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Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia: “Russia Is Our Only Problem”

June 26, 2009

Georgina Higueras

The scenario is so surrealist that it will remind you the Bunuel. There are about twenty peasants gathered in the middle of the field in front of cameras hanging three meters up from the ground. The men are standing on the right and the women on the left. Everybody has one microphone fixed. Colony of Armored Jeeps is approaching us at high speed. President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili got out of the car together with his body-guards.

The leader of Georgia stood in the center of the people and made a statement to them. He suggests them to produce “Caberne” “the wine which is in great demand in Sweden and Norway.” The farmer told him that 1 000 families live in the village of Napareuli and they have only two tractors. “In Autumn you will have more,” promised the president. 15-monute-long show ended and the caravan rushed to the second unplanned meeting. Afterwards, Saakashvili flew to a small city of Sighnaghi in the Eastern Georgia together with journalists from Europe. The president wants to show them the tourist potential of this small city. A museum is being built here. It was opened last year but now it hosts the exhibition of Picasso. Guests are served with Georgian cuisine at dinner. We interviewed the president during the dinner.

Will you resign if the Independent Investigating Commission of the EU will blame you for launching the war last August in its conclusion?

I will not resign. Besides that, no investigation team will conclude that I made a mistake. South Ossetia is our territory. Several idiots claim we started the war and did not foresee the threat from Russia. The only thing I regret is we had not come together long before the war.

Integration of South Ossetia and Abkhazia became more difficult after the war; because Russia recognized their independence.
It is obvious that Russia had intended it since Kosovo declared independence. It was ethnic cleansing and occupation.

Since April 9 opposition parties have been holding rallies in the streets. They request interim parliamentary elections and resignation of president…

Georgian people have disease of street actions to change the authority. It will be a good vaccine for this disease. I will not allow Russians to enjoy my defeat. I have high rating - 60 % of our population supports me. The West also supports me. Why should I hold new elections while several authorities of European states have only 20 % support from the population?

Last Wednesday Russia vetoed the UN mission in Abkhazia at the Security Council. How do you think, could you avoid it?

Russians have been bombing our settlements during many years; and it is time for the West to state: Stop Now! Time for compromises with Russia should end. I am dissatisfied that UN Mission ended in Georgia though it was very weak.

Are you glad with the Western support?

I have told several times that there was a danger of the Russian provocation. But nobody listened to me. Their assistance was late but it came. I am very satisfied with the political partnership with the NATO and the EU and we are establishing strategic alliance with the USA.

In Tbilisi you have President Bush Street in Tbilisi who was your friend. What kind of relationship do you have with president Obama?

Bush has done much good for this part of the world. I have a good relation with the administration of Obama but I do not know him personally.

During the Rose Revolution (2003) you were coming to power with the promise of democratization…

Our democratic system is the strongest in the region. We managed to defeat the corruption in the country through painful reforms. The leaders of the organized crime are either in prison or in Russia. Although, the experts of the EU are helping us to train the policemen, sometimes our law enforcers cannot help quarrelling with people (several hundreds of journalists, representatives of public defender as well as demonstrators are beaten and arrested since the rallies started in Georgia).

The war slowed down investment in Georgia and increased unemployment. What are you doing to overcome the crisis?

We reached stabilization in our country and we offered the EU an alternative monopoly of the Russian gas. Gas may go to Europe from Caspian Sea and Central Asia through our territory. When investors get sure there is no more war, they will come back. Meanwhile we try to realize tourist potential of Georgia. Batumi will become Barcelona of the Black Sea in three years. We invited the Spanish architects and builders in Georgia.

What problem does Georgia face today?
According to the international point of view we have only one problem- Russia. In the country the parliamentary opposition rather worries me than street demonstrations.