International NY Times: “Saakashvili Prosecuted by His Own Past And Not Putin’s “Accomplice” Ivanishvili” – Usupashvili
16 October, 2014
According to him, debating whether or not Bidzina Ivanishvili has been consciously, methodically, and consistently pursuing Russia’s interests (“Russia’s patriot”) or striving to ensure Georgia’s return into Russia’s orbit (“Georgia’s mistaken patriot”), however, is immature and embarrassing.
“Therefore, I feel it is my duty to respond to this issue and remind those misled about a few facts. Ivanishvili: a Georgian nationalist - besides his unprecedented mammoth philanthropic activities, little was known about Ivanishvili’s views, values, and plans before the autumn of 2011. Over the past three years, however, every detail about his past and present have been part of the public domain, so any questions about Ivanishvili’s motivation when it comes to his homeland and people are easily answered. Let us call to mind some of the easily verifiable facts regarding Ivanishvili’s allegiances.
What does Georgia mean to Bidzina Ivanishvili? Georgia is first and foremost Ivanishvili’s homeland, where he was born and raised in a family of ordinary working people. Ivanishvili left Georgia at the age of twenty-nine to continue his academic activities. But, as soon as he became able to benefit his country, twenty-two years ago, Ivanishvili, a rookie businessman at that time, sent 400 tractors to support Georgia, which was devastated by the war. In the 1990s, when trials and tribulations befell Georgia, he saved many members of the Georgian intelligentsia from poverty and starvation and issued monthly assistance to hundreds of people. Over two decades, his charity foundation has financed the restoration and renovation of hundreds of churches and monasteries, monuments of culture, the construction and renovation of schools, universities, medical institutions, theaters, libraries, roads, bridges, and much more. He has been financing social projects for years, helping nursing homes and orphanages, as well as earthquake victims. All this took place when Georgia was trying to deliver itself from Russia’s orbit. Back then, not many Georgians knew his name, and few outside his family knew him personally”, Usupashvili said.
According to him, Bidzina Ivanishvili has to date spent over three billion USD on charity in Georgia, delivering already on this stated commitment to use at least 90 percent of his wealth for the building of the Georgian state. Ivanishvili’s dedication to Georgia and to the future of our country cannot be doubted, he adds.
“What does Russia mean to Bidzina Ivanishvili? Russia is a place where he worked on his academic paper, where he became a businessman, made most of his fortune. Ivanishvili left Russia after the end of President Yeltsin’s rule and never returned there over the last twelve years. He is remembered by Russian business circles of that time as an extraordinary character who would not put up with any dishonesty or unlawfulness. As for being “the main Gazprom shareholder”, the truth is that Ivanishvili bid farewell to his last Gazprom stock seven years ago, coincidentally, when he severed business ties with President Saakashvili also. His other assets in Russia were liquidated immediately after Ivanishvili entered active politics, prior to the 2012 parliamentary election. Russia belongs to Ivanishvili’s past.
What do Georgia’s freedom and European choice mean to Bidzina Ivanishvili? He supported Saakashvili and his team who, having come into power after the 2013 Rose Revolution, gave political priority to fighting corruption and ensuring the country’s democratic modernization and Euro-Atlantic integration. He provided unprecedented financial assistance to state agencies. With a view to strengthening anti-corruption activities and attracting professionals into public service, for two years he financed funds to pay salaries to ministers, senior government officials, judges, and other public servants, as the state at that time could afford to pay only symbolic salaries. Yet, no one has ever claimed that he tried to interfere in any way with political processes or decision-making in government. Moreover, to avoid unnecessary rumors and speculation, his name was kept out of the spotlight; it was widely believed that these salary funds were financed by the George Soros Foundation”, Usupashvili says.
At that time, According to Usupashvili, under Saakashvili’s presidency, Ivanishvili provided the Georgian armed forces with significant financial aid to draw closer to NATO standards. Between 2004 and 2008, it was he who financed the procurement of equipment and military uniforms for the Georgian army and the establishment of military bases meeting high standards and commended by our American partners. (Unfortunately, most of them were demolished during the 2008 war.)
As long as he believed that President Saakashvili and his team led the country toward the democratic West and fought the remnants of the Communist and colonial past, Ivanishvili even donated 90 million USD to public funds intended for the direct support of Saakashvili and his government. Four hundred schools were built, renovated and equipped with that money, so that Saakashvili and his team could take all the credit, which they did; Saakashvili prided himself on this project for a long time.
“In all, Ivanishvili spent hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Saakashvili and his team over four years, with the aim of expediting the country’s democratic modernization and Euro-Atlantic integration. (Out of curiosity, I would like to know how Saakashvili now explains this support in view of his current claims.)
However, after police forces reformed thanks to Ivanishvili’s efforts were used by Saakashvili against his own people on November 7, 2007, and Saakashvili turned to electoral fraud to remain in power in January 2008, Ivanishvili refused to maintain relations and severed ties with him. Then there was the August 2008 war, a case of premeditated Russian aggression and yet another imprudent gamble on the part of Georgia’s President”, Usupashvili says in his letter.