Georgia: from diplomacy to politics

A veteran Georgian diplomat has chosen to enter his country's disputatious political arena. A hard decision that had to be made, says Tedo Japaridze.

The last year proved to be a difficult one for me and my family. 2011 began with my entanglement in what appeared to be a diplomatic-political vendetta by the Georgian government, which culminated with my dismissal from the Georgian diplomatic corps while I was still posted at the International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS). Parting with my diplomatic passport was difficult, for the country I have served for the best part of my life questioned neither my skills nor my experience, but my integrity. Dealing with a career change is not a problem; challenging my integrity is.

In the period after Georgia's "rose revolution" in the last weeks of 2003, I had every reason to be optimistic: petty corruption was hard hit, foreign policy retained its vision, and the economy was opening up. There was promising innovation and healthy continuity. This is all I ever desired, for being a body-and-soul diplomat with a sense of history I am not "revolution material". But, somewhere along the way, I have the feeling we lost our sense of direction.

Georgia has a stable regime - regrettably, too stable. For this stability is not founded on an espirit d’corps, but is ensured by means of vigilant control of every public voice, thought or action which is less than streamlined with the will of the prevailing political class, or in fact the president’s. In sum, this is not a regime of hierarchical clarity, but of personal loyalty. This is my problem.

Friendships are founded on clear intentions. My intention now is to join the ranks of the opposition, specifically Bidzina Ivanishvili, a new face on Georgia’s landmined political landscape, in view of the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. This necessitates my leaving the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA), that is, an environment filled with world-class professionals who in addressing me as "a colleague" honour me. But, staying there would clearly have raised issues of conflict of interest. My thoughts go now, not without some guilt, to those who stood by me during these difficult times and entrusted me with this position of responsibility: most prominently, ambassador Hafiz Pashayev, the ADA's rector. But, unfortunately, I have developed an addiction to the service of my country’s national interests.

If I do not make a stand now, then my life of service to my country will be devoid of meaning. Let me be clear. I dream of a "normal country": where elections can be lost; with an administrative apparatus aware of the chain of command and conscious of the distribution of competences, not of personal loyalties and tribal power-sharing; I envision a foreign-policy course for Georgia where we will not simply declare our loyalty to our allies, but also act in the service of our national interests with a clear vision of "a role" in the region - rather than being seen as a reckless liability. Towards this "normal end", not for the first time in my life, I must make a stand.

On the journey

What my concrete role will be in this oppositional movement and envisaged transition I do not yet know. One thing is certain: as far as I am concerned, this will be an electoral encounter, not a revolution, a battle for Georgia and not against individuals, for the objective is putting democratic transition and national security back on track. After any such electoral victory, there must and will be no purging, no fantasies of building society from scratch or neo-Bolshevik social engineering.

For me normalisation stands for healthy continuity and necessary reform. It is about cherishing precious human resources, accumulated since Georgia’s independence in the early 1990s and specifically after the rose revolution; maintaining structures and projects with an infallible record; and having the opportunity to have a fresh look on what needs to be challenged and changed. But fear should not be a political factor, when change is definitely required. As I said, I am not "revolution material".

I know that this would be more than a tumultuous journey for me and my family and, moreover, not an entirely safe one, given the fact that public defamation or outright intimidation of dissidents are practices not entirely unknown to Georgia. But I still hope for the best, which is why I embark on this fascinating journey in the hope and confidence that Georgian citizens deserve a more stable and secure destination.

For those who share these hopes, I ask for your support. For those who have not been used to seeing me take up the role of a political activist, I ask for your understanding. Let me once again press this point: this decision has nothing to do with political ambitions and everything to do with my hopes for Georgia’s future.

About the author

Tedo Japaridze is a Georgian diplomat, born in Tbilisi. He worked at the Institute for the USA and Canada Studies of the Soviet Union's Academy of Sciences from 1974-89. He served as Georgia's deputy foreign minister in August 1991; deputy chair of the National Security Council from November 1992-June 1994; ambassador to the United States from July 1994-March 2002; and (after the "rose revolution") foreign minister from November 2003-March 2004. After leaving government service, he was secretary-general of the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and president of the US-Caucasus Institute in Tbilisi

 

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Tedo Japaridze is a Georgian diplomat, born in Tbilisi. He worked at the Institute for the USA and Canada Studies of the Soviet Union's Academy of Sciences from 1974-89. He served as Georgia's deputy foreign minister in August 1991; deputy chair of the National Security Council from November 1992-June 1994; ambassador to the United States from July 1994-March 2002; and (after the "rose revolution") foreign minister from November 2003-March 2004. After leaving government service, he was secretary-general of the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and president of the US-Caucasus Institute in Tbilisi

Also by Tedo Japaridze in openDemocracy:

"A Georgian chalk circle: open letter to the west" (12 May 2009)