May 30, 2023
Since May 15, the visa regime for citizens of Georgia has been cancelled.

Since May 15, the visa regime for citizens of Georgia has been cancelled.

Photo: Alexander KOTS

In the geopolitical chess game, Moscow made an unexpected move – Vladimir Putin, by his decree, canceled the visa regime for Georgian citizens from May 15. Now a passport is sufficient for entry, and they can stay on Russian territory without a visa for up to 90 days.

The ban on direct Moscow-Tbilisi flights has also been lifted.

For Georgians, this decision is – frankly speaking – historical!

A whole generation grew up in a visa blockade – not being able to easily get into Russia (obtaining a visa in Tbilisi is a terrible headache, and even a toothache, with giant queues and, as I heard, corruption), the Georgians had no choice but to follow easier way – to the West.

And in every sense…

In those recent times, when I traveled around Georgia, I was a good decade old – everyone, janitors, politicians, local friends, artists, taxi drivers, heads of theaters, parties, parliamentary factions, said: in vain Russia keeps us Georgians at a distance. In vain does not let him in.

Here they understand, of course: the decision to “reward” Georgians with a visa regime in 2000 was an emotional one. Then Georgia entered into a severe geopolitical clinch with Moscow, and the military conflict of 2008 became a continuation of hostility, aggravated by the Abkhaz and Ossetian wounds.

Interestingly, it was then that Saakashvili made a seemingly strange step – in the midst of a quarrel with Moscow, he canceled visas for Russians. Moreover, at the airport Russians were given a bottle of Georgian wine… The calculation was simple and correct.

It was then that a massive Russian tourist went to Georgia. Ordinary Russian citizens saw with their own eyes the fruits of Mishiko’s reforms on display, which was very useful for PR of Saakashvili himself.

This flexible and cunning approach has so far been lacking in Moscow.

The Georgians told me – why did you introduce visas? Georgians were surprised – why?! It turns out, they say, that you yourself are handing us over to the West, not wanting to compete with it?! Like, why did they close entry to Russia for our youth? For what? Our children, they say, already forget Russian, and go to work in the visa-free West, which provides an opportunity to study, train, make a career …

And now, 23 years later, Moscow has finally caught on, and to the general Georgian relief, it is changing its old decision…

Here, I think, a lot of things coincided – the government of the ruling “Dreamers” party in Georgia did not join the sanctions against Russia and did not open a “second front”, no matter how they beat him “on the kidneys” for this and threatened all kinds of representatives of the USA, the EU and even Kiev In addition, by this decision Moscow is vindictively demonstrating to the West and showing the surrounding countries that Russia is in the game and is able to restore influence even where Washington and Brussels seem to be nesting.

And yet Moscow thus gives the “dreamers” a reason to say that they have finally achieved what Saakashvili could not. And, practical, and exactly what the voters were waiting for.

Not all, of course. The opposition in Tbilisi will surely raise a scandal about this. Pro-Western Georgian President Zurabishvili has already called Moscow’s decision a provocation. But the real power in this country belongs to the parliament, not the president.

For that, in Georgian restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg today, apparently, there will be a full house. Perhaps even free Kindzmarauli at the expense of the institution for joy.

It turns out that a new page in Russian-Georgian relations has already been opened… And here caution is needed on both sides. Do not get dirty, do not break in the heat of the moment, like the previous ones ….

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