When Bidzina Ivanishvili became Georgia’s prime minister following the victory of his Georgian Dream (GD) coalition in October 2012 parliamentary elections, he promised to dramatically improve Georgian-Russian relations. The announcement of this “reset” by the new Georgian government must have delighted the Kremlin. The new foreign policy approach also ignited a robust debate among Georgia pundits about how the new political situation in Georgia can affect Russian-Georgian relations, which had hit rock bottom due to the 2008 war.
Even as the new government is ready to establish a dialogue with Russia in order to discuss problems that persist in bilateral relations and improve relations with Moscow, Tbilisi has drawn certain red lines. As the new Georgian leadership seeks to engage Russia through reinvigorating trade, cultural, and humanitarian ties, distinct challenges in diplomatic relations will remain as long as Russia occupies internationally-recognized Georgian territory. Tbilisi also has another nonnegotiable red line: the freedom to choose its own alliances. Meanwhile, Moscow has drawn a red line of its own: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has confirmed several times that Russia does not intend to revoke its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The new Russian-Georgian dialogue will tone down the heated rhetoric in bilateral relations, but it is unlikely to produce a wholesale change in the posturing of Tbilisi and Moscow.
PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 264
by Kornely Kakachia