Dispatch | May 18-19: Bipolar
Wave after wave it goes: the ruling party acts in contravention to the European values and procedures it aspires to, it gets scolded, it lashes out blindly with one tentacle, while trying to smooth things over with another. It is maddening, it is tiring, it is demotivating. That’s how we like the Georgian politics – always shaken, never stirred from its oblivion to the real problems. This is the Dispatch, and things have been going haywire.
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MINISTER’S WAR In Tea Tsulukiani burns the fire of a true zealot. She hates the United National Movement with every fiber of her body, that is hard not to notice, but she apparently also holds severe grudge against the West. Educated in France, having worked at the Council of Europe, but somewhere down that road, has she been terribly offended by unrequited love to the European bureaucracy?! Have her legal qualities been found wanting by some irritating Eurocrat at the European Court of Human Rights? If that is indeed so, that boss owes Georgia big time, for all the opportunities for progress wasted. True, many of the Georgian Dream officials have joined the West-bashing chorus (a sample here, and here) after having gotten the green light from the Party Chair (a.k.a Oligarch’s Metatron here)… But when Vice PM Tsulukiani does the anathema, it is so much more visceral. The spirits of the great-grandfathers are called into action, the western sins, real and imaginary – blasted with holy rage, moral decay – exposed. But it turns out , lashing out at the European MP can be more perilous than flexing power bestowed upon you by the Oligarch: MEP Viola von Cramon did not mince words, or arguments, as she hit back. Other targets, like Ambassador Ian Kelly, demurred. Diplomacie oblige.
NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T The Georgian Dream might have launched a diatribe against the West, but it still seeks its favor ardently, truly, like an adolescent, abandoned in childhood, still wishing for that maternal caress, yet raining down curses on the source of its real and imaginary sufferings. PM Garibashvili was touring Brussels, and had, we are led to believe, some difficult conversations (hardly a surprise). The most telling was the furor, mixed with scantly veiled schadenfreude, that the news of an abrupt cancellation of the meeting with NATO Secretary General has caused Tbilisi. Telling was the ardor with which it was caught up for – PM finally met Mr. Stoltenberg (reportedly suffering from the consequences of COVID-19 infection) in his private residence. But the media circus aside, the Georgians – whichever their political stripe – want this chain of tantrums, that bipolar chase for the Western favors while denying its rules and values, to finally come to an end. And if one squints really well, one could almost see the same heartfelt desire behind the protocol masks that hardened Eurocrats wear during their official photo ops with their awkward guest.
THE BIG DECISION Whatever the constructed realities the Georgian political class or populace may want to indulge themselves in, the big decision is coming. Before that fateful morning of February 24, when the Russian missiles shattered the European certainties, Georgia’s application to the EU membership was a phantom, a distant desire that the Georgian Dream readied as an electoral bait before 2024 general election. But the heroic stand of the Ukrainians made that illusive application today’s reality. The Lithuanian ambassador said clearly to an experienced EU-watchers panel: Georgia has 3-4 weeks to help us help it get that foot in the EU door. The Commission will make its conclusion on Georgia’s application known sometime between 8 and 15 June, some savants say. And while the Balkan candidates went out of their way to demonstrate their commitment in a similar situation, almost ten years ago, Georgia now seems to be shooting itself in the foot with grim determination (and we thought the Balkans were unsurpassed in that art!) Let us hope, that the “geopolitical Europe”, which the Commission so likes to speak about is a reality, and also that Mssr. Charles Michel will apply his “gradual, and reversible” expansion model to Georgia despite all the suffering he went through while negotiating the truce between Georgia’s bickering politicians (which they promptly threw out of the window). But too many things are left up to pure luck, too little effort seems to be made. “Love us despite our failings, or we won’t need you?!” – Georgian political psyche seems to be forever locked into looking for the parent, not a partner.
BIG DADDY There is that power to the north that knows only too well how to embrace the prodigal son, if he approaches with due humility. And how to mete out punishment as well, but when the time is right. Having hung the Damocles’ sword of the annexation referendum in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia over Tbilisi, the curators from Moscow are biding their time, gently rolling up their fish-line. The time is not ripe says the Foreign Ministry, not yet, for the annexation. We are studying the situation. You have shown improvements young Padavan, croons the Chief Negotiator Karasin, try better. Later, we will talk later… And yet, do not relax completely, stay on your toes as we pass the legislation drawing your occupied provinces ever closer. That righteous rage from Tbilisi cabinets, that toxic torrent, that is not for Moscow. Not despite the dead end in investigation of murders that have occurred under their watch years ago. Because fear breeds respect much more than values or money. At least that’s what they are counting on in the Kremlin.
We will be back on Monday with more of our takes on news from Georgia.