Georgia On Moscow`s Mind—But Should It Be On NATO`s?
With the failure of the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is
being drawn back into Moscow`s orbit. Now, Georgia,
another former republic of the old Soviet Union, is
finding that ex-colonies of the empire pay a price for
becoming estranged from Mother Russia.
In 2003, Georgia underwent a
Rose Revolution that swept Eduard Shevardnadze from
power. But in the street demonstrations that raised up
Mikhail Saakashvili, Moscow saw the
fine hand of Bush`s "democracy project."
Since then, Moscow has seethed, as Saakashvili has
pulled his country steadily toward the EU and NATO.
In late September, Saakashvili went a bridge too far,
arresting four Russian officials as spies. President
Vladimir Putin denounced the arrests as an ”
of state terrorism with hostage-taking“, calling
them "a sign of the political legacy of Lavrenti
Pavlovich Beria." Beria, who headed the NKVD secret
Josef Stalin, had come out of Georgia, as did
To ease the crisis, Georgia released and expelled the
Russians. But that failed to satisfy Putin, who recalled
Russia`s ambassador, cut air and rail travel and postal
lines, ceased to issue visas to Tiblisi, imposed an
embargo, began to expel Georgians from Russia and
conducted naval maneuvers in the Black Sea off the coast
Since the 1990s, Moscow has supported secessionists
in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who wish to
break free of Georgia and rejoin Russia. Putin has
lately met with the leaders of both regions at the Black
Sea resort of Sochi. Moscow also maintains Russian
peacekeeping troops in both.
This confrontation is between unequals. Georgia, a
poor country of 5 million, is dependent on Russia not
only for the remittances of its sons and daughters who
work in Russia, but for the revenue from its exports of
wine and mineral water, and for gas and electricity.
Russians, resentful at perceived Georgian insolence
American meddling in their backyard, support Putin`s
cracking of the whip. But Putin may have unleashed a
strain of nationalism he could find difficult to
Says Nikolai Svanidze, a leading Russian TV
personality of Georgian heritage, "This anti-Georgian
campaign … has led to a wave of xenophobia, which is
very dangerous in a
multiethnic state ."[
pinched by Russia-Georgia crisis , By Fred Weir,
Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 2006]
Saakashvili appears wholly dependent upon the
restraint of Putin and Moscow. For Georgia`s friends in
the European Union and Washington seem impotent or
unwilling to take his side. The EU is held hostage by
its dependence on Russian oil and gas as winter impends.
Bush, beset with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and
collisions with Iran and North Korea, has shown no
desire to take a stand alongside Tiblisi against Moscow.
Many believe Putin`s endgame is the overthrow of
Saakashvili in a counter-revolution of the kind the
Russians believe was engineered in the West to bring him
to power. If that is Putin`s goal, there seems little
more that the United States could do to prevent it than
Russia could do to prevent
Bill Clinton`s ouster of the Haitian junta or Bush
of Manuel Noriega.
What this Tiblisi-Moscow confrontation does reveal,
however, is, first, the limits of U.S. power; second,
the folly of U.S. meddling in Russia`s "near abroad";
third, the insanity of any decision to bring Georgia
Were Georgia in NATO today, this crisis would have
escalated into a confrontation between Washington and
Moscow. For under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, an
attack against one member is to be treated as an attack
against all. Thus, a collision of Russian forces in
South Ossetia with Georgian forces could bring America
and Russia to the brink of war.
Russian leaders contend that Saakashvili has been
building up his military to invade and recapture the
breakaway regions, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
has implied that Saakashvili ignited the crisis after
visits to Washington and NATO headquarters.
No hard evidence has surfaced to substantiate this
charge. But if Saakashvili was put up to creating this
crisis by anyone in the United States, it was an act of
colossal stupidity. What do we do now?
There seems little we can do if Putin is determined
to bring down Saakashvili. Russia is flush with oil and
gas revenue and $250 billion in cash reserves; Moscow is
moving closer to China; and Putin is far more popular in
his country than Bush and Blair are in theirs.
Bush bought into the notion that U.S. vital interests
required supporting ex-Russian republics against Moscow,
which was absurd. Our vital interest was always in
maintaining strong U.S.-Russian ties, which have been
ravaged by the meddling of neoconservatives mired in
As for who rules Ukraine or Georgia, for two
centuries that was never a vital interest of ours. Thus
there is no reason to extend NATO war guarantees to
Ukraine, the Caucasus or Central Asia.
The destiny of that region will be determined by the
dominant powers that reside there: Russia, China,
Turkey, Iran. Not by us.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and
Conquest of America,
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