Trend European Desk Commentator Elmira Tariverdiyeva
The statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a visit to Georgia July 5 about the "Russian occupation of Georgia" provoked a strong reaction both in Tbilisi and Moscow.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was pleased to hear support for the sovereignty of his country from such a senior representative of the U.S. administration. Moscow also immediately explained in its Foreign Ministry's statement that "Secretary of State Clinton's statement has no basis," as Russian troops are in the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, that is, in the territories that Moscow does not consider as Georgian.
Russia's irritation is clear. Occupation is not the most pleasant word for any country. In case of Russia it is rather bad, because it was voiced by the White House representative, who personally pressed the button of "restart" of the Russian-U.S relations.
All this is certainly unpleasant. But U.S Secretary of State's statement in Georgia will not impact the relations between Washington and Moscow in the short term prospect. The current U.S. administration is so engrossed in new relations with Russia, that practically excluded former Soviet republics from the scope of its interests. During the visit of President Medvedev to Washington Obama kept repeating that "restart" of relations with Russia is one of the major foreign policy achievements of his administration.
Indeed, it seems that nothing can sadden new relations between the White House and Moscow neither disproportionate use of Russian forces in Georgia in 2008, nor the sale of S-300 to Iran, nor the recent spy scandal.
Moreover, President Obama, who got the Nobel Peace Prize, is ready to accompany Russia to the WTO with the best recommendations and ratify a new Treaty on Strategic Arms Reduction START-3 with Moscow, shutting his eyes to frustration of the Republican Party, which is not delighted by the number of concessions to Russia by the Obama administration.
It is true that the Republicans can do nothing yet. The current U.S. administration is true to its course.
U.S. ambassador to Georgia tried to smooth over the negative impression of Moscow followed by Hillary Clinton's remarks which annoyed the Kremlin.
"The existence of differences openly confirm that our messages are clear and unequivocal in the relations between the U.S. and Moscow," U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Bass said.
But at the same time the U.S. ambassador stressed that, despite the differences, Washington and Moscow should continue dialogue to resolve the situation in Georgia.
This dialogue has been held for two years neither good nor bad. The U.S. continues as friends to scold Russia and take Abkhazia and South Ossetia as the separatist regions of Georgia. But Moscow does not agree and considers them as separate republics. Different positions on Georgia do not interfere the parties to actively cooperate in various fields ranging from nuclear weapons to sanctions against Iran, for which Obama is rather grateful to the Kremlin.
But Moscow, in its turn, is grateful, for example, that Washington lost interest in the idea of taking Georgia into NATO.
Moreover, the result of a "restart" has become not only the loss of Washington's enthusiasm for Georgia in NATO, but also the reintroduction of the "123 Agreement" on the Russian-U.S cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear energy in the Congress.
The Bush administration has derailed the implementation of the agreement just because of the August events in Georgia in 2008, where Russia took a direct part. However, this was the last reaction of the White House in 2008. Then the States dealt with other affairs.
Well, of course, the State Department representative for South Caucasus Matthew Bryza was sent and indignation at the actions of Russia was expressed, but relations with Moscow were not brought to a critical point. At that time, there were changes. Less than six months left before the change of power in the White House. There was a pre-election race. It was clear that Democrats will win in the U.S. There was little time for Bush to fully react to the "disproportionate use of force".
The current administration after coming to the White House took the course on the restart and has not removed this policy up to now. The White House officials say that Russia's actions in Georgia do not hamper the adoption of the "123 Agreement". It turns out that the situation remained unchanged. But it is not an obstacle to U.S. cooperation with Russia.
Well, Clinton's speech in Georgia is no more than a tribute to Georgian President Saakashvili. It is evident that Washington is not ready for proposing a clear plan to return Abkhazia and South Ossetia, limiting only by statements about the inadmissibility of separation of these regions from Georgia.
But a half of Obama's presidency is over. It is not clear what next elections promise to Georgia. It is possible that the return of Georgia in an orbit of Washington's interests will happen in 2013, when there will be a new president in Russia. It is not clear what situation with the "restart" will be.