November 13, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)
A FISH FROM MURKY WATERS
Badri Patarkatsishvili hopes to become the main advocate of American interests in Georgia
THE DISGRACE OF BUSH'S COLLECTIVE RASPUTIN
The weaker is an imperial sovereign, the more he requires miracles to confirm his might. This demand was high in the Russian Empire in the period of Nicholas II, and the supply, personified by sorcerer Grigory Rasputin, arrived from Siberian woods to provide magic advice in World War I to the delusional crown – with dire consequences. George W. Bush's collective Rasputin, personified by Harvard's Einstein Institute and the related community of sorcery, invented its own miracle-making technology dubbed "color revolution". In order to save the sovereign's face, the magic recipe was supposed to work at least until November 2008.
However, the gold of the US Republican King Midas lost its gleam far ahead of schedule. By autumn 2007, Mikhail Saakashvili, the idol of the once globally famous "rosy revolution", performed as the last Mohican of the motley revolutionary tribe. His country, as well as the rest of the array of transitional states selected across the globe as the most convenient experimental material, displayed by that time neither political stability nor social prosperity. Saakashvili's bold revolutionary promise to regain control over the breakaway autonomies of Abkhazia and North Ossetia also failed to materialize. Eventually, the model type of novel democracy, achieved by means of a "democratic" coup d'etat, burst into the faces of its inventors. This happened right on the eve of the planned celebration of the "rosy revolution"'s fourth anniversary. Thus, George W. Bush was deprived of the last opportunity to remind the globe of his magic capabilities.
Instead of receiving congratulations, Ambassador John Teft is encountered with the same splitting headache as his former Kiev colleague John Herbst during the brawl of two clans of "orange revolutionaries" in September 2005. Brother John has since become an Orthodox priest – but this career failed as well, as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia was later efficiently merged into the Moscow Patriarchy. Mr. Teft should select a safer monastic employment.
The White House’s face is now being saved, ironically, not by Western but by Russian TV hosts. When Mr. Saakashvili, fearing to address the disillusioned and furious crowd rallying at his office, closed the TV channels and switched off the light in the whole city, patriotic observer Maxim Sokolov equalized him with a really powerful Anastasio Somoza who held his satrapy under control for twenty years. In his turn, liberal author Pavel Felgenhauer highly appraised the Georgian army of a "new type" – an army of US-trained personnel and US-equipped materiel, whose top commanders changed four times for four years, each of them for gross embezzlement.
THE UNWANTED ELEMENT
Saakashvili's decision to run for Presidency in January 2008 instead of January 2009 is described by Russian TV channels as a sophisticated political trick. Measuring Georgia by a gauge of a lawful political process, TV observers believe that Saakashvili has thus restricted the opposition’s maneuver by leaving a too short time for the opposition's campaign – overlooking the fact that the Georgian political process has been illegitimate actually since 1990, each new leader seizing power in a coup d'etat.
Actually, Mr. Saakashvili's move was a gesture of despair. Not more than three days before the announcement of snap elections, he promised his people to rule at least till 2013. The Georgian audience views the "trick" with early snap elections, admired by Russian TV's talking heads, from a standpoint which has nothing to do with miracles. In case snap elections are held in January, Saakashvili's most hated rival, ex-Defense Minister Georgy Okruashvili, won't reach the constitutionally required age of 35 years to join the presidential campaign. So much about sophistication.
Though Mr. Okruashvili displayed a much more resolute approach in the issue of Georgia's reintegration, promising last autumn to celebrate the New Year in a conquered Suhumi, center of the breakaway Abkhazia ("You're welcome in the costume of Snow White", the Abkhazians replied), he is not favored by the White House as well. Convening a political party of his own on the very day when he was going to face charges of tax evasion, the flight-forward ex-Defense Minister disclosed too sensitive information. He claimed on a public TV channel that Saakashvili is involved in international covert arms trade.
The US Republicans have already got a very unpleasant experience of disclosure of similar facts in Ukraine, from where ex-Soviet weapons appeared to have been massively sold to both sides of the Middle East conflict, as well as to all the sides of the Yugoslavian warfare. This Okruashvili with his unrestrained manner of blabbering on special operations was definitely an unwanted element. No wonder he hurried to escape not to Washington but to Munich; no wonder the White House gladly okayed the transfer of elections to the nearest January, though having no idea of how to manage the problem.
Konstantin "Koko" Gamsakhurdia, son of the first president of the newly independent Georgia, firmly convinced the audience of Nixon Center on September 27, the day of Okruashvili's scandalous presentation, of his reluctance to cooperate with the flight-forward guy. At the public rally in the town of Zugdidi, from where the current popular unrest started in October (as well as four years earlier), Gamsakhurdia was trying to agitate against Okruashvili – this effort, however, not bringing him more popularity.
