A friend elsewhere (on Facebook) criticized my post yesterday about the Caucasus crisis.
He said, in part:
“with due respect, I’m a bit worried that even avowedly progressive people like you in America seem to hold rather one-sided view of the current South Ossetia crisis: without apparently/admittedly realising that a mirror-image history of our action over Kosovo is repeating itself!”
I don’t deny that my reaction to the crisis has been knee-jerk:
Russia, a nation with 142 million people on the world’s largest land mass, stomps Georgia (Pop. 4.6 million), one of the world’s smallest nation.
That was and still is my reaction to this crisis.
I should say that I do not have any romantic notions of the light of democracy being extinguished in Georgia. My progressive leanings does not blind me to the flawed character at the center of this drama.
Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili is a thug and a con man. He was at the head of a mob of drunken louts (I would not know this but he allegedly, clad in jeans and a leather jacket, held a single rose on his way to parliament that day–hence, the ‘rose revolution’) who used the excuse of a disputed election in November 2003 to storm the parliament and literally drive then president Eduard Shevardnadze out of office.
I don’t doubt that the United States, tired of Shevardnadze’s halting steps toward full alliance with the West, put Saakashvili up to that bit of political adventure.
My interlocutor’s Kosovo comparison is actually more than a bit flawed.
The ethnic Ossetians do not really have much of an argument with Georgia. What discord exists in the region is usually fomented by Russia and the puppet regime (made up of Russian officials and intelligence agents) it set up there in the early 1990’s after it invaded. There is no history of ethnic violence, no threat of Georgia, despite Vladimir Putin’s claim, ethnically cleansing the Ossetians.
It is a sort of pretend breakaway region in that it is Russia trying to gouge it out of Georgia. The region is an internationally recognized region of Georgia. But Russia sees it fit to cause mischief just to let Georgia know it is there.
As president, Saakasvhili has been extremely foolish, taunting Russia by making cooing noises at NATO, asking for membership and parading its military, equipped by the West and the U.S., provocatively. You should not be flirting with nations and institutions that one of the worlds major powers (and still very dangerous because it is wounded and has an inferiority complex) considers hostile to all its interests and aspirations when you share a long border with that power.
As I said yesterday, Brother Putin (Vlad the Impaler) don’t play that. He will squash you like a bug. I am actually surprised he did not just kill Saakasvhili and be done with it. That’s what he did with most enemies inside and outside Russia.
When Putin set up that recent provocation in South Ossetia, Saakashvili’s response was not wise, not at all, the opposite of what a statesman would do.
In fact, he responded like a drunk would when challenged to a bar fight. Not having the judgment that he was in no condition to fight, he waded in and, in the process, hurt his nation.
Saakashvili, if he’s not killed, will have no country left to run (Putin might even take his beautiful wife, Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs, for his own). Saakashvili will end up pumping gas out of “that lone gas pump in a desert” that his country, Georgia, is about to become.