Ivanishvili’s Balancing Act

Everyone know that the new Georgian President Ivanishvili is pro-Russia, and that with his election, Georgia will move closer to Russia. The challenge is how to do that while negotiating with the patron of the “occupied territories.” Ivanishvili has said he will 1) normalize relations with Russia, 2) continue to view Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupied territories, and 3) reaffirm NATO membership. All I can say is good luck.

How Ivanishvili will do that is the question. The Georgian parliament has decided to continue the status quo of blocking normal relations with Russia. The parliamentary decision blocks the government from establishing normal relations with any country that recognizes Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The decision also reaffirms Georgia’s commitment to NATO and the EU.

The closer Georgia moves to Russia, the better it could be for Armenia. Both in terms of Georgian-Armenia relations and in terms of regional infrastructure, especially developing the rail line up towards Russia. But, hopes for any significant economic benefits must be tempered. It’s understandable for Armenia to throw its lot in with Russia for the security benefits, but any economic benefits will be trivial compared to economic benefits from the West.

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