Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Five Years After the Five-Day War, Everyone’s Learned Their Lessons

01g South Ossetia 2010


Russia and Georgia’s clash over South Ossetia happened five years ago, but today it feels like an age away. Much has changed since then in Georgia and Russia, as well in all the countries that were indirectly involved in the conflict. Georgia was the first post-Soviet republic to engage in a direct military clash with Russia, certainly an extraordinary event. Georgia changed politically since then, with a new government coming to power last fall. The five-day war didn’t topple Mikhail Saakashvili, as many in Moscow hoped it would, but it did seriously mar his moral and political image. Little by little, Saakashvili’s government abandoned its pro-reform policy and turned into a repressive régime that wanted only one thing… to remain in power at all costs. When a strong political rival appeared three years later, it turned out that Saakashvili’s chair was much shakier than many thought.

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream, which won the parliamentary elections last fall, promised to examine the causes of the military conflict and the role of Tbilisi in it. Some members of the current Georgian government said that the government made gross mistakes, but Georgia is unlikely to do a U-turn on its attitude toward the war. The war did major damage, and if a leading politician tried too abruptly to change the idea that Georgia was a victim in the events, the political consequences might be unpredictable. It’s unclear whether anyone should do this at all, although such a positive change would be of truly revolutionary importance for relations with Russia and a breakthrough in relations.

The new Georgian authorities are grappling with many problems. However, most predictions agree that the Georgian Dream will easily win the presidential election in October and that Saakashvili’s United National Movement is losing weight. Firstly, Georgia still heavily depends on the West, which sees Georgian Dream’s attempts to restore political order as a persecution campaign, even if there may be very serious reasons behind it. Therefore, the government should move slowly and act prudently. Secondly, people heaved a sigh of relief when the previous government’s pressure eased, but they soon became aware of drawbacks in the new democratic rule. Georgians are heatedly discussing their problems, and political life is in full swing, but there are few practical results so far. Furthermore, with the United National Movement discredited and no other serious political forces in the country, the government is in a dangerous position, with no opposition to keep it in check. Life without opposition corrupts, as we know from history. Nonetheless, it looks like Georgia learned its lesson and is unlikely to act opportunistically again.

The West took a warning from the Georgian example. The August 2008 war put an end to the idea of NATO’s eastward expansion, which the West hasn’t discussed since, at least not in practical terms. Only a major change in American policy would bring this issue back in focus. However, so far, events have gone in the opposite direction. NATO’s extensive development, which masked the lack of a strategy in the 2000s, gave way to attempts to adapt the bloc to the more practical tasks at hand. These tasks have very little connection with the Caucasus, and the bloc is no longer enthusiastic about the post-Soviet space as a whole.

The five years after the South Ossetian war were a time of quest for Russia. Many saw the defeat of Georgia as a major landmark and a psychological resurgence after more than 20 years of geopolitical retreat. At the same time, it became clear that Russia wouldn’t pursue an expansionist policy to regain the losses it sustained after the dissolution of the USSR, which the West and some neighbouring countries feared would be the case. Moscow is gradually abandoning the post-imperial mentality rooted in the Soviet collapse and related feelings in favour of a new vision of itself and its interests in the neighbouring countries. The Customs Union idea proposed several months after the war was a major improvement on all previous plans. It focuses on economic expediency and the logic of mutually beneficial integration rather than reunion for the sake of reunion.

Russia’s most controversial postwar move was the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the five years since, Russia hasn’t convinced any major country to do the same, and it’s unlikely to succeed any time soon. Moscow had to make the decision because the situation was rocky and they needed to stabilise the state of affairs. Nevertheless, it hasn’t resolved the problem. It only put the political and diplomatic conflict on ice, and it’s a fact that what’s frozen sometimes melts. A final settlement will come only when we find a solution that suits all sides, which means that aggravation is still possible, even though the status quo is stable and no one wants an escalation.

