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Monday, November 19, 2007

Russia's Malignant Plans for Georgia

A letter to the editor of the Frederick News Post:

In an item in the World Section of the Nov. 8, issue of The Frederick News-Post we learn that the Republic of Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili has declared a state of emergency where six days of demonstrations have fueled a worsening crisis.

Saakashvili has blamed Russia for fomenting the unrest in the former Soviet Republic. His prime minister. Zurab Nogadeli, said in a televised statement that there had been an effort to overthrow the pro-western government.

We learn more details about the suppression of the demonstrations in a column in the World News Section of the Nov. 8, issue of The Washington Post by Tara Bakrampour, "Pro-Western Georgia Declares State of Emergency."

Georgia's relations with Russia have sunk to an all-time low in the past year. Russia has cut transportation links, deported Georgians, and banned certain imports. Georgia has deported Russian officials and accused Russian warplanes of flying over its territory and dropping a missile on its soil.

In my master's thesis, "The Rise and Fall of the Transcaucasian Republics, 1917-1921," published in 1955 and available in the Lauringer Library of Georgetown University, I document the moves of the Soviet Russian government to undermine the newly independent Republic of Georgia. Ultimately, on Feb. 16, 1921, the Soviet Eleventh Army invaded Georgia from Poili in the southwestern part of the country and the Soviet Thirteenth Army invaded Georgia from the east.

Despite a heroic defense by the cadets of the Tiflis military school, the Georgian troops were pushed back west and the Georgian government was evacuated from Batum on March 17, 1921. Georgia became a Soviet republic and the Cheka secret police came soon afterwards to institute a reign of terror. In consideration of President Putin's background as head of the KGB, we can predict what he has in mind for the leaders of the current Georgian republic.

Paul M. Carroll
Frederick, Maryland

Vladimir Socor, writing in the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor:

Georgia reckons with the possibility of Russian hostile operations between November 2007 and April 2008 in connection with four major political deadlines: First and second, Russia’s parliamentary and presidential elections (December and April), which might again be accompanied by some military operation of choice, as Moscow twice orchestrated at election times during the 1990s. Third, Kosovo’s elections and independence declaration (November-December) and its subsequent recognition by a number of Western countries, to which Russia might respond symmetrically or asymmetrically in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And, fourth, NATO’s Bucharest summit (April), ahead of which Moscow might stage some political or military operation to derail Georgia’s Membership Action Plan.

Georgian leaders refrained from disclosing these concerns until November 4-5, when President Mikheil Saakashvili briefly outlined those contingencies in his address to the nation (Georgian Public TV, Civil Georgia, November 4, 5). At that point, an unanticipated operation was in full swing, with billionaire businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili coordinating an opposition alliance of ten small parties (and two others cooperating with them) pushing for immediate regime change.

The campaign pursued openly anti-constitutional goals, but used peaceful tactics to be perceived as democracy in action. Whether Patarkatsishvili led this movement as his personal agenda or as Moscow’s conduit -- and, in the latter case, whether willingly or pressured -- is a matter of conjecture in Georgia at this point.

Patarkatsishvili had earned his fortune in Russia’s crime-ridden business of the 1990s as a close ally of Boris Berezovsky. Returning to Georgia in 2000-2001, he became the single most influential individual in the country during the nadir of Eduard Shevardnadze’s presidency. After 2003, the Rose Revolution leaders curbed Patarkatsishvili’s political influence while simultaneously refusing Russian requests to extradite him on criminal charges. Patarkatsishvili pursued his business unhindered and also founded Imedi Television, which became a powerful political tool. He moved into moderate opposition to the authorities by 2006, and then in late September-early October 2007 suddenly launched his bid to overturn the constitutional order.

On September 28 the opposition alliance started its regime-change campaign. On October 10 Patarkatsishvili announced his intention to lead that campaign. On October 17 he and the opposition alliance released convergent programs. Patarkatsishvili’s called for: Turning Georgia into a “federation” of ten provinces (other than Abkhazia and South Ossetia) with a bicameral parliament, maximizing provincial powers while reducing those of the central government to a minimum, abolishing the institution of the presidency, introducing a constitutional monarchy in the future, “balancing relations with different countries,” and seeking close relations with NATO and the European Union “but not at the expense of other [countries’] interests” (Messenger, October 19).

