Alexei Pankin, writing in the Moscow Times:
It is difficult to imagine a greater joy than visiting Georgia.
Amazingly, the blood spilled in the Russia-Georgia war three years ago has not cooled the warm feelings that Georgians feel toward Russians, and that is the result of several centuries of living together in one nation. And because few Russians now visit the country — made worse by the fact that there are only three overpriced flights per week between Moscow and Tbilisi — those who do come are treated to an outpouring of the great love that Georgians feel for all Russians.
Russia in the WTO? Just say NO!
Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) was another of Yeltsin’s ideas – and with much the same purpose. If implemented, that idea would make Russia dependent on imports of foodstuffs and just about everything else the exporting countries would like to sell against their Russian rivals, after the latter were to give up their competitive price advantages, such as cheap energy, cheap land, cheap transportation, cheap fertilizer, etc. So, if Russia were a democracy, the WTO terms of accession for Russia – now 18 years in the negotiation – wouldn’t have a chance of acceptance.
We are not shy about saying that we want to see Vladimir Putin’s police state in Russia utterly destroyed. Nor do we disagree with the brilliant John Helmer’s analysis, quoted above, which concludes that admission to the WTO would be extremely harmful, if not a fatal toxin, to the Putin regime. But we still vehemently oppose Russian admission.
Putin Knifes the Infant RuNet
If we were talking international basketball scores, those would be good numbers for Russia. But we’re not. We’re talking Internet freedom, as analyzed by Freedom House. The higher the score, the less the freedom.
FH reviewed Internet access among a group of 37 countries around the world, and found that Georgia ranks #12 in the group, in the top third and right behind South Korea, while Russia ranks #22, right behind Rwanda and well into the bottom half of all countries surveyed. In the group of nations designated by FH as “partly free” only four have lower scores than Russia (including Egypt at 54 and Pakistan at 55). The USA’s score is 13, surpassed in the group only by Estonia.
Twice as many Russian bloggers were arrested in the most recent survey period compared to the last one. Russia’s rank fell three places since the prior survey, and its score got much worse, from 49 in 2009 to 52 in 2011.
If course, it may not matter much how free or unfree Russia’s Internet is, because according to FH two-thirds of the Russian population has no Internet access at all.
Posted in editorial, georgia, internet, neo-soviet crackdown, russia
Tagged freedom house, georgia, Internet in Russia, Mikheil Saakashvili, russia, vladimir frolov, vladimir putin
Blood on the Olympic Snows of Sochi?
Last week in the city of Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia and just 250 short miles from Sochi where the 2014 Winter Olympics are to be held, a bomb exploded in a marketplace, injuring at least 173 people. Seventeen people, and the suicide bomber who triggered the blast, were killed. Rioting followed, and even more were killed.
If it can happen in Vladikavkaz, it can happen in Sochi. If it does, world leaders who send their athletes to the Russian games will have blood on their hands.
Paul Goble reports:
Two years after Moscow recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a step the Russian people overwhelmingly backed as a signal that their country could stand up to Georgia and the West, the failure of many other countries to recognize these republics and the high cost of supporting the two new states have combined to reduce public backing for them.
In an article posted online, Mikhail Smilyan says that polls show “ever fewer [Russians] remain support recognition of South Ossetia” and that they are less prepared to continue to provide assistance to that republic.
Drawing on poll results collected by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), Smilyan notes that fewer Russians are paying attention to the political aspects of Moscow’s decision and more to the actual costs of supporting these republics.
Russian Failure in Georgia
“The invasion proved the limits of Russian power. They couldn’t take over our country or remove our government. And . . . [t]hey’ve failed to drag us into their sphere of influence. Yes, they’ve occupied strategic terrain and purged our citizens but, soon, it’s the very people the Russians supposedly saved who will feel occupied by them. Many already do. Russian subsidies don’t reach the general population any more than they do in Russia.”
–Georgian cabinet minister Temuri Iakobashvili, to the Wall Street Journal, on the Russian invasion of his country
Georgia is coming back stronger and better than ever following Russia’s wanton invasion against it. Russia failed to achieve regime change, failed to obtain international recognition, and was condemned for egregious violations of international law by both the European Union and the United Nations. World leaders rushed to the side of besieged Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili, snubbing Russia openly, and only weeks ago the U.S. Secretary of State referred openly to Russian “occupation” of South Ossetia (an artificial state created by Stalin) and Abkhazia (a state that received absolutely no hint of Georgian fire before it was brazenly invaded by Russian forces). Even more recently, a report on terrorism praised Georgia and infuriated the Russians. Russia is reminded of its total diplomatic failure in Georgia, in other words, on a daily basis. And the heinous Russian aggression has even driven a wedge between Russia and its Slavic little brother, Belarus.
