|David Bakradze, Georgian Ambassador to the United States|
Last week, David Bakradze, the Georgian Ambassador to the United States, spoke in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club. He is to put it very mildly pro-US.
He spoke glowingly of developing relationships with the United States, NATO and the European Union.
He spoke proudly of his country's central location between Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. He suggested that in the future Georgia could be a hub for international trade.
But one thing Bakradze did not discuss was potential opportunities for trade with its neighbor to the north, Russia.
During the question and answer period, the moderator, Harsha Ram, Associate Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, asked him about his failure to consider opportunities with Russia:
I am very tempted to invoke the elephant in the room which is Russia. As a student and scholar of Russia I've been studying the Russian literature, language and culture since I was a boy. So that is quite a long time.
I would have to say that having studied Russia and fallen in love with many of aspects of Russian culture and language I would also say that if I were Georgian I would approach the Kremlin with a great deal of caution. So in that sense I can well understand whatever concerns or skepticism you might have with respect to your neighbor but I want to play devil's advocate and perhaps suggest a scenario where your geopolitical strategy might be re-examined, put a little bit under the microscope. simply as a thought experiment.
So just in the week that you have acceded to visa less travel to Europe we woke up this morning with Britain announcing its exit from the European Union.
The European Union is itself at this moment in an almost unprecedented crisis with populist movements pushing an anti-EU agenda.
There is an economic crisis that is on going with questions about the viability itself.
We have an ongoing immigration crisis etcetra, etcetra.
At the same time one can argue that in terms of the stability of the Western alliance more generally that American foreign policy with respect to Russia is to put it very mildly at this point astoundingly and profoundly ambiguous. In this context in all these ongoing crises of alliances and institutions, does it make sense for Georgia given its geographical location to put all its eggs in the Western basket?
My primary concern as someone who in fact cares deeply about your country and wants it in fact to be prosperous and survive is that at some point the West will succumb to one of its familiar bouts of amnesia and Russia will always be your neighbor. How can Georgia navigate the challenges of the coming weeks, months and years?But Bakradze would give not an inch of a positive nod to Russia in his response. He is clearly all in with the West (slight editing for clarity):
Thank you. Yes that is exactly the Devil's narrative in Georgia, 100% showing the futility of the reforms that are undergoing. That it's all in vain because will not eventually end up with a NATO or EU membership.
That is the exact narrative already because Russia realizes there's most probably not a big chance of having a pro-Russian government in Georgia.
For just these reasons Russia wants to destabilize in Georgia. Defying the EU is Russia's goal now.
Now it's doing this through showing the futility of these reforms but you have to counter that and I have been doing this for 2 years and you know countering it simply just to know repeating the opposite is not helping sometimes .
One major let's say instrument countering Russian propaganda is bringing tangible results and showing that yes we have went through a various reforms...This is not to please Brussels but to change our society. Our society will change how human rights are addressed, how democracy prevails in this side and how the rule of law will be on the books for every single citizen so this is the way that our public is now informed about the developments and not becaue it is for the requirements of Brussels....
I truly believe that we will come out of our crisis and the United States, European countries and the European Union will come out protecting our international norms. Norms that are violated on daily basis by the Russian Federation with close in checkpoints on the occupation line that's just making it very difficult for school children to go to school leaving them with 20 or 25 km away from their schools.with closing checkpoints or changing the names through referendum in one of the Georgia regions which is affiliated with the neighboring Russian autonomous republic. etcetera, etctera.
With this Russia is of course trying to provoke but I think that's for the last 4 or 5 years we have shown that Georgia is a more stable country and can act only through peaceful negotiations and threw it avoiding any kind of additional confrontation and eventually Georgia will be reunited.Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics, on LinkedIn and Facebook. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on iphone and stitcher.