Replacing Russia’s President Means Little For Georgian-Russian Relat

REPLACING RUSSIA’S PRESIDENT MEANS LITTLE FOR GEORGIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS
By M. Alkhazashvili (Translated by Diana Dundua)

The Messenger, Georgia
Dec 12 2007

Though several months are left until Russians cast their votes for
their next president, the election was all but decided when Vladimir
Putin endorsed Dmitry Medvedev as his successor on Monday.

Putin is constitutionally barred from taking another consecutive term
in office; Medvedev has said he will "ask" Putin to take the post of
prime minister.

Medvedev, Gazprom’s chairman, is both close to and politically
dependent on Putin, ensuring that there will be little change in who
wears the trousers in Moscow.

There was, however, immediate speculation on whether a Medvedev
presidency could nonetheless bring changes to Russian foreign policy.

Commentators and politicians from all three South Caucasus states
think not, as far as their countries are concerned.

Azeri analyst Shakhin Rzaev, speaking to Regnum, said he was confident
that Putin’s continuing control would leave little room for unexpected
decisions in Russian relations with Azerbaijan. Adhering to the same
path, he added, would satisfy Baku.

Armenian analyst Amaiak Ovanessian concurred, enthusiastically
predicting that Russian-Armenian cooperation will only deepen in the
years to come.

Armenian ruling party MP Samvel Nikoian was similarly sunny, quoted
by Regnum as saying relations between the two countries will develop
nicely regardless of who holds the presidency.

In Georgia, meanwhile, analysts and politicians agree that a new
face for Russian president won’t lead to any significant changes in
Russian politics. That, of course, is less positive for Georgia’s
fortunes. Barring a change here, the countries will remain unhappy
adversaries.

"This will be the same Russia," said the chair of the Committee for
European Integration, Nino Nakashidze. And if this will be the same
Georgia after January, one can expect Tbilisi and Moscow to continue
to battle.

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