Georgia's interim president, Nino Burjanadze, sought international support for Georgia's so-called Rose Revolution at a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers. Statements by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, along with those made by Western European officials, indicate that Burjanadze's foreign trip, her first in the capacity of Georgian head of state, was successful.
Addressing the OSCE gathering on December 1 in the Dutch city of Maastricht, Burjanadze stressed that a "democratic revolution" had taken place in Tbilisi. "The Georgian people won the right to democracy peacefully, without violence and within the framework of the constitution," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Burjanadze as saying.
The interim president sought to assuage Russian concerns that recent developments in Georgia threaten Moscow's strategic interests in the Caucasus. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "We are particularly grateful to the Russian Federation and to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov" for helping to ensure a bloodless transfer of power in Tbilisi, Burjanadze said. She added that Georgia's new leaders, who are pro-Western in their political orientation, would be open-minded in their dealings with Russia. Burjanadze later held a side meeting with Ivanov, during which they discussed a wide range of bilateral issues.
Ivanov and other Russian leaders have criticized the manner in which Georgia's provisional authorities came to power. In recent days, Russia has angered the interim government in Tbilisi by holding "consultations" with leaders of Georgia's three autonomous republics Ajaria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Moscow. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
In Maastricht, Ivanov said the Kremlin hoped to ease existing bilateral tension and promote cooperation. "Open, constructive dialogue without intermediaries is the best way. If the legitimately elected Georgian authorities choose this policy, we will welcome that," the Interfax news agency quoted Ivanov as saying.
On December 2, Burjanadze received encouraging words from the West. Powell urged Russia to remove troops from Moldova and Georgia at "the earliest possible" time. The US secretary of state also declared that the Georgian provisional government had the firm "support and solidarity" of the Bush administration.
In addition, Powell issued what some observers interpreted as a warning to Russia, calling for Geor-gia's territorial integrity to be maintained. "No support should be given to breakaway elements seeking to weaken Georgia's territorial integrity," Powell said. Powell's words of caution were echoed by a top European Union diplomat, Javier Solana.
Ivanov has dismissed any suggestion that Russia --by engaging Ajaria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in talks, without Tbilisi's involvement is meddling in Georgia's affairs. "Such contacts occurred previ-ously as well," Ivanov told Interfax following his meeting with Burjanadze. "Routine events should not be sensationalized."
Powell announced in Maastricht that American experts would provide logistical support for the January 4 presidential election in Georgia. Earlier during the OSCE meeting, foreign ministers promised to spend upwards of 5 million euros (over $5 million) on promoting a free and fair election. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to which Georgia owes huge sums, have reportedly dispatched experts to meet with the new government.
The Bush administration has already signalled a desire to move beyond electoral assistance. A State Department team is expected to travel to Tbilisi in the coming days to assist the provisional government in prioritizing assistance needs. In addition, US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld is expected to travel to Georgia soon for discussions on expanding US-Georgian security cooperation. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. The interim government in Tbilisi has already named NATO membership among their primary foreign policy goals.
The US administration would like to see the Rose Revolution succeed, so that it can serve as a precedent for democratic development in other CIS nations. In contrast, Russia and its CIS supporters are far less eager to embrace the Rose Revolution, concerned that it could upset the status quo throughout the region.
Jaba Devdariani is a board member of the United Nations Association of Georgia (www.una.ge) and analyst of Georgian politics, currently working in Bosnia and Herzegovina.