09TBILISI1140, GEORGIA: CIVIL SOCIETY MEETS WITH A/S GORDON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1140 2009-06-22 13:41 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5773
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1140/01 1731341
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 221341Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1785
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001140 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV RS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: CIVIL SOCIETY MEETS WITH A/S GORDON 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary.  Georgian academics, analysts and civil 
society leaders discussed domestic politics, the necessity of 
developing more robust civil institutions, and relations with 
Russia at a June 11 lunch with EUR Assistant Secretary Philip 
Gordon.   While participants' opinions varied, in general 
they coalesced around frustration with the current deadlock 
surrounding the ongoing opposition-led protests and the 
belief that that the opposition does not know how to back 
down from its demand that Saakashvili resign.  They said the 
current stalemate and domestic instability are significantly 
affecting the country's economy and institutions; if the 
situation continues, they worried that progress made in the 
past few years could be lost.  One theme that ran throughout 
the conversation was the lack of trust among various elements 
of society, and between government and opposition.  A/S 
Gordon reaffirmed U.S. support for Georgia, stressing that 
the U.S. desire for an improved relationship with Russia will 
not come at Georgia's expense.   End summary. 
 
LACK OF TRUST IN SOCIETY 
 
2.  (SBU) All participants lamented the public's lack of 
faith and trust in Georgia's democratic structures.  This, 
they believed was due to the lack of development of 
government and civil institutions, especially the judiciary. 
While significant progress had been made in developing 
institutions separate from personalities or parties, the 
events of November 2007 almost instantaneously eroded trust. 
Several of the experts believed that while the government's 
credibility was significantly damaged in November 2007, the 
current protests have led to a similar phenomenon between the 
public and the non-parliamentary opposition.  Therefore, the 
public is left neither with faith in their government, nor 
with a system of checks and balances.  All participants 
agreed that the lack of trust among members of the 
government, between the government and the opposition, and 
between the population and all politicians placed a great 
strain on the democratic development of Georgia. 
 
3. (C) Gia Nodia, a former Minister of Education and the 
Director of the Caucasus Studies School, described the 
current protests as part of an ongoing domestic political 
crisis.  In his opinion, opposition supporters do not think 
they can win elections, not because of a lack of popular 
support, but because in their view recent elections have not 
been free and fair.  The fact that many members of the 
non-parliamentary opposition were also part of the Rose 
Revolution is also contributing to the crisis; many of the 
participants believe there is a lack of fresh ideas about how 
to enact reform.  Those who proclaim to be opposition keep 
reverting to the very model that brought in the Saakashvili 
regime.  Nodia asserted that the opposition knows that 
Saakashvili will not resign, but that they hoped the 
government would crack down on protests as in November of 
2007, creating popular support for their cause and bringing 
pressure to bear on Saakashvili.  Nodia added that the 
opposition is deadlocked.  He said most of non-parliamentary 
opposition know this, but can not find a face-saving way to 
back away from their demand that Saakashvili resign.  The 
experts gathered supported constitutional changes, changes in 
electoral laws, as well as possible early parliamentary 
elections depending on structural changes, but not 
presidential elections, as a way out of the crisis. 
 
DAMAGE TO INSTITUTIONS 
QDAMAGE TO INSTITUTIONS 
 
4. (C) All agreed that the domestic political situation is 
damaging Georgia's economy and institutions, which were 
already weakened by the August 2008 conflict and global 
economic crisis.  If a compromise is not reached between the 
government and opposition, they worried that much of the 
progress made since the Rose Revolution could be lost.  A/S 
Gordon asked the group about the state of media freedom in 
Georgia.  Participants expressed concern that outlets are 
neither free, fair, nor objective in their coverage.  This, 
several, agreed is not simply a problem of government 
interference, but of overall development of the media and the 
commercial challenges media outlets face.  They acknowledged 
that the Georgian media, regardless of political orientation 
also covered the activities and statements of the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  Alexander Rondeli, President 
of the Georgia Foundation for International and Strategic 
Studies (GFSIS), said that unfortunately independent 
television stations such as Kavkasia and Maestro do not 
provide unbiased reporting, but instead opposition 
propaganda. The group even agreed that being considered 
balanced and accurate was not valued by present media 
outlets.  Participants noted that while challenges remain in 
 
TBILISI 00001140  002 OF 002 
 
 
television media, print media is free and that most 
newspapers tend to be extremely anti-government. 
 
RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA 
 
5.  (SBU) Participants were eager to learn about U.S. policy 
towards Russia, especially regarding its impact on the 
U.S.-Georgia relationship.  Assistant Secretary Gordon 
reaffirmed U.S. support for Georgia, stating that his visit 
was intended as a way to show Georgians that a better U.S. 
relationship with Russia will not come at Georgia's expense. 
He stressed that the U.S. does not accept the Russian concept 
of a "sphere of influence," nor does the U.S. accept that 
countries in this region are not free to choose their own 
allies. He assured the group that President Obama will make 
this clear when he meets with President Medvedev, and that 
the Secretary will make this clear at the OSCE ministerial in 
Corfu.  The Assistant Secretary's comments were well received 
by the attendees. 
 
6. (SBU) Participants in the lunch included: 
 
Gia Nodia, Director, Caucasus Studies School; 
Alexander Rondeli, President, Georgia Foundation for 
International and Strategic Studies; 
Ekaterina Siradze-Delauny, International Society for Fair 
Elections and Democracy; 
Alexi Alexshishvili, Policy and Management Consulting Group; 
Zurab Abashidze, Board Member, Georgia Council of Foreign 
Relations. 
 
7. (U) A/S Gordon did not have opportunity to clear this 
cable before his departure. 
TEFFT

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