And that’s only the beginning of Russia’s troubles in the region.
Clinton and Saakashvili in Tbilisi last week
Clinton and Saakashvili
Russians were appalled and terrified last week to see U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Tbilisi drinking a toast with the Kremlin’s public enemy #1, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
They denied it, of course. Just the same way that, a few days earlier, they had denied the spies arrested in the United States were Russian. Soon, however, they were forced to admit their denials were pathetic lies, and that the spies were in fact Russian citizens. Soon, they were bartering for the release of those spies they said did not exist.
We can imagine the thoughts racing through the rodent-like “minds” of the KGB spies who rule the Kremlin, the same spies whose pathetic plans were exposed in the United States, when viewing the photograph at the head of this column.
Yanukovich to Putin — Drop Dead!
“I have never recognized Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Kosovo as independent states. This is a violation of international laws and norms. According to international law, any violation of the territorial integrity of any state is forbidden.”
If you think that was the President of Georgia talking, or some other ardent Russophobe, think again. It was Russia’s so-called “friend” in Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich.
Oops! Just when the Russophile hoards were sure they had won a major victory in Ukraine with Yanukovich’s elevation, he bursts their bubble with a highly sharpened pin.
And let’s be perfectly clear: The President of Ukraine has called the Prime Minister of Russia an international criminal. His words might just as well have been spoken by Mikheil Saakashvili!
If even so-called “Russophile” Yanukovich has such a negative attitude towards Russian aggression against Georgia, then surely no more final condemnation of Putin’s barbaric policies could be imagined.
Saakashvili, Supremely Triumphant
Cheers, Mr. President!
In elections across the nation of Georgia last month, President Mikheil Saakashvili swept to blinding, awe-inspiring victory.
Voters from one corner of the nation to the other spoke with one voice and repudiated Russian aggression and imperialist efforts to bring Georgia back with in Russian domination in a massive landslide.
“No,” the people of Georgia boldly declared: ”We will be free!”
An Abomination in Russia
Nearly one half of all Georigan soldiers who fought to defend Russia from the Nazi hoards in World War II were killed. 700,000 valiant heroes from the tiny country answered the call to arms, and 300,000 of them perished.
But that was not good enough for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The vile, nasty, childish, cowardly, repugnant little “man” refused to allow Georgian soldiers to march through Red Square in celebration of the 65th anniversary of their victory in that great war.
Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times (if you read Russian, there is a longer version of this article posted on Yezhedevny Zhurnal):
It may seem strange that I am writing about the 2009 report by the European Union fact-finding commission on the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war since it was published a year ago.
But the report is still very important today — in some sense, even more important than the war itself. The report, which was lead by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, is a blatant appeasement to Russia — a new Munich Agreement of sorts.
If you build policy and the economy on lies and self-deception, if you sincerely believe that you are the defender of freedom but out of fear and indifference you appease a dictatorship, and if you sincerely believe that you have a market economy despite having long ago sunk into debt and micromanaging the economy, the eventual consequences will be catastrophic.
To be honest, I was shocked by the report. My first thoughts after reading it were: “Europe has gone into retirement” and “Europe is no more.” Now one year later, Europe is falling apart.
Frontpagemag reports (hat tip: reader “Robert”):
The Chechen Islamist Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for the March 29 subway bombings in Moscow that killed at least 40 people. Putin and the Russian government have vowed to hunt down those responsible for the attacks. The target of the beating of the war drums isn’t only Chechen Islamists, though. For months, Russian officials have been blaming Georgia for terrorist violence on their soil, setting the stage to remove the Saakashvili government and control Georgia.
In 2008, Russia went to war with Georgia under the pretext of protecting the Russian minority in the country from the aggressive Georgian military. The Russian forces took control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia using this excuse, and the two republics have since declared “independence” while remaining under Russian control. Since then, Russia has continually expressed opposition to the government of Mikheil Saakashvili and his removal is a clear goal.
