EDITORIAL: Able to Leap Tall Russians


Able to Leap Tall Russians

Mikheil Saakashvili

Mikheil Saakashvili

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Mikheil Saakashvili!

In Russia, when thousands want to march against the president, their leaders don’t even make it to the meeting place. Vladimir Putin has them arrested before they ever get there, and then his stormtroopers crush the rank and file, as they did just last weekend in Vladivostok.  Once, Putin went so far as to draft Oleg Kozlovsky, one of the lead organizers, into the armed forces in order to block his participation.  Over and over, those who most staunchly criticize the Moscow Kremlin (from Starovoitova and Politkovskaya to Litvinenko and Markelov) have been brutally shot and killed.  There is not even one such instance under Saakashviili, who has no connection to the secret police where Putin spent his entire career.

In Georgia, by contrast, they simply march, and live to tell the tale.  Saakashvili’s only response is to call elections — real elections, with opposition candidates supported aggressively by Russia  — and win them over and over, exposing Russian power as inherently laughable.  No wonder Putin hates this heroic Georgian patriot so much.

Russia police arresting a protester in Vladivostok last weekend.

Russia police arresting a protester in Vladivostok last weekend.

 In Russia, the economy is in freefall, shrinking at least 7% in the first quarter of this year. Georgia, by contrast, expects 3-4% economic growth this year, up from 2% growth last year under Saaksashvili’s leadership.  Russia did better than Georgia in 2008 but Georgia, of course, didn’t have to overcome the obstacle of being invaded by a country ten times its size and having a huge part of its territory lopped off, as Georgia did, and Georgia doesn’t have any of the fossil fuel wealth by which Russia is blessed.  What would have become of the Russian economy last year if, in addition to all the other horror, it had been invaded by China? We don’t dare imagine.  In 2007, Georigan ecnomic growth was an amazing 12%.  One could almost think that the Kremlin decided to attack because it was the only way it could think of to stop Saakashvili’s economic juggernaut.

When protesters marched against Saakashvili on Thursday and Friday last week, their turnout fell by more than 50% on the second day compared to the first.  In other words, their fervor (promoted mostly by funding from Russia) could not be sustained.  Unlike Putin, Saakashvili did not panic even though, also unlike Putin, his country has actually been invaded recently by an aggressive and much larger foreign power.   Saaskashvili did not even make a show of force to reign in the protesters.

They simply marched as they liked, and Saakashivli rejected their ridiculous calls for his resignation.  Polls are clear:  Georgians overwhelmingly support their president, and want him to stay.  Despite Russian aggression, Georgia remains a real democracy with legimitimate elections and real opposition parties.  It’s democracy isn’t perfect, of course (neither is America’s), but unlike Russia the country is goverrned by a leader with no ties to the secret police who was educated in the United States and who has the confidence that real legitimacy brings.

Saakashvili made it clear:  “By demonstrating peacefully — by the complete and total lack of violence, by ensuring the right to free movement and freedom of assembly — we proved the maturity of our state.   There have been some who have been saying for so many months that Georgia would go to hell yesterday, that so many of you came to witness it.  And you witnessed a normal country.”

Indeed, yes. “Mature” is the word. And by contrast to this great statesman, Vladimir Putin — who has never faced the sort of adversity Saakashvili brilliantly did last August — looks like a little boy.  Or perhaps a better word would be “punk” or “thug” — someone who can only “win” an argument or “solve” a problem by using crude violence.

Today’s issue carries an interview with President Saakashvili from Newsweek magazine.  In it, Saakashvili asks for more and better Western assistance as he wages his battle for the life of his country to avoid becoming the first in a line of falling neo-Soviet dominos.  It’s time the naive and disappointing Obama adminsitration started listening.  Obama’s conciliatory attitude towards Russia may well be understood as weakness by the Kremlin, even as an open invitation to move militarily against Georgia this spring. If Russia annexes Georgia on Obama’s watch, his presidency will never live it down.

25 responses to “EDITORIAL: Able to Leap Tall Russians

  1. Or short Russians, in this case.

  2. Russia it’s not merely “ten times size” of Geogia.

    Russia: 17,075,400 km2
    Georgia: 69,700 km2 (with the breakway republics)

    More like almost 250 times.

  3. Of course it would be pretty hard for the Russians now to be invaded by over 200 times bigger country – Russia is still the biggest country in the world (even if very scarcily populated).

    • Considering China has well over 5 times the population of Russia, they are the only real threat. It’s very doubtful any intelligent people would be thinking of invading Russia, they do have nukes, lots of big dirty ones. They might not land where they are supposed to, but no one would want to find out.

  4. Robert, geographical size is meaningless in when examining failed states. Russia basically has a land mass that they can’t protect. It works against them.

    Adding up their obvious abysmal demographics heading off a cliff, their blatant mismanagement of a civil society that would intellectually make good decisions and prosper and Chinese designs on their commodities they are pretty much dead.

    Size only matters in the macho urban ghetto culture. It won’t get you into Harvard, pair you with an intelligent female, give you a good job or give you more friends.

    Why invade Russia when it is imploding on its own.

    Nice try, Robert. You can do better.

  5. Russia can be brought under control using their weaknesses. The defeat of the Soviet Union was very easy. All we need is determination and the resolve to act. Cutting off Moscow’s near abroad is what they are telling us makes them paranoid. Supporting the nations on the borders that are being pushed around. That is a cheap price for victory over a criminal fascist state already sick without other countries to feed on.

  6. Lets see, additional Russian troops being deployed to South Ossetia & Abkhazia, and now the Russians are having “Manouvres” with assault landing ships “off the coast of Georgia”

    Better get that ammo sorted I guess.


