Completing the Anaklia Port project is of strategic importance, the Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership Kurt Volker said in an exclusive interview with Georgia Today published on September 2.
Volker added that this port has tremendous potential as a project that will strategically reinforce Georgia’s independence as a growing economic power.
Secretary of State Pompeo issued a rather blunt warning against potential Chinese interest in Anaklia Port. what did he mean and why should we be wary?
"The Chinese come with cash and say they will invest, so it might prove tempting for some countries. However, China is not a democracy, it is an authoritarian government; it seeks to have a unilateral advantage economically in global trade. What they do is not about creating an open international trading order; they use preferential deals through state-owned companies to gain an advantage. It’s a real risk for countries like Georgia and accepting the funding might lead to losing a high degree of independence and potential for independent growth and prosperity."
You met with Bidzina Ivanishvili earlier this year. How much does his vision for the port coincide with the US vision?
"There are obviously issues around financing for the project - they say that the consortium has been unable to secure sufficient financing and they're asking too much from the government for a private project- so, conflicting narratives. I had various meetings in Georgia to learn more about it and said that for the country it is important that the project go forward. Instead of a standoff, and people arguing who's to blame, it should really be a shared interest of all Georgians that this project goes forward. Some form of public/private partnership with international investment is what's going to be needed to bring it to fruition and that's what I hope all the actors will be able to support."
The US Embassy voiced its concerns on the TBC case, bringing up the timing as a factor to be questioned, though the incident was said to have happened in 2008. Do you share these concerns?
"I haven't seen what the US Embassy said. I've spent a lot of time in the former Soviet space and you can always find people who did something and there's some level of corruption or misjudgment or whatever it might be, and people spend a lot of time looking back and going in for retribution, political retribution of some kind. Take what happened after 2012, I think Georgia lost about three years when it could have been advancing but instead was tied in knots because of the prosecution of people from the former government. What Georgia really needs to be doing is focusing on the future rather than going back into the past digging up old cases. Just to give you another example; everyone is making a lot out of the Rustavi 2 case, where ownership has passed from former owners to previous owners. But we shouldn't confuse the two issues: one is ownership and another is the concept of free media. These things do happen- it's in everyone's interest, including the government's, to make sure there is a diversity of views expressed in free and independent media because without that it's a detriment to Georgia's democracy and aspirations as a country."
Source - Georgia Today, full article - Kurt Volker on Anaklia Conundrum
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