While the foreign policy planks hinted at a two-vector policy replacing Tbilisi’s Western orientation, the constitutional changes as proposed would have turned Georgia into a dysfunctional entity. Hardly an academic constitutional experimenter, Patarkatsishvili must have been fully aware of the consequences of his proposals in Georgia’s circumstances. On October 28 Patarkatsishvili announced that he would finance the opposition’s rallies; and on November 1, that he would also finance opposition parties as such.

Almost certainly, these announcements merely confirmed the financing that had already been in progress. The ten small parties in the opposition alliance were in no position to organize such actions on their own (see EDM, October 26, November 5, 6).

Six consecutive days of rallies in downtown Tbilisi saw the attendance decrease from 50,000 or more on November 2 to an average of 10,000 on November 3 through 6, and to less than 1,000 on the morning of November 7. Despite the numerical decrease, opposition leaders radicalized their rhetoric; and as a last resort moved to install a tent camp in the city center. That move helped precipitate the police intervention on November 7, with some instances of excessive and indiscriminate force being used in Tbilisi and a national state of emergency for 15 days.

Patarkatsishvili addressed the November 2 rally, left for Israel the next day, and issued a communiqué from London on November 7, vowing: “All my financial resources to the last penny shall be applied to freeing Georgia from this fascist regime.” The communiqué termed the Georgian government a “junta,” the head of state and his team “berserk,” the authorities in general as having “lost legitimacy,” and his own Imedi TV a “free voice of the people” (Interfax, Interpress, November 7). On November 9 Patarkatsishvili was charged in absentia with conspiracy to overthrow the government and was summoned to appear for questioning in Tbilisi.

The opposition alliance had used that inflammatory language all along. Well before November 2, and also during the five days of unimpeded rallies in Tbilisi, opposition leaders (most of them unelected to any office) termed the elected authorities “terrorists” and “criminals,” declared them illegitimate, called for a “Georgia without president,” and incited the public to overthrow of the constitutional system. The populace did not respond and the authorities tolerated this conduct until November 7.

The state of emergency is likely to be lifted before the expiry of the 15-day period. However, Patarkatsishvili’s operation has forced the holding of a pre-term presidential election, which is scheduled for January 5. Georgia may have to handle one or more of the four possible Russian operations against itself in the midst of a presidential election campaign. Thus, the absence of a viable opposition increases Georgia’s vulnerability both as a democracy and as a state.


Anonymous said...

Contrary to the article, Russia does not have to time an intervention in Georgia in one of four "windows of opportunity" between now and April 2008, as the author claims. Russia fully retains its freedom of action throughout the caucuses region independently of any calendar.

Of course Russia realizes that any action in Georgia would not be greeted favorably in the West and would likely result in some political price to pay for Russia, in terms of Russia's desire for closer relations with the West. But this is equally true in 2008, 2009 or beyond.

The main consideration provoke a decisive Russian reaction in Georgia would be a definitive move by Georgia (and the West) to move Georgia into the orbit of NATO.

If you doubt what I have just written, then remember that you heard it first right here, from me, Misha.

If Georgia was allowed to join NATO, or even to definitively partner with NATO, short of formal "membership", then as we have already seen, American military bases, radars, so-called "Iranian missile defenses" and other imminent military threats against Russia would soon follow in Georgia. Therefore Russia would be compelled to to act, to preempt such a threat, irrespective of any political consequences, as Russia's vital military security would be placed directly at stake.

Russia understands that if it must already pay some "political price" for any necessary military action action taken against the Georgian dictator, then of course contingency planning already raises the question of what else (in addition) it might be convenient for Russia to do at the same time, in Crimea, Ukraine, Central Asia, and other regions. If Russia is forced to move on Georgia, then the political price for Russia to pay from such defensive action is a fixed price, whether a Russian operation is taken against any one threat or multiple threats. it would make sense therefore for Russia to bundle all necessary operations taken on Russia's periphery together, as part of one larger national security operation, and simply have done with it! It is inevitable anyway. Why not now? When a tooth needs to be removed then we just need to yank it, not debate endlessly and equivocate over it. I know the analogy between Georgia and a diseased and decayed tooth is not perfect, so let me apologize to the diseased teeth.

I am sick of listing to the midget president of Georgia rant and rave against Russia while frothing and the mouth and sending his armed goons into the street to smash honest Georgians under their boots, who are raising legitimate political questions about his CIA-backed junta.