One can describe the South Ossetian war, which is deeply rooted in the dissolution of the USSR, as the closing page in a long chapter. The global financial crisis, which broke out a month later, put into question the results of an era that began in the 1990s and was a time of triumph for the West and its market ideology. It also engendered processes that have made things even more problematic. The Arab Spring, which began two-and-a-half years after the South Ossetian war, further complicated matters. There’ll be many more such events before a new world order emerges from the chaos. Russia paid a high price for being a lead actor in 20th-century history. It had its share of shocks and would rather be a spectator from now on, unless a new play develops in direct proximity to its borders.

01 Fyodor Lukyanov RIA-Novosti8 August 2013

Fyodor Lukyanov



Editor’s Note:

The above is far different from the narrative that’s still bruited in neocon and interventionist circles. They claim that Georgia was the totally-innocent victim of Russian neo-imperial aggression. Such wasn’t so… indeed, they’re the most disgusting apologists for AMERICAN neo-imperialism. Since 1991, American neocons and interventionists have been drunk on their ”victory” in the Cold War. Factually, the Cold War ended in 1987, after the Reykjavik Summit, not the 1991 implosion of the USSR, which was something else altogether (and had nothing to do with Socialist vs Market ideologies, in any case). America has run riot… showing all concerned that the leading elements of the USA are greedy, self-centred, and violent; they’re incompetent, uncivilised, uncultured, and indecent, not fit for the role of a “world leader”. That’s true of both the Right and Centre in American politics (there’s no Left in the USA… the last Leftists were FDR and Henry Wallace).

We see the moral bankruptcy of the trend in the USA (and the West, in general) that’s been regnant since the time of Slobberin’ Ronnie. “Might makes right” has run rampant in the USA… “Greed is Good”, “The race goes to the swiftest”, and “You earned it” sum up its evil credo. It’s Social Darwinism (actually, a misnomer, as it owes everything to Spencer, not Darwin) writ large. America’s become a McMansion… glitzy on the outside, cheap softwood plyboard inside (with the termites busy at work). It’s time to put things right… but shall we? That’s up to YOU…

If we don’t, the consequences will be dire… I’m not advocating chaos and bloodshed, I’m predicting that it could happen if we don’t scrap our present neoliberal Rightwing arrangements… that’s two very different things…


Sunday, 23 September 2012

Peaceful Protests Against Lawlessness in Georgia


A week of mass protests in Georgia brought dismissals of ministers and detentions of protesters. Tension in large cities is growing worse ahead of the parliamentary elections. Originally, the protests were against torture of prisoners. Now, people demand more than just punishment for those responsible. Both Georgian politicians and independent experts agree that the prison scandal is bound to affect the upcoming election.

Mass protests in defence of prisoners’ rights have continued in Georgia since 18 September. People went into the streets after TV showed a video of tortures and rapes in a Tbilisi prison. After this shocking material was broadcast, several high-ranking officials lost their posts, among them Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze. Late at night on Thursday, Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia got the sack. Ex-prisoner Gigla Tskhvaradze said, “The protestors demanded this because the unlawful actions in prisons occurred with the Akhalaia’s connivance. I have enough prison experience to know what kind of people work in them. They aren’t human and they don’t treat prisoners humanely. Their higher-ups tacitly support this situation”.

This isn’t merely a sadistic attitude to prisoners. Georgian public figures said in VOR interviews that most of the torture victims are principled opponents of Saakashvili’s régime. Nikolai Khomeriki, President of the Foundation for the Unity of Russians and Georgians, said, “This is one of the methods that the authorities use in struggling against dissent in Georgia. Bacho Akhalaia and his brother are Mikhail Saakashvili’s henchmen. They’ve always kept the Georgian people’s nerves on edge. They employ illegal armed gangs that beat people during mass protests. Undoubtedly, Akhalaia’s one of the filthiest people in Georgia. Ahead of the elections, Saakashvili specially appointed him Interior Minister, and his brother Deputy Defence Minister, to intimidate Georgians, to spread terror all over the country. If anyone dared say a word, they’d punish them. Certainly, all this was done with Saakashvili’s knowledge and consent”.