By that time, Okruashvili already exposed the "rosy" idol of one more crime – namely, a scenario of political homicide. The supposed victim was businessman Badri Patarkatsishvili – who, as Okruashvili emphasized, was supposed to undergo the "Zhvania treatment". Zurab Zhvania, first Prime Minister of the "revolutionary winter", was found dead of gas intoxication in spring 2004. His former colleagues and relatives believe that he had been too talkative during his earlier visit to Washington, where he was sympathized by the Democratic Party circles.
BADRI TAKES THE LEAD
Okruashvili's exposure of a plot against Badri Patarkatsishvili was another unpleasant surprise for Bush's White House. The businessman and the ex-defense minister had recently been involved in an intensive brawl over a lucrative piece of real estates, a five-star Ajara Hotel. But for some reason, the two struck a deal, delivering a double challenge for the hapless Misha, as Saakashvili is commonly called in public.
Badri Patarkatsishvili, with his experience of long years of close partnership with Boris Berezovsky, is really capable of sophisticated policy moves. Imitating sympathy towards a more popular Okruashvili, he would prefer the cornered Misha do get rid of him without his own assistance. That is why Mr.Patarkatsishvili does not question the new election term.
Until spring 2007, Badri conveniently coexisted with Misha as well. The relationship broke in early March when Patarkatsishvili unexpectedly hurried to London. In a few days, he was back, convincing the audience that he was not going to escape. Actually, his influence was undermined. By that time, he was informed that the unfaithful Misha was going to get rid of him by far from lawful means. He undertook an open political game, revealing an audiotape stolen by his friends from Tbilisi's Penitentiary No.5. The audiotape contained a talk between a "thief-in-Code", named Paata Mamardashvili, and a top police officer. The message of the thief, indicted for a "crime related to drug trade", was that Badri is too disobedient, and has to be railroaded.
By that time, the Georgian audience was already well informed that the earlier (spring 2006) riot in the Penitentiary No.5 was organized by Paata Mamardashvili in an accord with Bacha Ahalaya, head of the Penitentiary Department of the Justice Ministry. Addressing the public in popular newspaper Resonansi, Okruashvili also mentioned Ahalaya's name, speaking about the "attempts of Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili and Penitentiary Chief Bacha Ahalaya to plant a split in the Orthodox Church of Georgia".
THE LETTER OF THE UNWRITTEN LAW
Minor State Department officials, as well as Eurobureaucrats, in their attempts to arrange reconciliation of the two sides of the Georgian turf war, are desperately trying to grasp the logic of the local political process. This is not easy, as a minor official, as well as a Western middlebrow, would hardly guess why the head of the penitentiary authority is interested in a riot in his own "eparchy"; why a "thief-in-Code" would confirm his partnership with police officials; in what way the jail director able to influence the clergy; and finally, why a squabble between two murky "noble dons" of Georgian (actually, Georgian Jewish) origin could trigger a full-scale national conflict developing into a massive political unrest.
Similarly, the Western observer is hardly able to make out the origin of the popular irritation with Saakashvili's manner of launching anti-corruption cases. The Western eye does not see any difference between an in-absentia accusation of the ex- director of the Georgian Academy of Science of "mismanagement of two hectares of land", and a public intervention of the "rosy prince" into a top real state deal in Gori, where the contract was signed without competition with a relative of the owner's father-in-law. Meanwhile, for the local population, where family relationship is far more precious than any written law, the difference is great; that is why the police operation in Gori, supposed to target the local governor who is a bosom friend of the notorious Okruashvili, played the role of a trigger of massive unrest.
Still, on the top level of the US establishment decisions are made in a similar way as on the lower birth of Penitentiary No.5 of Tbilisi. Didn’t US Vice President Dick Cheney, while insisting on intervention into Iraq, bear in mind also the interests of his "family" Halliburton Inc.? Though, certainly, the popular audience could hardly apprehend this consideration at that fatal moment.
When a crowd of disillusioned Georgians rushes to the church right from a public rally, this also seems to be a political development. When the Georgian Orthodox Church exhorts to a constitutional monarchy a month before the unrest – with sudden approval from Mr. Patarkatsishvili, this fantasy looks as not more than a whim of aged hierarch Iliah II. Still, one shouldn't overlook this hierarchy's economic background. It was the Georgian Orthodox Church which bargained with Russia's Video International Holding over sale of the local Eureka TV Company.
PARLAY ON THE RIVALS
Immediately after Patarkatsishvili's Imedi TV revealed the risky audio record from Penitentiary No.5, the businessman hurried to London to arrange a deal with New Corp's Rupert Murdoch over the sale of the TV channel's stake.
