Georgia is Burning, and We Lit the Match
Russia is not interfering in the internal affairs of Georgia but it is increasingly concerned about possible provocations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said. "We are not interfering in the internal affairs of Georgia or telling Georgian politicians what they should be doing or when. These are not our methods," Lavrov told a briefing in Moscow on Friday.Mr. Lavrov's comment would offend the intelligence of a turnip.
Is this maniac, this card-carrying psychopath, really asking us to believe that if Russia were behind the protests in Georgia, if it were seeking to destabilize the pro-West regime of President Mikheil Saakashvili by any means possible, desperate to prevent Georgia's ascension into the ranks of NATO, then he would admit it?
Yes, that's just what he's doing. Remember when a certain shoeless Russian said he'd "bury" us?
That is the level of propaganda, subhuman to the Nth degree, that is now being spewed forth from neo-Soviet Russia. The country has become fully detached from any vague concept of reality. It has crushed all the outlets of truth (newspapers, TV stations, NGOs) which might have brought in a bit of that reality, just as in Soviet times. Now, as then, it is unable to realize how utterly ridiculous its pronouncements make it seem anyplace outside of Russia's borders.
Russia is engaged in a secret war in Georgia seeking to enslave the tiny country just as in Soviet times. Everybody knows Russia is governed by a proud KGB spy who spent his whole life learning how to lie, and whose word means absolutely nothing. After all, didn't Russia just unilaterally repudiate a major arms control treaty in Europe? As a letter to Robert Amsterdam states, referring to Russia's unilateral repudiation of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty:
The way it is done (the moratorium) is significant. Putin is dismantling the cold war settlement. The first was YUKOS. Emboldened by the lack of reaction, he proceeds cautiously with the moratorium. There are two elements to moratorium: it is unilateral and it is reversible, as Kosachev took pains to point out yesterday. The reversible part, I think, is not meant to mark the moratorium as a bargaining chip, (marking bargaining chip as a "bargaining chip" makes it loose much of its value), but as a precaution if Americans would decide to take the stand against the new revision of the cold war settlement. They will not, of course. Other things will follow soon - let us wait for the next spring. All this is a grand preparation for fulfillment of Putin's life mission - the ultimate reversal of the cold war results - restoration to Russia of most of the territories of the former Soviet Union.Yet, the Kremlin apparently believes we will forget all that is obvious and listen to its siren song once again, out of cowardice or stupidity.
No chance. The Bush administration is showing remarkable aplomb on this issue, despite leading the world astray on Russia for many years. Matt Bryza, assistant secretary of state for European affairs and the top U.S. official for the Caucasus responded to Lavrov's outrageous statement by saying clearly and simply: "The president of Georgia has shown remarkable leadership.We trust in Georgia, the people of Georgia, the leadership of Georgia."
After all, facts are facts: Not only did the Georgian parliament unanimously approve President Saakashvili's decision last week to declare a state of emergency following yet another attempt by Russia to foment undermine his government -- exactly as it did in Ukraine only months ago -- but immediately after making the decision Saakashvili announced elections would occur to find out what the people really want. It's clear that this is exactly the result Russia wanted when it caused the street protests that triggered the emergency; having achieve this, Russia will now use every means possible to rig the elections and drive Saakashvili from power. Even if Russian forces don't succeed, they'll still have created a enough instability to make it difficult for NATO to admit Georgia as a member, since NATO's constitution requires stability as a prerequisite.
Let's be clear: What we are seeing in Georgia today is not one little bit different from what we saw in Hungary and Czechoslovakia as the Iron Curtain descended across the continent after World War II. The only reason Russia doesn't use exactly the same kind of brute military force is that Russia isn't strong enough to do so. Nonetheless, Russia is doing everything it can to reassert imperial control over Georgia, Ukraine and even the Baltic nations (as we report today) -- all the parts of its former Soviet empire. And Russia's aggression doesn't stop there. It's waging a full-scale cold war against Great Britain, buzzing it with nuclear bombers and (as we also report today) deluging it with spies that make it harder for Britain to focus its resources on combating radical Islamic terror. In a very real sense, Vladimir Putin is acting in concert with Osama Bin Laden.
