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Key Economic Data
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 3,937 3,324 3,100 126
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 830 650 590 145
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 332 - (29/08/08)

Whither, or rather wither, Georgia?
Everybody always blames someone else for their plight, never themselves. If Georgia is now in a frightful fix, it is Russia's fault in Georgian eyes. It is now likely to be considerably shrunk, or as the cliché goes, downsized. 

In a sense it is true that it is all Russia's fault. Georgia never wanted this giant neighbour on its back. Who would? But you have to live somewhere. 

Georgia is in fact an excellent place. It is the prize possession of the Caucasus, betwixt two splendid seas, those of the Caspian and the Black, astride the integument between Russia and the Moslem world of the Middle East, and, with its adjoining seas, almost as full of oil.

The long roll call of former communist leaders demonstrates that the Russian elite, with their summer villas in Abkhazia and the Georgian Black Sea coast, have always preferred it to their own territory. Who would not? 

Nevertheless, the President has invited inhabitants of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway provinces, to become Russian. They would almost certainly agree in an overwhelming majority, if it were put to the vote. Russia is about the richest of the post-Soviet states, Georgia about the poorest.

A poisoned chalice 
This is not the viewpoint from Tbilisi, however. The aggressor was Russia.

“Blame for the South Ossetian crisis rests squarely with Russia,” said Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president, accusing the Russians of having deployed tanks into the disputed region before Georgian forces attacked earlier on August 7th. "The first thing that happened was that the Russian tanks came in," Mr Saakashvili told the Financial Times during a late night interview in his office. He added: "From our point of view the Georgian military was responding to a Russian invasion."

On the night of August 7, when Georgian forces began their rocket and artillery barrage of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, Brigadier General Mamuka Kurashvili, the chief of Georgian peacekeepers in South Ossetia, went on Georgian television to say Georgia's "power-wielding bodies" had "decided to restore constitutional order" in the breakaway region.

Mr Saakashvili, however, denies ever using those words. He said his forces moved to slow a Russian advance into Georgia in order to "confront them for three days and to wake up the world". General Kurashvili also did not me ntion Russian armour.

The dispute is about more than words. Many leaders, including those who strongly back Georgia in its fight with Russia, accuse Mr Saakashvili of having responded to the shelling of Georgian villages by South Ossetian separatists by undertaking a risky attempt to seize control of the region. That led to Russia's well-planned counter-attack and the invasion of Georgia.

In Mr Saakashvili's version, he is blameless for the resulting crisis that has destroyed much of the Georgian military, seen the Russians damage bridges, roads and other infrastructure inside Georgia proper, shaken investor confidence, and left Russia in even firmer control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia's other separatist enclave.

"We didn't expect this kind of escalation and invasion," said Mr Saakashvili, who has taken to going to sleep at 6am as he deals with the crisis. Once the Russians moved, it was impossible for the Georgians to stop them, he said. "No European country, including the big ones, would have been able to confront that number of Russian tanks in such a small theatre, and the entire Russian air force," he said.

The Russians have since pulled most of their troops out of Georgia, but a dispute remains over whether they are allowed to remain in a buffer zone abutting Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Mr Saakashvili says they are not. He put the blame on the "vague" ceasefire agreement, negotiated as Russian troops approached Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

Now that the fighting is finished Mr Saakashvili is trying to clean up the political and economic mess left behind.

Politically, he said he had no intention of leaving his post, as the Russians have demanded. For now opposition leaders in Georgia have rallied to him, but have vowed to examine recent events closely once the situation calms down.

"In terms of trying to remove me, the Russians have grossly miscalculated. If you attack a democratic country and say that your main target is the president, it doesn't make the president weaker," said Mr Saakashvili.

Economically, the president's main goal is to rebuild infrastructure, something he said would take only a few months, and to reassure investors. He estimated that Georgia's economy had suffered about $2bn (€1.4bn, £1.1bn) in damage.

"We need cash but in the long run we need some kind of insurance for the companies coming here," he said, suggesting that the US and the EU combine to create a fund that would compensate investors in the event of another Russian attack.

"We were the fastest growing non-oil economy in the world," he said. "The last thing Georgia needed was this kind of military confrontation."

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