Experts: Clinton's visit to Georgia not to affect 'reset' with Russia

Experts: Clinton's visit to Georgia not to affect 'reset' with Russia

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 6 / Trend E.Tariverdiyeva /

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Georgia will not affect the White House policy of "resetting" U.S.-Russian relations. U.S. President Barack Obama's policy on Georgia and the Caucasus, in general, will differ from the policy of previous administrations, experts believe.

"The situation is complex. Washington could take a tough stance against Moscow over Georgia, but this would contradict the logic of resetting relations with Russia," Moscow State University History Faculty Deputy Dean, Bulletin of the Caucasus website Chief Editor Alexei Vlasov said.

Georgia was the endpoint of Clinton's five-day visit to Eastern Europe.

"Georgia is our friend and partner, and we support the country in peacetime and in war," Clinton said. "I came to Georgia with a clear message from the U.S. president, which states our strong support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

According to experts, despite Clinton's call for Russia to withdraw its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the White House will not change its policy to reset relations with Moscow.

The slightest "tightening of the screws" will be very carefully implemented, Vlasov said.

"U.S. activity in the South Caucasus is not connected with the region, but rather with Iran and Afghanistan," he added. "It is a completely different game now than under Bush."

Meanwhile, U.S. expert on the South Caucasus, Tennessee Technological University Political Science Professor Michael Gunter said the nature of U.S. policy in the South Caucasus today differs from that of previous administrations.

"I do think the United States will continue to develop a more nuanced interest and role in the region compared to the Bush administration in the old days," Gunter wrote Trend in an e-mail.

At the same time, Politics Professor at George Mason University's Public and International Affairs Department Mark Katz believes the United States will deliberately build an action plan that can be developed with both Russia and the South Caucasus.

"I think that the Obama administration prefers to work on Nagorno Karabakh than the Georgian problem," he said. "Nagorno Karabakh is something that the United States and Russia can cooperate on together whereas Georgia is not," Katz wrote Trend in an e-mail.

However, Clinton's visit to the South Caucasus is clearly a sign that Washington is interested in regional stability, expert Andro Barnov was quoted as saying by Gruziya Online.

He stressed that the visit is an important message to anyone who is trying to destabilize the region and obstruct long-term stability in Eurasia. He also noted that the United States will help Georgia to create grounds for resolving problems in the occupied territories.

However, most Georgian experts believe Clinton's visit show Washington's disappointment in the reboot policy.

Georgian specialist Nika Chitadze said the United States is gradually becoming disillusioned with the reboot, and adopting a stricter position toward Moscow.

"Clinton's visit becomes increasingly important on this background. Talks will continue in terms of strengthening the U.S. role in the region with Tbilisi as a reliable partner," Chitadze told Trend.

Clinton's Georgia visit and her statements were of immense importance for Georgia's security, Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgi Bokeria said today at a press briefing.

"This visit neutralized fears that have existed in society that Georgia will suffer due to the restart of Russian-U.S relations," Bokeria said. "But making Georgia's deoccupation a priority removed these fears. We are not naive. We have no illusions that everything will be resolved at once. Russia will have to retreat step by step."

He added that the United States supports Georgia's sovereignty.

"The concerns of some skeptics about Georgia-NATO relations are over and gone. Georgia's joining NATO is on the agenda of U.S. interests," Bokeria said.

Meanwhile, Hudson Institute Center for Political and Military Analysis Senior Fellow and Director, World Politics Review Senior Editor Richard Weitz said Georgia's promotion in NATO is a contentious issue.

"It is unclear if the current administration will zealously push Georgia into NATO, as the previous administration did," Weitz wrote Trend in an e-mail.

V.Zhavoronkova (Baku) and N.Kirtzkhalia (Georgia) contributed to the article.

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