Georgia gives Russia a Pounding
Last weekend, the national rugby team of Georgia gave its Russian counterparts a brutal thrashing and claimed the European Nations Championship. Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili decorated the Georgian squad as national heroes.
We’re hard-pressed to decide which reminder triggered by the Georgian triumph was the more ghastly and humiliating for Russia, that of its shocking recent collapse at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, or that of its even more bitter failure to oust Saakashvili from power two years earlier, when world leaders stunned the Kremlin by rushing to Georgia’s side and universally refusing to recognize its annexation of Georgian territory.
But we find it even more perplexing to try to discern how the sheep-like denizens of Russia can ignore so blithely all this rancid public failure by their government.
The Independent reports (click the “cuisine” category in our sidebar to read more about Russian food and drink, if so it can be called):
At the newly opened Café Khachapuri, just off Pushkin Square right in the heart of Moscow, young Muscovites tuck into plates of coriander-infused chakhokhbili chicken stew, spicy lobio beans and the eponymous khachapuri – gooey cheesy bread.
None of these exotic Georgian dishes tastes like the bland indigenous Russian food, and nor do their consonant-heavy names roll off the Slavic tongue easily. But everyone knows exactly what they’re ordering. Georgian food, perhaps the tastiest and most exciting of cuisines in all the former Soviet countries, has long been popular in Russia, and as new restaurants spring up across the capital, its popularity is going from strength to strength.
A New Low for Russia
It’s simply stunning the depths to which the failed state that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia is prepared to sink these days. Just as in Soviet times, it’s as if Russia has totally lost touch with its perception in the outside world, or simply doesn’t care how it humiliates itself.
We refer of course to Russia’s effort to buy the recognition of its imperialist aggression against Georgia by the tiny island nation of Nauru — population 14,000 — for the shocking price of $50 million.
Georgia blew up a Soviet-era World War II monument in its second city of Kutaisi on last Saturday to make way for a new parliament building. Once again, in a crazed and incomprehensible diatribe, the Russian government indicated it felt that Georgia, a sovereign nation, had no right to destroy the monument — the same position Russia had taken earlier in Estonia. Yet just let any foreign country try to tell Russia what it can and can not do on its own territory (say, Chechnya for example), and all hell breaks loose. This is Russian hypocrisy at its most insane. Tragically, a mother and child who were watching the implosion were killed by stray debris from the blast.
After the jump, photos of the implosion.
Paul Goble reports:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has often described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest tragedy” of the 20th century, has now said that the “reunification” of Georgia has “already been decided,” a suggestion some of his listeners believe was a call for restoring Moscow’s control over Georgia and even the former USSR as a whole. In an intriguing commentary published on Gazeta.ru, Bozhena Rynska describes both the celebration of the 80th birthday of longtime Soviet and Russian official Yevgeny Primakov and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s two very different toasts on that occasion .
Ryan Mauro is the founder of WorldThreats.com and the director of intelligence at the Asymmetrical Warfare and Intelligence Center (AWIC), writing on Pajamas Media:
The director of Russia’s FSB intelligence service is accusing the Georgian government of being a secret ally of al-Qaeda, taking the country’s anti-Georgian rhetoric to a new height. Russia is apparently unsatisfied with absorbing Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Georgians, but what else do they want?
The FSB director said that Georgia’s intelligence services have been holding meetings with members of al-Qaeda and providing them with safe harbor, arms, and training in order to carry out attacks against Russia.
“They perpetually undertake to deliver weapons, explosives, and financing for subversive acts on high-security sites in Dagestan — first and foremost on oil and gas pipelines,” he said.
Johns Hopkins Agrees withLa Russophobe
One of our esteemed commenters points us to the following statement on the Council of Europe report on the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, about which we editorialized last week. It comes from the lofty towers of Johns Hopkins University’s Central Asia Caucasus Institute, one of the world’s leading authorities on Caucasus politics. Here’s what they say about the COE report:
It is . . . apparent that its most scathing criticism is reserved for Russia’s role in the conflict. Significantly, the report found that Russia had long been purposefully engaging in provocations against Georgia and unlawful intervention in its internal affairs, and that none of Moscow’s various justifications for its invasion of Georgia hold water. Moreover, the report goes on to fault Russia’s behavior following the conflict, as it continues to be in material breach of the EU-negotiated cease-fire agreement.
In other words, they say just what we said about the COE report. The Wall Street Journal carries the same view.