Why does Mr. Murdoch need a TV asset in a small and hardly predictable nation in Transcaucasia? Tbilisi-based correspondents of US media are also concerned citizens of their own nation; in the atmosphere of the US election campaign, this small community is also naturally split along partisan lines. No wonder that Vakhtang Mgeladze, local author of Moscow-based New Region website, may easily explain the background of the Murdoch-Patarkatsishvili partnership. He says that in the current US campaign, both sympathize with Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton (whose spouse extended felicitations on the marriage of Mr. Patarkatsishvili’s daughter to a Ukrainian businessman). George Soros, frequently and incorrectly described as Saakashvili's patron, is also explicitly on the Democratic side.
George W. Bush's rivals are overtaking geopolitical influence yet before the decisive fight for the White House. After all, they'd also like to present a certain result of their activity, which is hardly possible in Iraq or Afghanistan, or even in Palestine. Meanwhile, the Democratic offensive in Transcaucasia has started already in September – with the pro-Armenian Resolution 106.
Ex-Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili, one more client of US Democrats in Georgia, recently publicized her objections against the project of Kars-Akhalkalaki railroad – a project which is unfavorable for Armenia.
Georgian websites mourn over the economic impacts of the current political destabilization. This effect is most unfavorable for those who have already invested into the Georgian economy. These companies represent not only US-friendly countries. For instance, fourteen forest reserves have been offered to Chinese companies; the major cellular phone company was sold to a Kazakh corporation; even the Georgian Railroad was purchased by a low-profile British company, supposedly with a shadowy Russian background; top hotel estates, along with a frontier station, were acquired by OAE investors.
Top functionaries of the US Democratic Party have already displayed their – sometimes doubtful – interests in Georgia. In 1999, two brothers of Hillary Clinton were exposed of having struck a deal with a firm controlled by shadowy tycoon Grigory Louchanski. The same Mr. Louchanski was seen in spring 2004 side by side with Aslan Abashidze, the disgraced leader of Adjaria province, right before Saakashvili kicked him out with a strong US Republican backing.
Louchanski's intention to invest on Bill Clinton's election campaign in 1995 was resolutely prevented by Interpol. However, there was nobody to prevent Mr. Clinton from acquitting another top wheeler-dealer, Marc Rich, from a sentence of three hundred years on the last day of his tenure.
Ariel Cohen, a renowned US expert, was asked at his recent lecture in Moscow to comment on the influence of shadowy economy on the global scale. The specialist would not mention names. He only mentioned figures, comparing the annual turnover of top Colombian cartels and comparing it with the US military expenses. The figures were comparable. One could add that the more problems the US federal budget is facing, the more dependent is the outcome of the US election campaign from doubtful international investors.
THE MOUNTAIN GOES TO MOHAMMED?
Certainly, Badri Patarkatsishvili could safely escape to the Promised Land, where his security would be as perfectly guaranteed as that of Yukos's Leonid Nevzlin. However, he would have to start his business career anew in the "historical motherland", facing suspicious bureaucracy and competition from stronger and better integrated rivals. Besides, such business as mineral waters is not so easy to transplant, especially in the situation of disgrace. The most influential businessman of Georgia pondered all pro and contra and eventually preferred to undertake a risky game – one of the many in his career.
Despite the arrest warrant, issued by Saakashvili, the current situation is favorable for him. He will suck advantage from the discomfiture of Washington's ruling circles, from the shaky position of the "rosy prince", as well as from the mistakes of Moscow – including the scandalous leakage of talks between some Georgian oppositionist figures and the Russian Embassy. The discredit of Koko Gamsakhurdia and Shalva Natelashvili in the American eyes will elevate Badri to the role of the only choice of Washington, where the doubtful origin of his finances will be conveniently overlooked – as it happened to Yulia Timoshenko in Ukraine.
The Georgian November Revolution, timed in 2003 to the Day of St. George, has collapsed on another landmark date – November 7, the anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. In case we draw parallels to the early XX century, the oncoming change in Georgia should be rather compared to February 1917, when the gates of jails opened before both revolutionaries and criminals. The locks will fall; the happy relatives will kiss the real string-pullers of Georgian economy; the boring revolutionary fast will be replaced with a relaxed traditional feast, and the social order will return to the pattern of the Shevardnadze times. After a short shrift with the closest "butchers of dictatorial regime", silence will arrive; anti-corruption declarations will be replaced with a convenient rustle of shadowy money, flowing into local trade and making life a bit easier, while the military alert at the frontiers of the breakaway Abkhazia will be replaced with a calm and private bargain of "noble dons" behind the backs of local Abkhazians, Russians and Georgians.
With his influence, it is not necessary for Patarkatsishvili to run for presidency personally. The oncoming thaw may be formally entrusted to any of his devoted men, while all the really important issues will be discussed with him – on CIS membership, on NATO entry, on construction of the Caspian-Black Sea Channel etc. He will calmly and privately draw his own conditions – and the Russian mountain, which failed to raise a real prophet for Georgia, will have to deign to this Mohammed.
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