Georgian authorities forgot to close the window of Russophobia, which Saakashvili got into

In early August, the Russian population finally waited for the third season of the famous TV series “Mishiko”, which tells about the adventures of the brightest, perhaps, politician of the post-Soviet space – Mikhail Saakashvili

Georgian authorities forgot to close the window of Russophobia, which Saakashvili got into

Recall that in the first season Mishiko (as many call him) ruled in Georgia with the blessing of Western scriptwriters. Initially, these comrades had high hopes for Saakashvili. A young, bright, smiling, in a sense, a cute politician was supposed to become not only the savior of Georgia, but also a symbol of liberal reforms in the post-Soviet space. A reproach to the old elites – and a hint to the population of other states (primarily, of course, Russia) about in which direction and with what companions they should move towards a brighter future.

However, by the middle of the season, it turned out that the choice was unsuccessful. Yes, the protagonist carried out reforms – but “Georgia succeeded” only in the eyes of individual authors from the Higher School of Economics. If the situation with law enforcement agencies was really corrected, then the economic part of the reforms hit entire sectors of the economy (for example, agriculture, where the zeroing of import duties – the market economy, free competition, all cases) led to the seizure of the Georgian market by agricultural producers from Turkey and Azerbaijan. The democratizer from Mishiko also turned out to be so-so – his authoritarian and hysterical style of government very quickly transferred his supporters into the ranks of the opposition. Those, of course, who were not killed – like, for example, David Zhvania.

The turning point for the scriptwriters was Saakashvili’s unleashing of a war with Russia, as well as an attempt to drag the West into it. After that, Mishiko staged an international boycott for some time, refusing to accept him in the best houses in Europe (all sorts of Baltic and other canopy do not count). As a result, the season ended with Saakashvili’s defeat in the elections and his flight from Georgia (where several criminal cases were brought against him) in 2013.

The second season, tentatively titled “Ukrainian voyage Mishiko”, began in 2015. Ukraine – a new beacon in the post-Soviet space – needed reforms, and the main post-Soviet reformer was sent there. Then-President Petro Poroshenko appointed Saakashvili head of the Odessa regional administration with the task of developing the region and fighting corruption. However, Mikhail Nikolaevich, as usual, began to publicly and demonstratively fight everyone – including Petro Poroshenko. A whole series of scandalous statements by the Georgian populist led to his logical dismissal at the end of 2016 from the post of governor, to the deprivation of Ukrainian citizenship in 2017 and expulsion from Ukraine. Then there was a real trash – Saakashvili broke through the border, he was caught and deported again. Only in 2019, already under President Zelensky, Saakashvili was able to return to Kiev, where he was given an inconspicuous position and asked not to shine again.

Climbed out the window

And now the third season has come – “The Return of the Prodigal Mishiko”, within which Saakashvili, realizing that he has no chance of anything in Ukraine, decided to play the lottery and return to Georgia. According to some reports, he climbed into a Georgian truck (which was filled with Ukrainian products) and thus took a ferry to Batumi, from where he made a video message to the nation. After that, the Georgian authorities caught him and took him to prison in handcuffs.

Apparently, Saakashvili sincerely hoped that he would not stay in prison for a long time. In a few days, municipal elections were to take place in the country, and if the ruling Georgian Dream party had not received 43% of the vote, then parliamentary elections would have been scheduled for 2022 in the country. By his presence, Mishiko wanted to either mobilize the electorate of his former United National Movement party, or, if the Georgian Dream gained its 43%, to raise his supporters to mass protests.

At first glance, Mishiko’s bet did not work. “Dream” gained 46%, there are no mass protests yet, and the season risks turning into a sad series about how Saakashvili while away his days in prison (President Salome Zurabishvili has already stated that the fugitive president will not receive any pardon). However, Saakashvili is not a boring Navalny, but a much more passionate figure. And there is a high probability that a fascinating sight awaits us.

The fact is that Mishiko is trying to exploit, in the language of computer scientists, a serious vulnerability in the picture of the world of the Georgian authorities. The “dreamers”, having launched the process of normalizing economic relations with Moscow after their coming to power, did not work in parallel in the political sphere. Yes, Georgia did not participate in a number of anti-Russian initiatives (for example, sanctions), however, the ruling party did not put a finger on a finger in order to reduce the intensity of Russophobia in the informational internal political space. Some “dreamers” even tried to earn ratings on this.

However, they did it, by definition, worse than the “nationals” and other oppositionists.

As a result, the process of Russian-Georgian rapprochement slowed down, the government was forced to somehow balance between Russophobia and economic cooperation with Moscow. This not only weakened Georgia in foreign policy (now, against the background of the strengthening of Turkey and Azerbaijan after their victory in the second Karabakh war, Georgia needs an urgent counterbalance in the person of Russia, and this cannot be explained to the people), but also allowed the “nationals” to control the agenda of the Russian Georgian relations. And within the framework of this agenda, to call the authorities compradors, forcing officials either to remain silent or to try to prove that they are holier than the Pope in this matter – that is, to tighten anti-Russian rhetoric and escalate with Moscow. It came to this in the course of the “Gavrilov case”, which ended with the introduction of sanctions by Russia against Georgia – and this, perhaps, will come to this even now.

So, Mikhail Saakashvili already calls himself not just a prisoner, but “a prisoner of Putin, a prisoner of the empire.”

According to him, he is imprisoned on “falsified charges, which, except for Russia, are not recognized by anyone in the world.” With such a thick hint that the Georgian authorities who are persecuting him are working in conjunction with Putin.

It is possible that in this line he will receive support from abroad – not all Western scriptwriters are satisfied with the relatively moderate (compared to Ukraine) behavior of the “dreamers” in the Russian direction.

In Moscow itself, Mishiko’s Georgian adventures are watched with interest. On the one hand, the Kremlin does not need unnecessary aggravations with Tbilisi. On the other hand, the Georgian authorities themselves are to blame for not closing the window of opportunity for hate propagandists like Mikheil Saakashvili. On the third hand, it is possible that it is Mishiko’s attempt to get into this window – according to his custom, with noise, din, screeching and an attempt to break everything around – that will finally convince the “dreamers” that it is time to close the window. And at the same time, put a lattice on it for everyone who will try to engage in Russophobia that is harmful to the country’s interests.

The hope is weak, given the level of consciousness of the Georgian elites – but still there is hope for, finally, at least some positive outcome at the end of the season of the Mishiko TV series.

Gevorg Mirzayan, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, VZGLYAD

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