Part of any trip to Georgia getting the most out of local color: the food, the scenery, the Stalin Museum.
But there’s another dimension to Georgia: geopolitics. Divided, occupied in part by Russian troops, Georgia is one of the world’s most at-risk countries and the shadow of new crises with Russia hangs over everything in the country.
Some of Georgia’s problems are, frankly, the fault of bad decisions by its government. The reckless and aggressive Georgian policies toward Russia in the summer of 2008 — policies it undertook in defiance of warnings from the Bush administration and the rest of the West — gave Putin an opportunity to occupy South Ossetia, create a new wave of Georgian refugees, and make trouble for both Georgia and the United States. Even today, there is a certain trust deficit. Many in western Europe for example simply do not trust Georgia’s president and I do not believe that Georgia will be admitted to NATO until either he or his successor convinces skeptics in Europe that things have changed. Most of the Georgians I spoke with, including political allies of President Mikheil Saakashvili understand this. But it is not clear that Georgia’s president or its political process can or will summon up the necessary “strategic patience”.
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