ROAR: “Withdrawal from the CIS is Saakashvili’s PR exercise”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The Commonwealth of Independent States will do well without Georgia, Russian analysts believe. But they don’t rule out that Tbilisi may return to the CIS in the future.

Georgia has finalized its withdrawal from the CIS, initiated by Tbilisi after the 2008 war with Russia over South Ossetia. At the same time, Georgia said it would continue to participate in a number of agreements it ratified during the membership in the organization of former USSR republics.

Tbilisi joined the CIS in the end of 1993 and became the 12th and last participant of this organisation, Vedomosti daily noted. Now Georgia has become the first to leave it. During its membership, Tbilisi ratified 113 multilateral agreements.

Georgia now remains a member of an alternative organization, GUAM, together with former USSR republics – Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova.

Russian analysts and media see no problems for the CIS after Georgia’s withdrawal. “Tbilisi expressed its position on this issue back in 2008, it is only logical that the process of the withdrawal has now been finalised,” Maksim Minaev, an analyst with the Center for Political Conjuncture of Russia, told RT.

“It has become just a technical event, which has no importance for the political conjuncture on the post-Soviet space,” Minaev said. He also believes that Georgia’s decision will not influence the motivations of other leaders of former USSR republics.

“A political balance between Russia and neighboring countries, which formed in 2008, has not been seriously changed,” Minaev said.

Some analysts believe that Georgia’s decision to leave the CIS will not be permanent. “Under a new leadership Georgia will return to the CIS,” Vladimir Kornilov, the director of the Ukrainian branch of the Institute of the CIS countries, told Vedomosti daily.

Kornilov is certain that the CIS could attract new countries which have not been republics of the former USSR. He mentioned Mongolia which holds the status of observer in the CIS.

Moreover, there are other organisations that unite countries of the former USSR, such as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), The Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC), and the Customs Union. “The existence of such structures does not conflict with the development of relations within the CIS,” Kornilov said.

Aleksey Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, on the contrary, believes that the CIS no longer exists and all its leaders understand that it is no more than a signboard. All relations on the post-Soviet space are built on bilateral basis, Malashenko told Vedomosti.

“The CIS has long been a paper organization,” agrees Nikolay Svanidze, a journalist and member of the Public Chamber. “In any case, relations between Georgia and other countries of CIS will remain the same,” he told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

The paper also quoted Mikhail Delyagin, the director of the Institute for Problems of Globalization, as saying that “de facto Georgia has left the CIS” a long time ago. However, Moscow and Tbilisi will be able “to talk and trade on bilateral basis,” he added.

“Georgia might have hoped that the West will pay them for another anti-Russian gesture, but in the light of the crisis these are vain hopes,” Delyagin stressed.

Georgia’s withdrawal had no political sense because it did not take part in the work of the CIS not only during the last year, but for a long period of time, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma committee on foreign affairs, believes.

“At the same time, Georgia, undoubtedly, remains a desirable partner for Russia and other members of the CIS – in this organisation and others," Kosachev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. “But the present Georgia’s leadership have placed the country, of their own free will, beyond integration processes on the post-Soviet space,” he added.

Kosachev thinks Tbilisi’s policies in this field are explained by Georgia’s intention to accelerate integration into other structures, first of all, NATO. “But these plans of [Georgian President Mikhail] Saakashvili have probably proved to be a mistake,” he said. “As a result [Saakasvili] got off this train, but did not board another one. And this remains a big problem of Georgia itself.”

“Sooner or later, peoples and countries will reunite, but this will probably require discussions with some new Georgian leadership,” Kosachev said.

Tbilisi’s withdrawal “is no pleasure,” Konstantin Zatulin, a Duma deputy and the director of the Institute of the CIS countries, told Interfax news agency. “In this situation, it was the only decision possible, because to further Georgia’s participation under its present leadership was counterproductive for the CIS,” he said. As for the Commonwealth without Georgia, it now has the chance to be a more efficient organization, Zatulin said.

“Georgia performed in the CIS the part of Grecian horse, cooperated with [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko, and both countries hindered the efficient development of the Commonwealth,” Zatulin stressed.

The deputy thinks there are reasons to criticize the CIS, “but because of Georgia and Ukraine the organization was developing slower.” He also believes Georgia may return to the Commonwealth some time.

“Georgia should realise itself the need to return to the CIS, and I’m certain this will happen, but not under the present leadership,” he said, adding that the country’s opposition is not inclined to return to the CIS either.

Ramaz Sakvarelidze, a Georgian political scientist, told Komsomolskaya Pravda that opposition has actually demanded that Tbilisi withdraw from the CIS. “And after the war in August 2008, when Russia offended the sovereignty of our country, it was impossible for Georgia to remain in the CIS,” he said.

Aleksey Ostrovsky, chairman of the State Duma Committee on the CIS affairs, believes that Georgia’s withdrawal from the organisation was “no more than Saakashvili’s public relations exercise.”

Tbilisi’s demarche is to Moscow’s benefit, “taking into account that an inadequate person heads Georgia, and his main goal is implementing America’s order to minimize Russia’s influence on the post-Soviet space,” Ostrovsky told Komsomolskaya Pravda. “Georgia would block political issues important for Russia, because all decisions are taken in the CIS by consensus.”

Sergey Borisov, RT