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LOOKING AHEAD
15.08.2008

August 12, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Konstantin Cheremnykh

THE LESSONS OF TSKHINVAL

The "ill man of the world" irradiates dismay and disgust

BEYOND THE OLYMPIC ANTI-SYMBOLS

The perfidious and strikingly brutal assault on South Ossetia added the last details to the image of Mikhail Saakashvili, pretty familiar to Russians. The rafale on living quarters, hospitals and schools of Tskhinvali and Ossetian villages corresponds with international criteria of ethnic cleansing. The peoples of the Caucasus even more distinctly perceive the assault from the ethnic standpoint, as the specific bias of the citizens of Tbilisi towards Ossetians was well known since the times when in old Tiflis, Ossetians served in police authorities: "before saying mamma, an Ossetian baby learns to whistle", they used to say.

The coincidence of the air attack on Tskhinvali with the opening of the Olympic Games is also seen here from a special viewpoint. Ossetian nationals won around a dozen medals at the previous summer Olympiad, predominantly in strength sports. Thus, an unexpected blow was supposed to affect this significant element of Russia's sports potential. Besides, athletes from Ossetia and Daghestan have been anticipating the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, which are now in jeopardy.

However, Mr. Saakashvili has never displayed interest in being popular among the peoples of his region. At international meetings, he positioned the Georgian people as a selected race in a far broader scale than the tiny Caucasus. Javier Solana was much embarrassed when the newly-elected Saakashvili, clapping him on the shoulder, reminded him that he was speaking to nine else but the leaders of the most ancient state of Europe.

The official Washington, which listed Georgia's 2003 "rosy revolution" among its geopolitical achievements, similarly did not care about popularity among these negligible smaller peoples. Tbilisi's conflict with two breakaway autonomies, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, was envisaged as something more than just a device for assisting Georgia's entry in NATO that was questionable just because the border issue.

It is noteworthy that the timing of the attack coincided with the date of Truman's air attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thus, the message was obviously broader. While ordinary Americans would feel rather shame for their nation than delight from this parallel, international analysts were supposed to derive a convincing conclusion – namely, that the US political line is still strong and consistent, and that rumors about any crisis in the United States are groundless. This steadfast consistency, in a retrospective, could be seen also in the parallel of symbols: the attack on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, took place four years ago on September 1, the first day of World War II, while Chechnya's president Ahmad Kadyrov was blown up on the V-Day. Thus, the Olympic Games that were historically supposed to start in peace mattered rather from the viewpoint of their site Ц Beijing.

The simultaneous rise of the US dollar against the euro, along with the decline of international oil prices, contributed to the picture of an imperial revival of the United States that menacingly puts back its geopolitical rivals, China and Russia, on their place. The brutality of the assault on the civilians that dared to adopt Russian and not Georgian Ц i.e. American citizenship, was obviously destined to demonstrate this might Ц "so that everyone understood". Similarly, Boris Yeltsin tried to prove his might when shooting at the Russian parliament in October 1993.

Selection of the timing, as well as the necessity of a popular symbol is very typical for US geopolitical operations. This style is a better proof of American involvement in the affair that the vast evidence of patronage of Saakashvili from Washington.

The style is recognizable, but the implementation is far from typical. Firstly, Saakashvili's statements on the eve of the assault contradicted to one another. Secondly, the White House reacted to Russia's intervention hours after it happened, and three and a half hours after Tbilisi officially complained of the "crackdown of the imperial Russia". These symptoms suggest at least certain contradictions in the center of decision-making.

THE TWO-FACED MISHA DOLL

In Georgia, Saakashvili is commonly named Misha Ц the Russian abbreviation of Mikhail. The abandoned Misha doll, the hero of a popular Russian song, was once designed as a political project designed for longer use than he could expect. At the first glance, his image Ц including his talent of speech and his macho appearance Ц seemed to be exploited in US strategic interests resolutely and consistently, on the contrary to the pockpitted Yushchenko project.

Looking back at Misha's political biography, we easily find out that his image reflected influence of two opposite designs. Was he really viewed in Washington as the best candidate for Georgia's leader? In 2003, when the mechanism of "rosy revolution" was set up, Washington displayed much more sympathy to Zurab Zhvania (who died under strange circumstance a year after Misha's inauguration) and the Georgian Parliament's speaker Nino Burdzhanadze. The latter was in the center of the organized anti-Russian sentiment in summer 2003, ostensibly sparked with the dictated by Russian energy monopolies (in fact, AEI, a US company, then quite voluntarily sold major Georgian energy assets to Russia's UES). Mrs. Burdzhanadze was a favorite of James Baker III, who repeatedly visited Tbilisi in summer 2003. Senator John McCain, another frequent guest of Georgia, did not then demonstrate specific sympathy to Saakashvili as well.