In addition to resignations, the authorities took an unexpected step. Former ombudsman Georgi Tugushi became the new Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance. The President also instructed Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili to reform the penitentiary system. However, people are sceptical about these moves. They don’t believe that the government will identify and punish all those responsible for the outrages either. It’s true that the government arrested some ten prison employees, but new protests on Friday broke out because the only penalty that Bacho Akhalaia faced was dismissal. The authorities seem to have recovered after their initial shock; they’re talking more about who needed this scandal, rather than about the facts of the crimes. Saakashvili talks about a war of compromising evidence ahead of the election. The Prokuratura and other Georgian judicial bodies said that the scandal is a provocation of the opposition.

The opposition, in turn, is taking an active part in public protests. It’s about a week before parliamentary elections in Georgia, and many people are using the meetings for making political declarations, amongst them Aleksandr Shalamberidze, one of the leaders of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats Party, who said, “What’s happening in the prisons and in the country in general can’t be tolerated. We need another government, and that’ll happen as a result of the 1 October parliamentary elections”. Meanwhile, the protests in Georgia haven’t grown more violent. People participating in the protests, as well as politicians and public figures, are vocal in their desire not to yield to provocations. They believe that if their protests are to result in régime change, this should happen peacefully, for the first time in Georgian history.

Soso Shatberashvili, a leader of the opposition Georgian Labour Party, told VOR, “The authorities could decide to stir up tensions intentionally; if things get worse, Saakashvili would impose a state of emergency, and, probably, would open fire on the people. We’ve already experienced this. He now dreams about postponing the elections”.

Experts agree that Saakashvili’s image has been damaged. It’s worth mentioning that a scandal broke out inside his favoured Interior Ministry after it’d undergone the reforms that Saakashvili was so proud of. For a long time, the Georgian police had a stellar reputation. This image was so strong that Brussels repeatedly ignored tortures reported by opposition sources. Only after evidence mounted up did the EU and the OSCE officially condemn the practise. Feliks Stanevsky, former Russian Ambassador to Georgia, and deputy head of the Department for the Caucasus at the Institute of CIS Studies, believes, “We shouldn’t expect any further steps from the West. I think that the Western leaders are being too lenient with Saakashvili. Even pro-Western opposition forces repeatedly warned the USA and Europe against offering so much support to the Saakashvili regime, but it’s in vain. The USA adheres to its pro-Saakashvili line despite the latter’s taste for dictatorial manners”.

Nobody dares to predict how events will unfold next week. On Friday, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia Ghudushauri-Shiolashviliof all Georgia addressed the nation, calling on the people to avoid riots. He condemned torture in prison and asked people to “peacefully wait for the elections”. Some hours later, more arrests took place, with some people reported injured during clashes in Tbilisi overnight.

22 September 2012

Polina Chernitsa

Aleksandra Dibizheva

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

Did you read or hear ANYTHING in the Western media about the violence in Georgia, or about Saakashvili’s brutal actions towards his own people? You didn’t, did you? That’s because pseudo-journalistic lickspittles such as Serge Schmemann and Sophia Kishkovsky only write the pabulum that their corporate paymasters want them to… after all, they can’t put their good jobs on the line for such a chimerical thing as the truth, can they?

You can’t be informed if your only source is the New York Times or Fox News… they’re two sides of the same coin. Right-face or left-face, they’re all shills for the current system… there’s not not even one with decency or integrity left, not one in the lot of them. They’re not going to put their well-paid situations on the line for the sake of the truth… why? No one else does, these days… at least, that’s how they rationalise their cowardice and cupidity to themselves. They turn their heads as the torturers from Langley ply their trade in foreign parts and train willing hands from other countries to do so, as well. Who wants to upset one’s gravy train over that? They’re just wogs…

Pass the jug… we all need it again…


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