Saakashvili’s ‘love affair’ with the West

St. George is the patron saint of Georgia. He's revered as the liberator of captives and champion of kings. But since President Sakashvili took office in 2004, Georgians seem to have another George to look up to – George W.

Sakashvili is looking West – to the U.S., to NATO, to the EU and to democracy.  He shares a vision with George W. Bush, which has blossomed into a friendship.

On visits to each others countries, both leaders have pointed out how much they have in common.

Mikhail Saakashvili and George Bush in 
            Washington D.C., 2006
Mikhail Saakashvili and George Bush in Washington D.C., 2006

On a trip to Washington in 2006, Mikhail Saakashvili said he and Bush ‘believe very strongly in the same values’.

“For generations of Georgians, America has been a synonym for freedom, and it’s been the same for me all my life”, Saakashvili said.

And to show his admiration for the U.S. leader, Saakashvili has named the main road to Tbilisi's airport George W. Bush Street. Indeed, his face adorns a billboard on the side of the road. 

But it seems to be all for show. Locals still go by the street's original name. They get mail delivered to Melaani Street and don’t seem to care much for politics.

They're too concerned with bread and butter issues, like making sure there’s enough gas and electricity to get through the winter.

George Bush's face adorns a billboard on the 
            side of the main road to Tbilisi's airport
George Bush's face adorns a billboard on the side of the main road to Tbilisi's airport

In fact, many in Georgia believe their President might have too much in common with their Bush's botched war in Iraq and immigration policies.

George Bush might soon go down in history as the most heavily criticised U.S. President ever. But will his good friend Sakashvili follow in those footsteps?

“Saakashvili’s popularity is falling, especially after the events of the past few days”, Archil Gegeshidze, a political analyst from the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies said.

Sakashvili will soon be running for president again in a snap election. But this time around his life-long desire for Amercia and freedom might be overshadowed by Bush and failure.