergneti, where Georgians and Ossetians were actively engaged in trade. In the hardest years in terms of economy for many Georgian families this shuttle trade was simply a rescue from hunger. No less important was the fact that, when contacting each other, people stopped seeing an enemy in their neighbor, and then the war of the early 1990s was still remembered by everyone. Nevertheless, hostility was gradually replaced by business partnership and the wounds inflicted by the war were gradually healed.

However, this positive dynamics was like a bone lodged in the throat to the world democracy mongers. The natural outcome of their democratization is the seizure of power by fascist bands that quickly destroy their own states. It is not accidental that the first thing done by the United National Movement (UNM) party, led by Mikheil Saakashvili, that seized power as a result of the coup d'etat, was the dispersal of the Ergneti fair. All this was done to ensure that people look at each other exclusively through the sight of a sniper rifle.

And today the UNM, which is in an entrenched opposition, continues to do its best to frustrate any actions that can reduce the degree of confrontation in the South Caucasus. Indicative was the incident which took place the night before, when during the meeting of Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili with representatives of opposition parties, the latter was bombarded with provocative questions and direct insults. Ex-head of the National Bank of Georgia, who used to hold high government posts, Roman Gotsiridze, demanded explanations from the prime minister about the contract concluded with the Swiss company. The essence of the matter was a very weakly camouflaged accusation of betraying state interests. The politician tried to get information from the prime minister about what concessions the Georgian government had made so that "Russia agreed to implement the agreement."

The prime minister of Georgia, in turn, had to remind opponents that the origins of this agreement were not the "Georgian Dream", namely the "United National Movement", which was in power in 2011. But such "trifles" for the opposition are of no importance and it quite calmly accuses the acting authorities of the agreements, which it itself concluded. Of particular concern to Roman Gotsiridze is the fact that this window will be used by Armenia, which will export its goods to Russia and other countries of the EAEU. What does the member of the opposition have to do with all this and is he going to "arrange" a blockade for the neighboring republic similar to Leningrad’s blockade?

But the Georgian prime minister patiently explained that alternative routes would be opened only in the presence of force majeure situations (snow avalanches and rockfalls regularly block the route, sometimes for weeks, blocking the flow of goods from Armenia and Georgia to Russia).

Who in his right mind would think today that the constant escalation of tension on the lines of contact with Abkhazia and South Ossetia will facilitate their return to Georgia? It is clear to anyone that this will only strengthen the will to resist, that is, it will bring a completely opposite effect. Is it really clear to these people, whose unfading leader hovers over roofs and Maidans, that if the transport arteries of the North-South are superimposed on the East-West transport arteries, then Georgia, which they seem to consider their homeland, from the transport corridor becomes a busy intersection , and the multiply increased incomes can change the economic situation in the country for the better. But these people once again proved that their nutritional environment is destabilization, devastation, war, and bloodshed.

The meeting of Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili with the opposition ended with the fact that this intelligent man, in order to fully characterize his opponents, resorted to profanity. An unacceptable act for a public politician, of course, and on this occasion Kvirikashvili has already apologized to the public. But his party colleagues and the majority of experts, proceeding from the peculiarities of the Georgian mentality, unequivocally came to the conclusion that he had swallowed numerous provocations and insults in his address with European tolerance, his image losses would have been much larger. Everyone is well aware of what Kipling said about the East and the West.

Irakli Chkheidze (Tbilisi), specially for EADaily

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