Russia-Georgia Normalization Hits a Plateau

Russia-Georgia Normalization Hits a Plateau

With small measures of tangible progress counterbalanced by intermittent stumbles, Georgia-Russia relations seem to have taken two steps forward and one step back since Georgia's 2012 parliamentary elections swept the opposition Georgian Dream (GD) coalition to power. For all of Tbilisi’s best efforts, Moscow continues to view ties from a zero-sum perspective. While some degree of normalcy may be possible, divergent interests mean that the high-water mark of Georgia-Russia relations might already have been reached.

After taking office in October, one of billionaire philanthropist-turned-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's first moves was to appoint a special envoy to Russia. Although the new government vowed to maintain a pro-Western orientation, normalizing ties with Russia was seen as both an economic and a geopolitical imperative.

On the economic side, Russia was a major market for Georgian producers that, although culturally predisposed to Georgian wine and foods, remained off-limits to Georgia’s exports. And geopolitically, the bellicosity that characterized the now-opposition United National Movement's (UNM) tenure was seen as directly linked to both the August 2008 war as well as a de facto freeze on Tbilisi's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

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