Of course the Georgian president has already given Russia the ideal pretext for Russian action, in his recent anti-democratic and dictatorial moves to silence the peaceful voices of his political opponents by brute force, by the boots of his face-masked security police, rubber bullets, dogs and water cannons. Saakashvili has also ransacked and violently closef down those organs of the media which he does not agree with and which refuse to spout his pro-CIA party line.

What further justification does Russia need to take action?

All this is still taking place (laughibly) as Mikheil Saakashvili's Western sponsors are still disparately trying to present Saakashvili as their new mini-me democrat in the region even when it is completely apparant that he has now become the West's little mini-me dictator.

But Saakashvili is not the only one in the region who knows how to play the game of brute force and how to smash one's opponent's head under ones own boots. Russia's was only taken off guard. Who knew that the West wanted to play a game of brute force and head smashing in Georgia? But we are the witnesses, as is the whole world! So battle should be joined on those terms.

Georgia will not be allowed to threaten Russia at an existential level any more than Cuba would be allowed to threaten the United States. If Georgia is perceived as a threat to Russia it will be dealt with swiftly, decisively, and irreversibly, irrespective of western protests.

The West can decide for itself if this is a game they wish to play, and if now is a convenient time for a sharp decline in Russian relations with the west, and the end of dialog and co-operation in half a dozen areas that are strategic for the west (such as nuclear non-proliferation and anti-terrorism).

The West has reached the end of its leash in terms of its freedom to threaten Russia in the post-Soviet space. As I said, when the Russian Bear decides to move, Georgia will be the first one to know about it and the West will only be the second ones to know.

Russia will not accept any further loss of its national security posture, vis a vis the West. The ball is in the court of the West. Let them do what they will. But let them also remember President Putin's warning: Russia is not Iraq and Russia is capable of defending itself and its interests, in Russia and abroad.

When the Russian Bear is finally ready to move against the mounting security threats poised against her, then watch it unfold before your very eyes and marvel at the vastness of the scope, strategic brilliance and sheer decisiveness of it. Again, you heard it first from me.

La Russophobe said...

What you do not seem to understand is that if Russia can sacrifice Georgian sovereignty then NATO can sacrifice Russian sovereignty. The fact that you think you can have your cake and eat it too is really quite sad.

If you think there will ever come a time when Russia can challenge NATO militarily, you are as pathetically deluded as the leaders of the USSR who destroyed their nation in that belief. Russia is hopelessly out-manned, out-gunned and out-monied and should be seeking a negotiated entry by Georgia to NATO in order to maximize its position. Any other policy is, quite simply, ego-maniacal and insane.

But thanks for confirming that you, like most Russians, support annexing Georgia as a slave state. Now, the mission of the West is clear.

Giustino said...

Isn't Russia being run by a midget dictator? And wouldn't Russian military activities near Europe threaten Europe's natural security space?

Some things to chew on. There are other countries in NATO other than the US, you know. Like Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Germany, for instance.

karLcx said...

Russia fully retains its freedom of action throughout the caucuses region[...]

this is why practically all of russia's neighbours hate russia with a passion. russia is an awful neighbour that can't be trusted, and has to be dragged by the hair out of every country it has ever tried to "help".

russia has no moral right whatsoever to act, enter or intervene in the affairs of other countries. no country has that right. if russia was any good at diplomacy, it wouldn't be surrounded by "enemies".

(and since i'm not american, redundant arguments raving about them instead to take up space won't matter).

Anonymous said...

"If you think there will ever come a time when Russia can challenge NATO militarily, you are as pathetically deluded as the leaders of the USSR who destroyed their nation in that belief."

The Russian Federation certainly poses a military challenge to Nato and to the USA itself, because Russia possesses sufficient strategic nuclear forces to remove the USA, EU and Nato from the face of the planet, all three of them at once.

You can argue that Russia would never want to do that, because it too would be destroyed in such a war. But that argument works in reverse too, and you would do well to remember that.

Which is the party that has more to lose from losing everything, Russia or Nato?

Russia will never surrender the sovereignty of the Motherland to a foreign enemy, even if something like a "suicide attack" is required to defend her. If you don't get that then you understand nothing at all about Russia.

The cosmopolitan-Bolsheviks may have been willing to surrender "land for peace" to the West, but Russia will never surrender one meter of the Motherland. Believe it.

Russian would rather die then live under slavery. if you are restless then go kill some Iraqis or something. But stay away from Russia. I warn you. Russia is not Iraq. Russia is able to defend itself and its interests. If you doubt that, then as the man says, "bring it on!" We have some surprises prepared for you.