Russian Aggression in Georgia Condemned by the Council of Europe
Last week the Council of Europe released its 1,000- page report on the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. It stated:
Much of the Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense. This holds true for all kinds of massive and extended military action ranging from the bombing of the upper Kodori Valley to the deployment of armored units to reach extensive parts of Georgia, to the setting up of military positions in and nearby major Georgian towns as well as to control major highways, and to the deployment of navy units on the Black Sea. Furthermore, continued destruction (by Russia) which came after the ceasefire agreement was not justifiable by any means.
In other words, Russia did to Georgia exactly what it claimed Georgia did to Ossetia, validating Georgia’s actions even assuming they constituted aggression and reducing the entire matter to a question of might makes right.
But that’s only the beginning the Council’s analysis of the war. After that come a relentless series of denunciations of the Putin regime for wantonly violating both international law and the Council’s own requirements for member states.
The Candadian Press reports:
Police are urging people in a three-kilometre radius of the apartment building where a missing Toronto girl lived to search their properties for signs of her, as they check reported sightings.
Staff Insp. Larry Sinclair told a news conference today police have stepped up the search to a Level 3, the highest level, which allows them to call in outside units for assistance.
Mariam Makhniashvili, 17, was last seen by her family when she left for school with her brother on Monday morning, near Bathurst Street and Eglinton Avenue West. She did not arrive home from Forest Hill Collegiate and the school principal said Miriam was not in any classes. “This to the best of our knowledge is completely out of character for her,” he said, as he explained why the search level has been upgraded.
LA Daily reports:
The Saylor Company, a Pasadena crisis-management firm, has just landed two high-profile contracts in one of the world’s violent flashpoints. The Georgian breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have hired the PR outfit to gain a little leverage in their war of words with big neighbor Georgia. Last year, of course, it was less about words and more about tanks and Grad rockets. Then, Georgia launched an ill-conceived attack on South Ossetia, only to be quickly overwhelmed by a Russian Army counter-blitz, which Abkhazia aided [LR: By any logical standard, the American revolution was also "ill-conceived" and so was the defense of Leningrad]. The two autonomous regions, which remain unrecognized as sovereign nations except by Russia and Nicaragua, are virtual wards of Moscow, which is funding their crippled economies.
Long Knives in Sukhumi
Blogging on Live Journal (backed up on Google), Twitter and Facebook, a Georgian lecturer on economics at Sukhumi State University named “Giorgi” last week faced a massive campaign of cyberwar from Russia (read his posts in translation here and here). Thanks to the free advertising from his beloved Russians, which got him written about in such places as the Times of London and interviewed by The Guardian, by the time the dust settled and he was fully back online (though the LJ blog still seems to be under assault), laughing at the Russian cowards who attacked him, the professor (who blogs as “cyxymu,” which looks like the Russian script for Sukhumi) now has well over 2,000 followers on Twitter and is ten thousand times more well read than before the crazed Russophile set tried to silence him. By the weekend, there were nearly 1,000 articles in the mainstream Western press blaming Russia and praising the Georgian’s courage.
Nice job, Russians! Maybe you’d like to do the same favor for La Russophobe?
It’s not surprising that Russians are motivated to acts of craven, violent desperation as they see tiny Georgia humiliate them before world.
Last week, even as the proud and defiant words of Georgia’s president were appearing in the Washington Post, the IMF announced that it was increasing economic support to the Georgian government by more than 50%. Meanwhile, Russia is saddled with the massive economic burden of maintaining the impoverished Ossetia and Abkahazia regions, while Georgia is relieved of it, even as the Russian economy enters its worst recession in modern history. And that’s to say nothing of the nearly $30 billion in costs and losses Russia incurred from the war itself — money Russia’s sick population, which does not rank in the top 150 nations of the world for lifespan, desperately needed for social services.
How can Russia respond? Only with truly pathetic efforts to crash websites through cyberterrorism.
Ronald Asmus, executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and author of The Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan, writing in the Financial Times:
A year ago this Friday Russia and Georgia went to war. By the standards of modern warfare it was a little war. It lasted five days. Casualties were modest. It nevertheless sparked the greatest European security crisis since Slobodan Milosevic unleashed the dogs of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s. Moscow invaded a neighbour for the first time since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It broke the cardinal rule of post-cold war European security that borders in Europe should never be changed by force of arms. It showed an ugly neo-imperial side of its policy that many in the west had hoped was part of the past.