There is a threat of Russia’s pressure on Georgia, but this threat should not be “excessively overestimated”, Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili said in an interview with the Georgian public broadcaster aired on March 6.
Asked about Russia’s possible pressure on Georgia before signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, the PM responded: “I think this exaggerated talk of threats is wrong. Each and every threat is being identified by us.”
“I’ve heard from various persons, including those from our team, exaggerated assessments; I think it’s wrong, because population should not be kept in anxiety, population does not need it; we had enough of this anxiety for nine years [during the previous government], when this permanent hysteria, radicalism was coming from the [United] National Movement, which still continues this trend and tries to bring in its radicalism, anxiety and extremism; they will fail to do that,” Garibashvili said.
“We do not need emotions, what we need is to keep cool head and pragmatism,” he added.
“There are threats, but we should not excessively overestimate these threats. Russia has fewer levers against Georgia,” Garibashvili said and added that the worst had already happened when the war broke out in 2008, “which Saakashvili failed to avoid.”
He said that although Russia opened its market for Georgian products, leading to four-fold increase in Georgian exports to Russia to USD 190.2 million in 2013, Georgia is still less dependent on Russia.
“Even if Russia imposes embargo – although I think Russia will not do that, because it does not need it – it won’t have such negative impact as it had back in 2006 when Georgia was heavily dependent on the Russian market,” Garibashvili said, adding that Georgia’s export markets have been diversified since 2006 when Russia banned import of Georgian products.
He said that Tbilisi has “constructive and reasonable policy” towards Russia, which, he said, is praised by Georgia’s western partners.
“No one wants to have tense ties with Russia. It should be in our interests to have normal relations, but I stress that… for us the most painful issue is occupied territories and we always remind it to Russia and we are telling them that we should make progress in this direction. Our European choice is not in conflict with our constructive policy towards [Russia], because Georgia cannot be an enemy to Russia. We are not Russia’s enemy and we do not give any pretext to Russia to accuse Georgia of any kind of provocation. On the contrary, Russia’s provocative actions – including installation of barbed wire fences along the occupied line, were incompatible with the policy pursued by us… Georgia and our government will never give Russia any pretext for accusing Georgia of provocations,” PM Garibashvili said.
He said that he thinks Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia became “heavy burden” for Moscow itself.
Garibashvili did not respond directly when asked how he would describe Russia, whether it is enemy or not to Georgia, and said: “We had war with Russia 2008, which resulted into [Russia’s] recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – occupied territories; that’s the reality; we want to change this reality and to convince Russia that Georgia’s European choice is not in conflict with the constructive policy pursued by us.”