The Telegraph reports that mighty Georgia has brought big bully Russia to its knees, proving that all that is required in dealing with Russia is a firm, resolute hand (as is the case with all bullies). HOORAY FOR GEORGIA! The world must take a lesson here and apply it to all aspects of its Russia policy.
RUSSIA BACKS DOWN IN SPAT WITH GEORGIA
Russia blinked first in its four-month spat with Georgia yesterday, agreeing to restore diplomatic relations with its neighbour.
In an embarrassing climbdown that will bring cheer to leaders across Europe, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian ambassador to return to Tbilisi.
The Kremlin's security council admitted that sanctions imposed against Georgia after a vitriolic diplomatic dispute last year were not working. Kremlin officials last night suggested that a land and air embargo imposed on Georgia could be lifted within the next few days, which would be welcomed by President Mikhail Saakashvili. The dispute was sparked by Georgia's arrest and expulsion of four Russian officers on spying charges last September. The row escalated to the point that relations between the two countries sank to their lowest since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Russia imposed a raft of sanctions, closed the border and deported more than 1,000 Georgians living there. The heavy-handed response was seen as an attempt to strangle Georgia's economy and depose Mr Saakashvili. The dispute was fuelled by Moscow's suspicions that the Georgian president was developing pro-Western leanings. Ever since he was swept to power by the 2003 Rose Revolution, Mr Saakashvili has tried to loosen the Kremlin's grip on his country, even applying for Nato membership. When Gazprom, Russia's state-owned energy giant, doubled gas prices at the beginning of the year, Georgia's economy showed a resilience that the Kremlin did not expect. "The impact on the Georgian economy was not nearly so drastic as those who designed this policy hoped it would be," said Georgia's deputy foreign minister, Valeri Chechelashvili. "The damage to the economy was only in the region of about $150 million [£76 million], while GDP still grew at over seven per cent."
Worse still for the Kremlin, Georgia increasingly began to show that its dependence on Russia was actually shrinking. Exporters found new markets, while the Georgian government looked to buy its gas from Azerbaijan and encouraged other countries in the region to band together against Russian bullying. Mr Saakashvili emerged stronger too as his people forgot about the wrangling and corruption allegations tarnishing his government and rallied around the president. Russia's surprise retreat comes as Mr Putin prepares to host Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, over the weekend. Mrs Merkel, who was furious when a Russian spat over energy prices with Belarus earlier this month briefly cut off oil supplies to Germany, could find her counterpart in a surprisingly emollient mood. Egged on by hard-liners in his administration, Mr Putin has used energy as a political weapon to subdue recalcitrant ex-Soviet neighbours, like Ukraine, for pursuing a pro-Western course, and Belarus, for standing in the way of Gazprom's determination to control pipelines bound for Europe. But Russia's assertiveness is now beginning to look like a foreign policy debacle by alienating former allies and prompting Europe to begin looking for alternative sources of energy to reduce its dependency on Moscow.
But did Russia learn anything from the experience? Not yet. As RIA Novosti reported, it issued a "warning" to little Estonia that it better not dare to touch any Soviet memorials in the country, which Estonians view as symbols of their rape and torture at the hands of Soviet imperialist occupiers:
Moscow has issued its first official warning to Estonia amid an escalating row over the possible demolition of Soviet war memorials in the ex-Soviet Baltic state. Estonia's parliament adopted a law last week paving the way for the dismantling of Soviet-era war memorials and the reburial of the remains of Soviet soldiers who died fighting German invaders during the Second World War, but who are seen by many Estonians as former occupiers. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Estonia's ambassador to Russia, Marina Kaljurand, who was told that in spite of protests from Moscow, Estonia was continuing attempts to form a legal basis for disinterring Soviet soldiers and destructing monuments, and that such moves could harm bilateral relations. "The implementation of these plans is fraught with serious consequences for Russian-Estonian relations," the ministry said in a statement. The controversial bill, which was passed in its first reading in November 2006, resulted from a dispute over a Monument to a Soviet Liberator in central Tallinn, which authorities want removed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Soviet war memorials in Estonia should remain where they are. "We must insist that the monuments remain in place," he said, adding that the move was a disgrace, and had nothing to do with preserving historical accuracy. "The task is to prevent a repetition of the lessons of World War II," he said. "We hope common sense will prevail and an understanding will be reached in order to avert the desecration of monuments to liberators." The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, is considering a draft resolution on severing contacts with the political forces that initiated and passed the law. The Russian leadership has repeatedly called the European Union's attention to attempts by Estonia, which declared its independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and joined NATO and the EU in 2004, to glorify Nazi Germany, including with parades by former Nazi SS fighters. Moscow has also harshly criticized Estonia's discriminatory policies with respect to ethnic Russians who moved to the republic following its annexation by the Soviet Union in 1940 and their descendents. Many members of Estonia's Russian community are denied citizenship and employment rights, and cannot receive an education in their native language. Amnesty International has condemned the situation in the Baltic country, and called on its leadership to respect the rights of ethnic Russians.This is the hallmark of Russian society: No matter how many times you make a stupid mistake, no matter how much you suffer or humliate yourself as a result, the thing to do is just keep making it.