WEDNESDAY MAY 13 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Putin’s Sochi Lies Risk Lives
(2) EDITORIAL: Putin’s Abkhazia Quagmire
(3) Felgenhauer on the Coming war in Georgia
(4) A Free Trade Agreement for Georgia!
(5) Russia Must be Stopped in Georgia
(6) No Justice, no Peace in Chechnya
(7) Babitsky on Chechnya
NOTE: Today we offer a special issue devoted to Russia’s Caucasus regions. We show how the Kremlin is losing control of security in Sochi and covering it up, being rejected by the very people in Abkhazia it purportedly “saved,” denying justice and any possiblity of real peace in Chechnya and menacing Georgia with a renewed threat of barbaric military aggression. Hearteningly, we carry two items from mainstream leaders who seem to fully appreciate the threat Russia is presenting and who are calling for direct and specific action to meet it. It’s also encouraging to see Andrei Babitsky back in print on the topic of Chechnya. No matter where you turn in the region, in short, you find horrifying bad news for Vladimir Putin and his KGB cronies.
The Kremlin’s Sochi Lies Risk Lives
Here’s what Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of security for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, told Reuters last week: “Sochi is the summer residence of our president and prime minister, that says everything. This is one of the safest and most secure places in Russia and it’s the state with the highest security level.”
It was one of the most sensational and outrageous lies yet told by the malignant regime of Vladimir Putin, placing the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world in jeopardy and showing the absolute contempt with which Putin views basic values of honesty and integrity.
Putin’s Abkhazia Quagmire
A recent report in the New York Times interviewed the Abkhazian diaspora in Turkey about whether they’d like to return home now that they are no longer part of Georgia, at least as far as Russia is concerned. You might think many would have expressed worry about being attacked or abused by Georgia, but none did. Instead, here’s what the Times found: “The most common question was whether Abkhazia was having too much contact with Russia.”
That’s right, Russia. The Abkhazians are worried about Russia, their new so-called “benefactor.” And well they should be.
The brilliant and courageous Pavel Felgenhauer sounds another warning on Georgia, in the pages of the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
The situation in Georgia appears to be deteriorating rapidly. Last month the Georgian opposition parties began street protests in an effort to force President Mikhail Saakashvili to resign. Since April 9 massive rallies by opposition supporters failed to compel Saakashvili to yield, and the number of demonstrators steadily decreased. Western diplomats repeatedly urged the Georgian opposition to begin a political dialogue with the authorities, but without any results, as the radical opposition continued to demand Saakashvili’s unconditional resignation (www.civil.ge, April 28).
Wonder of wonders! John Kerry (writing with Republican congressman David Dreier) has something sensible to say, in the Washington Post. If even Kerry gets it, Russia is in big, big trouble. Hopefully, President Obama is reading:
As the Obama administration seeks a fresh start in our strained relationship with Russia, the case for cooperation with Moscow on everything from nuclear terrorism to global finance is clear and compelling. So, too, is the case for protecting the freedom and sovereignty of the fledgling democracies on Russia’s borders. We must do both. Part of the way we can continue to support allies such as Georgia even as we do more to pursue vital national interests alongside Russia is by focusing on areas that can deliver real benefits to one side without hurting ties to the other. That’s why we believe we should sign a free-trade agreement with Georgia and why we plan to introduce a resolution to this end today.
While some mistakenly view constructive relations with these two countries as mutually exclusive, we see no inherent contradiction in offering Russia a fresh start while maintaining our commitment to ensuring that its neighbors have the right to choose their own destinies. Yes, sometimes Russia and its neighbors see the world in zero-sum terms — and sometimes their interests collide violently, as when Russian tanks rolled into Georgia last August. But we need not define our relationships with these countries the same way.
Writing in the New York Times Denis Corboy, director of the Caucasus Policy Institute at Kings College London and former European Commission ambassador to Georgia, William Courtney, former U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia and Kenneth Yalowitz, director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College and a former U.S. ambassador to Belarus and Georgia, call upon the West to finally stand up to Russian aggression in Georgia, before it is too late.
Reports of military mutinies and Russian plots in Georgia, while still unclear, have heightened tensions which were already building this spring. The U.S. should lead preventive diplomacy now, underscoring to Russia the high costs of intervention in Georgia while seeking to engage Moscow in a broad security dialogue.
Amnesty International has just released a review of “president” Dima Medvedev’s first year in office, in essence branding Medvedev a shameless liar for representing liberal intentions to the world when he took office. A month ago, when Medvedev announced Russian forces would withdraw from Chechnya (and before he withdrew that declaration and ordered a major new military campaign to quell terrorism), AI condemned Russia’s barbaric history of human rights violations in Chechnya and declared there could be no peace until Russia acknowledged its culpability and paid the appropriate price:
Russia announced the end of its decade long “counter-terrorism operation” in Chechnya on Thursday, claiming that “normality” had returned to the territory. Amnesty International has warned that normalization is not possible without full accountability for the gross human rights violations of the last 10 years. “The true benchmark of a return to normality is to give people what they have been wanting for over a decade – they want the truth, and they want justice,” said Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.”They want to know the fate and whereabouts of relatives and friends who are among the disappeared, and they want those responsible brought to account. Only thorough and independent investigations into past and continuing human rights violations can bring normalization and security in Chechnya. Such investigations will be a deterrent to future violations. Opening the region to independent observers and journalists would be a signal that the authorities there are ready for transparency, but a change of status is absolutely meaningless without the political will to change reality.”