Russia is, of course, establishing a rather dangerous precedent, and perhaps there's a glimmer of hope in that. Suppose a few thousand protesters appear in Moscow this week, surround the Kremlin, hang Vladimir Putin in effigy, call him a terrorist and demand he step down. Does he now have to call elections at the protesters' whim, any time Garry Kasparov says so, in order to prove he's really what the people want?
We can just hear the Russophile bagmen screeching now: Putin would surely win those elections, there would be no point! Putin has no opposition!
Wrong, on both counts. It's absolutely clear that Saakashvili will win the snap elections he's called, everyone knows that. And the fact that Saakashvili has allowed an opposition to exist in Georgia is obviously proof that he's actually a democrat -- unlike the dictator Putin who has violently snuffed out every last vestige of true opposition politics in Russia. There's far more need for protesters to confront Putin than Saakashvili, and no thinking person can dispute that.
Oh, the Russophile vermin will wail, what about the economy, the economy! What about Putin's brilliant economy?
Yes, what about the economy. Georgia's gross domestic product grew by 9.6 percent in 2006 and officials forecast 2007 growth of 14.5 percent. The government has boosted tax revenues and private investment is up. Per capita income has risen from $700 a year in 2003 to $1,500 now. When this kind of growth occurs in Russia, for the Russophile rabble it's conclusive proof that the regime responsible must be left alone. But when it occurs in Georgia, suddenly it means nothing.
Georgia is posting better economic growth numbers than Russia is, and Georgia doesn't have massive oil revenues like Russia does. Its economic growth is much more real and therefore more impressive, because the accident of rising world oil prices isn't the primary cause. And let's not forget that Georgia is accomplishing this in face of massive Russian economic sanctions and other forms of destabilizing attacks. Russia faces no such obstacles.
There's no doubt that President Saakashvili could be doing more, and the West is right to hold him to a high standard of democratic fair play. He needs to protect his country against efforts to subvert its freedom, but he also has to win the propaganda war the Kremlin is waging. His country's future depends on it.
But it's equally true that the West has not done nearly enough to guarantee Georgia's sovereignty against Russian encroachments. Having failed to provide sufficient security to this small country besieged by a larger one, can we really be surprised if we see a bit of paranoid behavior? We lit the match that sparked the conflagration now burning in Georgia by failing to do enough to show Russia it wouldn't be allowed to get away with this behavior. Now, it's up to us to extinguish the flames and contain Russian aggression, just as we successfully did in the first cold war.
After all, even paranoids have enemies. The United States has presidential elections scheduled for November 2008. Let's just imagine that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran comes to visit the United Nations next week, and while he's here he uses some of his country's oil revenues to buy himself a few thousand protesters (he can get them off the rack at Moveon.org, cheaper by the dozen; a few members of Congress might even come along). Let's say they go down to Washington DC and camp outside the White House. They hang George Bush (let's say he's only on his first term) in effigy and call him a terrorist. They call for his impeachment, and they won't leave no matter what until Bush agrees to move up the November elections to January and stand for reelection right away. Should he do it? Should he prove to this cadre of wackos, lackeys of a foreign rogue regime, that the country really supports him?
Judge not, lest ye be judged.
If we allow Russia to swallow Georgia the way we allowed the USSR to swallow Czechoslovakia, we condemn ourselves to the same protracted struggle to free it once again. Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it. As Robert Amsterdam tirelessly points out, too many are ready to be bullied by the Kremlin's crude tactics.
And there's simply no reason for it. As a new report from the European Union indicates, the EU alone has a population 3.5 times larger than Russia, ten times the military spending and fifteen times the economic base (in other words, a huge amount of room to expand military spending even more). If you add America into this mix, you have a an entity that can quite simply brush Russia aside like so much lint. We have nothing to fear from Russia but fear itself, and that is what Russia is hoping to maximize, saying our hand until it can somehow improve its own enough to fight a real battle.
Now is the time to do act, before we bequeath to our children the same nightmare we lived through.
They won't forgive us if we do that.