09TBILISI469, GEORGIA: FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI469 2009-03-10 15:00 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5271
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0469/01 0691500
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 101500Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1151
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000469 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA 
KITSMARISHVILI FOCUSES ON POLICY NOW, POLITICS LATER 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Former Georgian Ambassador to Russia, 
Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who famously told the ad hoc 
parliamentary committee on the war that the U.S. gave Georgia 
the green light, discussed with the Ambassador his future 
plans which include setting up an independent news channel; 
an economic policy think tank; and a think tank in concert 
with Armenia and Azeri representatives to explore regional 
democratic development.  Kitsmarishvili believed that 
President Saakashvili squandered opportunities with Russia 
for a constructive dialogue and missed opportunities for 
further democratization of Georgia.  Despite being highly 
critical of the President, Kitsmarishvili's view was that the 
President should be allowed to serve out his term, and saved 
his most pointed criticism for the non-parliamentary 
opposition that he described as radical, wrongheaded, and 
anathema to Georgia's national interests.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  Kitsmarishvili is a controversial figure 
who is widely disliked by both government and opposition 
figures, a situation he openly acknowledges.  Nevertheless, 
his role in the Rose Revolution as owner of Rustavi 2, as 
Ambassador to Russia prior to the August conflict (although 
he never was able to present his credentials prior to his 
resignation), and his general independent streak make him a 
unique commentator on current events.  In contrast to his 
somewhat bombastic public persona, Kitsmarishvili's 
commentary was surprisingly measured and reasoned.  End 
Comment. 
 
What Georgia Needs 
 
3.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili explained that his future plans were 
focused on addressing weaknesses in Georgian political 
discussion and thinking.  Namely, Kitsmarishvili lamented the 
lack of middle to long term policy planning and debate about 
economic, educational, and regional development issues. 
Kitsmarishvili said that no public figure was addressing 
economic and educational development in a serious way. 
Kitsmarishvili had been working with Irish NGOs and 
institutions to develop thoughts on various policy paths for 
sustainable economic development suitable for Georgia. 
(Embassy Note:  Once Kitsmarishvili develops a more concrete 
plan, he indicated that he intends to approach USAID for 
potential funding.  End Note.).  Kitsmarishvili was also 
exploring the possibility of launching an independent 
television news source which he believed was achievable with 
relatively little funding.  Lastly, Kitsmarishvili hoped 
democratic forces in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia would 
work together from a regional perspective on how to reinforce 
democratic development across the Caucasus.  (Embassy note: 
Former Education Minister Gia Nodia has set up a similar NGO 
that seeks to approach issues from a regional perspective. 
End note.) 
 
Saakashvili Did Everything Wrong 
 
4.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili explained to the Ambassador that 
Saakashvili committed a grave, avoidable error by attacking 
Tskhinvali on August 7.  Kitsmarishvili said that during his 
tenure as Ambassdor to Russia (April-August 2008), he been 
advised Saakashvili to cultivate President Medvedev to work 
on resolving a wide range of bilateral issues including 
Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  He noted that he was not naive 
enough to believe PM Putin was not the ultimate "decider" in 
Russia, but he saw the utility in attempting to develop a 
relationship with Medvedev.  Kitsmarishvili described the 
meeting of the two Presidents in St. Petersburg in June 2008 
Qmeeting of the two Presidents in St. Petersburg in June 2008 
as a wide ranging, free flowing discussion in which 
Saakashvili openly contemplated giving up NATO aspirations 
for eventual Russian withdrawal from Abkhazia and South 
Ossetia.  Kitsmarishvili thought the meeting was an excellent 
start and created positive momentum for better 
Russian-Georgian relations.  To his surprise, Saakashvili was 
very upset and disappointed about the results of the meeting 
for reasons Kitsmarishvili said Saakashvili could not clearly 
articulate.  Kitsmarishvili had heard rumors that a 
subsequent meeting in Kazakhstan at President Nazarbayev's 
birthday celebration between Saakashvili and Medvedev was 
unproductive, but doubted that Saakashvili's claim that 
Medvedev had "blown him off" was true.  Kitsmarishvili said 
he could not believe a word that his President says, and that 
in his view, Saakashvili was more to blame for any negative 
personal relationship between the two Presidents than 
Medvedev. 
 
5.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili said that Saakashvili's inner circle 
was of the opinion that the Russians were weak and would not 
respond militarily in South Ossetia last summer. 
Kitsmarishvili believed Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili 
and Minister of Justice Zurab Adieshvili (both close 
 
TBILISI 00000469  002 OF 003 
 
 
Saakashvili advisors) were against the war, but he remained 
convinced that Saakashvili was getting unrealistic advice 
about Russian intentions fr
om somewhere else in his inner 
circle.  Kitsmarishvili said it became clear to him in June 
or July that Russia intended to intervene in South Ossetia 
and was waiting for a pretext to strike.  (Embassy Note:  GOG 
officials have told Post repeatedly that Kitsmarishvili did 
not send any message of the sort to Tbilisi as Ambassador to 
Russia during this period.  End Note.)  Kitsmarishvili argued 
that Saakashvili made a tragic mistake in eschewing diplomacy 
with Medvedev and pursuing military action.  In spite of 
this, Kitsmarishvili believed Georgia could now initiate some 
sort of dialogue with Russia. 
 
