Georgia frequently serves as a battleground in the fight between Russia and the West, with politicians generally seen as taking one side or the other. The current Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, is often portrayed by the Western media as a "puppet" of the government in Moscow as they back the current Georgian president, whose close associates were reportedly involved in shady dealings. Sources close to the current prime minister say that he is loyal to neither side, but rather follows the national interest of Georgia as pure patriot. It is easy to see why Ivanishvili could be accused of allegiance to the government that formerly ruled his country. Ivanishvili received his PhD in Moscow and built his personal fortune in partnership with Russian businessmen. Nonetheless, sources close to the Georgian prime minister say that his emphasis on ties with Russia stems from the Georgian national interest. In particular, due to their geographical proximity and former political relationship, Russia naturally plays an important role in Georgian economic development, especially as a source of foreign direct investment. The sources further emphasized that Georgia places great importance on its participation in NATO, and noted that seven of the country’s soldiers were killed recently in Afghanistan. They refuted allegations that Ivanishvili is arresting officials from the previous government in order to eliminate the opposition, but rather that he is seeking justice and fighting corruption that have long been ignored by the Western powers who are criticizing him. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia has been dominated by a Western-allied political leadership. However, democracy requires that those with differing political perspectives have their equal chance to become the country’s leaders. The fact that Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili understands the importance of Russia to the Georgian economy should not be taken as a sign that the country is moving in the wrong direction, on the opposite.