Marat Terterov: Armenia’s long term security will be better served by strengthening economic security, rather than defining national security on the basis of the Tsarist Russian catch-cry “armiya i flot”
Interview with Director of the European Center on the Geopolitical Analysis Mateusz Piskorski
by David Stepanyan
Before the official results of the parliamentary elections in Georgia were ever announced, Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council Valentina Matvienko hurried to declare that the victory of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream was a chance that Russian-Georgian relations might improve. Do you think so?
A change of power in any country brings certain hopes for a change of foreign policy landmarks. In such case, diplomatic code allows a high-ranking official to express such hopes, of course. On the other hand, there are some factors that will hardly contribute to the Russian-Georgian normalization. That is, for certain period of time Ivanishvili will be hostage to Sahakashvili, who is the president so far and has a number of administrative and constitutional levers. In addition, the greatest part of the population in Georgia has certain attitude towards Moscow, which will have a serious impact on the upcoming presidential race. This is another factor hindering normalization of the relations with Russia. Consequently, Saakashvili's supporters will interpret any attempt of rapprochement with Russia as "high treason" by Georgian Dream. So, it is untimely speaking of a major breakthrough in the relations of Moscow and Tbilisi.
Throughout their election campaign Georgian Dream kept expressing loyalty to Georgia’s pro-western orientation. Was it just a pre-election move or will Ivanishvili continue moving westward in a view of the fact that the United States continues being the key sponsor of Georgia’s infrastructure projects?
U.S. Ambassador to Tbilisi Richard Norland was among the first diplomats to recognize the parliamentary elections in Georgia. Washington very easily finds common language with new political leaders in many countries, and Mubarak and other victims to the so-called Arab spring are best evidence of that. USA's role in Georgia will not change at least because Georgia is still an important transport route of energy products. Now Mikheil Saakashvili's supports will surely try to persuade the U.S. that the winner in the parliamentary elections is not a reliable partner. However, everything depends on Washington's plans.
It’s not a secret that the EU flag has become one of the symbols of new Georgia. What are the prospects of Georgia’s integration into Europe under Ivanishvili as possible Prime Minister?
I see no chance for Georgia to be involved in the European integration process due to some reasons. Georgia may hope just for some insignificant funds as part of the Eastern Partnership Project and implementation of some infrastructure projects. Ivanishvili's coming to power will hardly change much in that area. Georgia is not a priority for the EU. After the information campaign about violation of human rights by the Georgian authorities, in Brussels they will be happy to see a businessman replacing the strange and unpredictable Georgian leader.
What changes can we expect in Armenian-Georgian relations now that Georgian-Russian relations may change?
Some experts have already expressed concern that Armenia will no longer have such big part in Russia's policy in the South Caucasus in case the relations of Tbilisi and Moscow are normalized. Nevertheless, a major breakthrough in these relations is hardly possible. So, nothing will change significantly. As for the relations of Tbilisi and Yerevan, there are hopes that Bidzina Ivanishvili's policy will be based on certain mutually advantageous economic interests of the two countries.
Georgia is the key transit country for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. What geo-political transformations can we expect in the South Caucasus following the change of power in Georgia?
Georgia is the key transit country for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, I anticipate no serious geopolitical changes in the South Caucasus with the change of power in Georgia. Azerbaijan will be reluctant to use Georgia as a transport corridor like Armenia does. What may change is Russia's influence on the negotiation processes in the region, which will create more possibility also for Yerevan.
It is not a secret that Saakashvili’s policy on Georgia’s ethnic minorities has been repeatedly criticized by the West. Do you expect any changes in this field?
Georgian Dream enlisted big support of Adjara. Tere was certain ethnonationalism in Saakashvili's policy. May be it was not as tough as under Zviad Gamsakhurdia, but it was not insignificant. The point is that whether that propaganda has had any serious impact on the public opinion in Georgia. Presidential elections will be held Georgia and this very perspective will determine Georgia's policy for the coming year.