    • Hi Andrew,
      Hopefully their just bluffing. But I think if I were in your shoes, I would prepare for the worst. Our weak president, Medvedev’s new comrade buddy, has probably shown them he has a spine of jello, so they may think it’s time to move. What’s the chances of Georgia giving the Russian’s a real bloody nose? Maybe sink a few ships, etc.

      • Well, if they have some decent western gear pretty good, considering that with old soviet PT boats with no missiles they set the “Peter the Great” on fire last August and forced it to run back to Sebastapol.

        I am currently loading the shottie for bear if you get my drift.

      • BTW I am not too impressed with “Super Pres” either. I did hold out hopes he would be like Kennedy, but it seems he is just another Carter.

        • Actually Clinton’s foriegn policy was about equal to Carter’s, except he had no serious issues to deal with, I wouldn’t trust our leftees in a toilet with a spoon when it comes to dealing with the world, there to busy singing kum-by-ya. Was thinking about picking me up an AR-15 before BO tries to ban them. Could think of some nice hardware you guys could use. Patriot missile battery/tomohawk anti-ship missiles/Tow or Hellfire anti-tank missiles. My personal favorite is the M2, better known as the Ma deuce (.50 caliber machine gun) They also have a Barret semi-auto .50 caliber sniper rifle with an affective range over a mile. Anyway, hope it’s all a bluff, take care.

          • Eh? Stuff like former Yugoslavia was not serious? Somalia? Afghanistan-Pakistan? Yeltsin and rise of Putin in Russia? Rwanda? Al-Qaeda? Saddam? Sudan? North Korea?

            But these where days where 18 KIA in 2 days shocked the nation into withdrawal and so he had to fight wars with total of zero casualties (Kosovo).

            • Robert,
              Most of those issues you state did not rise to the level of a national security threat, or could be considered in the U.S. national interest. And in most cases, the Clinton bunch was completely incompetent. They appeased NK with the so called “Agreed Framework” which was a joke, we give them fuel oil and help them build light water reactors, so they won’t develop their nuclear program. How did that work out? Al-Qaeda was considered a law enforcement problem, Saddam was held at bay flying fighters in the no-fly zones. Russia wasn’t invading or threatening anybody, Serbia should have been a European issue, and most of the atrocities were exaggerated. Sudan, we bomb an aspirin factory. Somalia, the army was denied armor as they requested, so a bunch of guys get shot up, thank you Clinton. Oh, and you forgot that so successful operation in Haiti, how is Haiti doing today? The 90’s were a very quiet time in foreign policy for the U.S., we had no rivals. Clinton did give the Chinese the impression we wouldn’t help Taiwan if they invaded, not very helpful, in my opinion.

          • And if Russians are really going invade and are serious to occupy the whole country this summer, what Georgians would actually need at this point is rather popular knowledge how to make IEDs from unexploded Russian shells.

  7. Intrepid Yulia Latynina made two excellent points last week.

    First, Georgian opposition has a peculiar understanding of negotiations. Either Saakashvili resigns, or he is not willing to negotiate. Similar to Hamas: either Palestine liberation includes the destruction of Israel, or Israel is not willing to negotiate on the topic of Palestinian liberation.

    Second, she reminds that Soviet newspapers in the 70s and early 80s predicted imminent and unavoidable decay of capitalism. As proof, they showed anti-government rallies all over the Western world (along with the statements from Berkeley professors and “peace activists”, of course). Russian “political experts” are predicting the fall of Saakashvili government for a few years now. Smart money give them as much credibility as the Soviet political experts of the 70s.

    I couldn’t say better :)

  8. UNHCR in Georgia is providing protection and humanitarian assistance to 992 Chechen refugees, around 280,000 Georgian IDPs and 1,500 stateless people in a young democracy that is bearing the consequences of secessionist conflicts in the breakaway zones of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as a brief conflict last August with the Russian Federation.

    About 1/10 of population is still displaced by Russians (in Russia it would be some 14 million refugees) – and they still have economic growth?

    Btw, I wonder what kind of “economy” have South Ossetia and Abkhazia, besides Abkhazia tourism and SO smuggling (and recently massive looting)?

  9. Well said Robert,

    Abkhazia and SO also have human trafficing of young girls to Russia as a main source of income.

    And the latest from Georgia, a group of NASHI activists (who all profess great love for Georgia of course) have been arrested after illegally enter Georgia and trying to travel from Tshkinvali to Tbilisi to join the opposition protests in a show of solidarity “in support of democracy”

    These scumbags were caught with letters from the Duma of Russia to the leaders of the opposition.

    What a bunch of morons.

  10. 2George: I think the inhabitants of Crimea, Donbass and Transdnestr will be quite happy to reunite with their fellow Russians… compared to Yushchenko, Putin is a genius.

  11. It’s fascinating how Unkneeling Russians are so sure what others want! I remember 15 years ago they were confident that residents of Eastern Estonia (Narva and Kohtla-Yarve region) will be lining up to move to Russia, or at least an autonomy within Russia.

    Then, 10 years ago same Russians were incensed about humiliation of Serbia by Western powers. Funny, that Serbs had their own color revolution, had democratic elections, elected pro-Western government, extradited Milosevic, Karadzic, and the rest of the gang. After Kosovo independence demonstrations in Moscow were much more numerous, and – shall I say, theatrical than in Belgrade.

    Now the same about Crimea, Donbass, and Transdnestr. Eugene knows for sure that they will be happy to reunite with their fellow Russians (just like Egyptians will be happy to reunite with their fellow Arabs in Gaza). Because, I mean – how can they not be! After all, anybody would study Russian if for no other reason, because Lenin spoke it (Я русский бы выучил только за то, что им разговаривал Ленин)

    There is no point in arguing with Unkneeling Russians! But you must study them – otherwise, you may think that they employ the same logic as the rest of the world!

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