On the Other Hand, Maybe Misha Is Not That Bad 
 
6.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili said that, despite his personal 
anger, he fully supported Saakashvili serving out his term. 
Kitsmarishvili said despite non-parliamentary statements to 
the contrary, everything was not wrong in Georgia.  He 
believed the problem was a system that gives virtually 
unchecked decision-making power to one person. 
Kitsmarishvili said the focus should be on fixing the system 
rather than removing Saakashvili from power.  Kitsmarishvili 
had tired of hearing that Saakashvili was "America's Project" 
and said that Georgia elected him, and Georgians need to deal 
with him.  Kitsmarishvili said that whatever one thinks of 
Saakashvili, one needs to work with him because he is the 
President they elected.  In spite of their obvious 
differences, he went on to say that Saakashvili had changed 
in recent months because he was making a real effort "to be 
nice" to those who oppose him.  He wished that the opposition 
would recognize this and behave more constructively. 
Kitsmarishvili believed that open confrontation with 
Saakashvili was counterproductive to Georgia's interests.  He 
is of the strong opinion that he and like minded individuals 
should and can work with Saakashvili to focus on reforming 
Georgian institutions to create a more balanced democratic 
system. 
 
Non-Parliamentary Opposition Work Against Georgian Interests 
 
7.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili had little positive to say about the 
non-parliamentary opposition, its tactics, and its goals.  He 
stated that the Georgian people were tired of confrontation 
and protests, and he hoped that the planned April 9 protests 
would fizzle out.  Kitsmarishvili suggested that Russian 
subversive measures were in full swing and feared some 
protesters would engage in deliberate provocative behavior to 
force a reaction.  Kitsmarishvili called Merabishvili "a 
reasonable fellow" but said that if provocations started, the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs would have to legitimately 
intervene at some point, which he feared could cause chaos 
across the country.  Kitsmarishvili questioned the motives of 
the non-parliamentary opposition, and wondered if they were 
putting their own personal interests ahead of the country. 
Regardless of motive, he said the non-parliamentary 
opposition's agenda ultimately serves to destabilize Georgia 
and coincides perfectly with Russia's agenda.  Kitsmarishvili 
dismissed the idea as naive that replacing Saakashvili with 
Nino Burjanadze or Irakli Alasania would be an improvement or 
result in a more democratic system.  According to 
Kitsmarishvili, without fixing the system to incorporate more 
institutional checks and balances, Burjanadze or Alasania 
would turn out to be no better and possibly worse. 
 
8.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili described Nino Burjanadze's recent 
Q8.  (C)  Kitsmarishvili described Nino Burjanadze's recent 
behavior (calling for civil servants to strike and 
encouraging protests) as "completely off the deep end". 
Kitsmarishvili said he had a hard time believing how radical 
she had become.  Kitsmarishvili was equally flummoxed about 
Alasania's decision making.  He speculated that Burjanadze's 
increasing radicalism had pushed Alasania to move and make 
political decisions faster than he would like.  He described 
Alasania's decision to deliver an ultimatum to the President 
as too radical and politically unwise if Alasania wants to 
maintain a moderate image.  He was equally critical of 
Alasania's decision to depart for Europe after the ultimatum 
announcement saying that if he were serious, he would have 
spent the ten days in Kutaisi, not Brussels.  Kitsmarishvili 
hoped the non-parliamentary opposition would ultimately focus 
on policy rather than protests, but feared it was growing 
increasingly more radical. 
 
I Was Misquoted Or Something 
 
9.  (C)  When asked about his comment that the United States 
gave the "green light" to Saakashvili to attack Tskhinvali, a 
visibly uncomfortable Kitsmarishvili explained that his 
quotation had been distorted.  He said he only thought that 
strong Bush administration public support of Georgia in 
general made President Saakashvili think that he had U.S. 
 
TBILISI 00000469  003 OF 003 
 
 
acquiescence to launch an attack.  While this nuanced 
explanation seems at odds with his public statements on the 
record, Kitsmarishvili went to great lengths to say that 
Putin wanted the war as much as Saakashvili and they both 
were to blame.  He stated this had always been his 
assessment, though only his comments critical of Saakashvili 
were widely publicized.  Kitsmarishvili expressed his 
willingness to be available at any moment as needed to 
further clarify his statement, and reiterated that he never 
thought the U.S. gave Saakashvili a green light. 
TEFFT

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