Guest Column on Georgia v. Russia

Georgia versus Russia: A Georgian Voice
By Gia Jandieri*
Unfortunately the Republic of Georgia has become a sticking point again.
In 1989 the murder of 21 peaceful protesters in the streets of Tbilisi
played a serious role for a political collapse of the Soviet Union. That
time the Soviet government was weakened and restricted by the
international press. After some resistance it surrendered and declined its
positions so far that in two years it collapsed. Then everybody was so
happy with the event that no one mentioned Russia’s new efforts to rebuild
the empire–Russia successfully and brutally implemented progressive
conflicts in the Caucasus and Moldova and increased aggression towards of
all ex-Soviet countries.
I personally participated in the movement for independence of Georgia
(joined it at the late stage in 1980s) and clearly remember the little
attention by the West to disastrous events unfolding in Georgia at that
time. The deal was that the Soviets and their western counterparts
admitted Baltic republics and the whole Eastern Europe to leave the Soviet
bloc but the destiny of other republics of SU was to stay under the
influence or even as a part of the empire.
We Georgians made a huge effort to convince everybody that this deal was
not right and fair. I must admit that most of the other nations in the
Soviet Union bloc then were less interested in independence than were the
Georgians but received it as granted by Russia. Georgia made a great job
to prove it deserved freedom. This fact was unsettling and uncomfortable
for many Russians. The nations aspiring to and demanding freedom from the
Soviet Union were understood by many Russians as enemies of the Russian
people. To punish these nations Russian KGB and military forces organized
several provocations and masterminded the conflicts, as well as directed
them. Conflicts in Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were
very good examples of the new ways Russia was using so as to pursue its
interests. They openly supported the separatist movements in the regions,
equipped and trained them enough to resist Georgia for a while and finally
used Russian military forces for implementing "peacekeeping".
There is no doubt that Georgian authorities made many mistakes back then
and we, [the] population of Georgia, suffered from these mistakes
ourselves in a drastic way. Unfortunately our mistakes and very strong
propaganda from the Russian authorities made us hardly trustworthy in the
eyes of Abkhaz and Ossetians. Later in time these frozen conflicts in
Georgia were certainly not in line of free market reforms Georgia was
implementing. Georgia is open to anybody to come and live and work without
restrictions and the freedoms of any person, with any ethnic origin or
nationality, is equally protected as that of ethnically Georgians.
The core of the problem regrettably lay not only in the propaganda and
skillful provocation activities of Russia, and not in the past mistakes of
Georgian side, but it was in the passive role of the West itself:
– who ignored all clear signals of revival of the Russian authoritarianism
and tyranny. I personally attended several meetings where Russian liberals
(libertarians) were trying to warn everybody about the increasing powers
of the Russian authorities and a[bout the] new threat developing as a
consequence. Unfortunately nobody took this into account seriously except
Georgians.
– who was ready to doze in the smell of oil and gas;
– who tried to close eyes on hundreds of provocations, shootings, bombings
of Georgian territory, economic blockade, cutting of energy supply and
many more aggressive actions from the side of Russian authorities.
– who ignored the fact that it was Georgian nation demanding NATO
membership not its government and this was due to feeling very unsafe and
vulnerable.
NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008 requested from Georgians to resolve
these frozen conflicts and in exchange promised open doors for it to join
the alliance. Regrettably this was understood by Russian authorities in
the opposite way–blow up conflicts or Georgia will join the NATO they
decided. The competition was open and as a consequence we now face a much
bigger problem.
Some defend Ossetians and Abkhazians in their separatist movement. I am
sure Russians can easily bribe them with their oil money as they used to
for them to forget about Beslan where they killed 300 children at school
or in Chechnia, where they killed tens of thousands of children
deliberately targeting schools and kindergartens. Irony is that Russians
will come (they are already there–all the authorities of the region
before the war were KGB people) and end up totally with their imagined
paradise.
Abkhaz can forget about us and the centuries we lived together without
violence and in friendship (before Russia) if they wish to, but their
problem of self-identification will remain. Unfortunately in the hands of
Russians they have almost lost their traditions and culture, speaking
mostly in Russian and educated in Russian. This "paradise" can be extended
by implementing a political system of apartheid; without this Abkhaz, who
remain in minority even after ethnic cleansing of Georgians, will not be
able to control the situation. They of course don’t consider allowing
Georgians to return and participate in referendums and elections, but the
reality is that, with refugees back or not, they know they would lose all
referendums and elections to separate from Georgia. So what they have been
doing instead? Selling houses of Georgian refugees to Russians is one of
the solutions.
The sad thing is that South Ossetians and Abkkhaz are very mistaken if
they think that Russia cares about them; what it care about is to have
Georgia and effectively the whole Caucasus under their control; they care
about Caspian oil and gas and how to control its flow to Europe. Who cares
about people and innocent children? Definitely Russia isn’t bothered about
individuals–Death solves all problems–no man, no problem.
The same way we tell Ossetians and Abkhaz, we can tell the world–don’t
believe in Russian propaganda, they will not be satisfied with just
Georgia, they will go much further. This is the time–we will either stop
them now or never!
And lastly–we are not trying to disturb the world as some regrettably see
Georgian actions but we are trying to survive the catastrophe and warn
others about it too. To think that Georgians need any conflict with Russia
is simply madness.
———-
*Tibor Machan has asked Gia Jandieri, a free market economist, the
vice-president of a think-tank New Economic School in Tbilisi, Georgia,
for this exclusive report, to be published where his columns appear.

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