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 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 24-Aug-04
Georgian President lays out South Ossetia battle lines to American audience

Web Log - August, 2004

Georgian President lays out South Ossetia battle lines to American audience

Mikheil Saakashvili is asking the West to side with Georgia against Russia in an op-ed piece in Monday's Wall Street Journal.

Troubled areas in Caucasus regions
Troubled areas in Caucasus regions

Buried in 1000 words of politician-ese, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili laid down the battle lines. Here's what he said explicitly and what it really means for the future of the region:

He said: South Ossetia is "a small but integral area of our country."

He means: South Ossetia will not be allowed to secede from Georgia and join North Ossetia as part of Russia.

He said: Not long ago, the people of Georgia launched a bold and uncertain experiment. After years of decline and chronic lawlessness, they stood up last fall to defend their democracy in what has since been called the Rose Revolution.

He means: He's President now, after massive public demonstrations forced Eduard Shevardnadze out of office a year ago.

Shevardnadze, born in Georgia in 1928, lived through the massive Stalinist purges of the 1930s and the Nazi invasion of World War II. He later rose high in the Soviet KGB ranks, and became founding President of Georgia when the Soviet Union dissolved.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the children in the generation raised during a crisis war grow up to become highly risk-averse, and try to avoid a new major war at any cost. Shevardnadze carefully led the country through a nascent civil war throughout the 1990s by careful compromise.

The younger generation officials that run the government now, including Mikheil Saakashvili, born 1968, are much more willing to take risks and risk confrontations.

So when Saakashvili talks about the Rose Revolution in which he replaced Shevardnadze last year, he's also saying that times have changed, that policies have changed, and that Georgia is no longer willing to go as far as before to compromise with Russia and avoid a serious confrontation.

He said: "The first step in Georgia's peaceful reunification came this May. Courageous activists in the Black Sea region of Ajara forced out a local dictator who for years outlawed political pluralism and free media, undermined efforts to hold democratic elections and threatened to secede from Georgia. Afraid to face the people he once terrorized, Ajara's former dictator fled to Moscow, where hardliners generously offered him safe haven."

As we described at length in in a piece I wrote several days ago, the situation in South Ossetia is very different from the situation in Ajara. The fact that Saakashvili is using Ajara as a model for South Ossetia is an ominous sign (caused by his relative youth) that he doesn't understand the situation.

He said: "For millennia, Georgia has prided itself on being a multi-ethnic, open-minded society. Ethnic and religious tolerance has always been a central component of our identity."

This is true and it would be interesting if Georgia had not also been, for millennia, a central battlefield for major genocidal Asian wars. For centuries, the Caucasus region has been the scene of major wars between the Orthodox Christian and Muslim civilizations.

He said: "Unfortunately, the attitude of South Ossetian authorities and certain elements within the Russian government have brought the situation to the brink of a major armed conflict. While Georgia has gone to great lengths not to respond to dangerous provocations, I have also made it clear that the security of our people is my highest priority and we will defend our citizens from aggression."

He means: It's Russia that's at fault for ongoing violence, not Georgia.

This is an interesting statement in view of the fact that a recent poll of Russian men and women indicates that most Russians blame Saakashvili for the current troubles. Russian public opinion of Saakashvili has been worsening dramatically, as only 11% still have confidence in him, down from 27% just two months ago.

He said: "Paramilitary groups and arms deliveries from Russia have played a major role in the escalation of tensions. ... That's where almost all of the arms, drugs and other contraband enters South Ossetia from Russia through the only road link into the region -- the Roki tunnel."

He means: Once again, the problem is that Russians are using the Roki tunnel, which penetrates the Caucasus mountains and connects North and South Ossetia, and so Russians are at fault.

He said: "I want to continue to have a productive working relationship with Moscow, but when it comes to defending our citizens, there is a distinct line representing protection of democratic values and territorial integrity that needs to be respected."

This is an explicit warning to Russia that he's willing to risk a larger confrontation.

He said: "A good start would be an active role for the international community -- specifically the United States, European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- in high-level negotiations among the parties directly involved. ... Therefore, an international peacekeeping operation that is balanced and takes into consideration Georgia's Euro-Atlantic partners should be mandated in South Ossetia to provide security for the population and ensure the conditions for political negotiations towards a lasting settlement. ... So, third, it is imperative to establish a joint Georgian-Russian customs and border checkpoint at the Roki tunnel. Russia has continued to balk at the establishment of such a checkpoint, even though it acknowledges that South Ossetia is indeed part of Georgia's territory."

This is a major policy disagreement between Georgia and Russia. If South Ossetia is part of Georgia, then why are Russian troops stationed there, and why can't Georgian troops move in to prevent smuggling through the Roki tunnel?

Saakashvili would like to replace Russian troops as peacekeepers with troops from America and Europe. Russia is firmly opposed to allowing Western troops into the Caucasus region at all.

The Caucasus region is one of the most dangerous regions of the world right now. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, it's even more dangerous than the Palestine region, since it's farther into a crisis period. With low-level violence continuing in South Ossetia, and with a ten-year old war going on in the nearby Russian province of Chechnya, this is a major front line in the centuries old war between Orthodox Christians and Muslims. (24-Aug-04) Permanent Link
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