In fact, Mikhail Saakashvili as a politician was born not under the banners of the US Republican party. His patron, Columbia Univ. Professor R.Scott Horton, was a senior partner of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, a law firm that assisted Kazakhstan in privatization of oil with one (economic) hand, and consulted Russian and Ukrainian leftist-liberal dissidents Ц like Andrey Sakharov's widow Yelena Bonner and Ukrainian Socialist Party member Nikolay Melnichenko Ц with the other (human right advocating) hand. Today, Prof. Horton is a strong opponent of George W. Bush's campaign in Iraq that does not correspond with his ideal of dissemination of freedom.

Originally trained for the role of a denouncer of corruption, and simultaneously Ц as a "fighter of informational revolution" on the design of another critic of Bush, George Soros, Mikhail Saakashvili changed his image in 2002 when the symbol of a flag with medieval crosses Ц much more relevant to Bush's "Faith-Based Initiative" Ц came to the surface.

One more crucial detail of Misha's renewed image was the parallel with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Dzhugashvili). Misha appeared to be born on the same date with Stalin. This fact was not much known before the November 2003 day when the "rosy-revolutionary" crowd, equipped with barrels of wine, started its march to Tbilisi from the monument of the Stalin at his birthplace, in Gori. This symbol and this timing hardly corresponded with the views of Mr. Horton Ц as well as the implied parallel between South Ossetia and Finland. In fact, in his operation against South Ossetia, Misha followed the pattern of Stalin whose assault on Finland in 1939 was preceded with appointment of a virtual leader of the future socialist country, Otto Kuusinen. In the same way, a year before the staged provocation, Mr. Saakashvili selected a virtual leader of South Ossetia Ц a certain Dmitry Sanakoyev.

Already in 2003, a number of Russian media reported that Mr. Saakashvili has now got a new patron in Washington. The image of "Saakashvili-2" emerged at the time when the leadership of Freedom House, a key instrument of "color revolutions" that later rolled across Eurasia, was entrusted to ex-CIA Director James Woolsey. One more element of the new project, according to Versiya weekly, was associated with economic interests of Kellogg, Brown & Root Ц the foreign arm of Dick Cheney's Halliburton, involved in military contracts and special operations in the space from Khartoum to Tehran and from Baku to Bangkok.

On the background of a visible advantage of the US Democrats in the new US Presaidential campaign, Mr. Saakashvili found himself in an uneasy situation. He even had to give away his favored hawk Irakly Orkruashvili Ц obviously, under influence of the moderate faction of the US establishment. The escalation of tensions at the border of South Ossetia, emerging in July without any special pretext, coincided with symptoms of activation of the opposite neoconservative faction of the US elite.

This lack of certainty affects not only US stooges in sensitive regions but the participants of the presidential race as well. John McCain, whose anti-Russian bias was impregnated with humiliation in North Vietnam prison, was not so hawkish in other aspects of global policy. However, his role meant more than his personality, when he was put before a political choice.

For a 75-year-old politician, the crusader's armor is a rather heavy burden. But his political line, elaborated by is campaign managers, is making him a hostage of the game regardless from is will. Those young movers and shakers that shape his campaign not necessarily coordinate their moves with him, or even with the incumbent President who is anyway going to leave.

Such disobedience takes place in the crisis of empires, when political and intelligence clans, allied with particular business interests, ignore the self-discredited center of decision-making Ц also being motivated, as in the case of Halliburton, by irritation with the concessions made by this center of power to the public opinion.

NEW GUIDES FOR ACTION

Regardless from the statements of NATO and State Dept officials, regardless from the efforts of numerous media mouthpieces that urge the "progressive humanity" to unify at the face of the "Russian bear", the language of Washington ultimatums does not work in the way it worked before, and cannot serve as a "guide for action". Even those European politicians who declare, in unison with Washington, that the assault on civilians was "provoked by Russia", are not much enthusiastic over the possibility of a new warfare in Europe Ц as well as, generally, lack of predictability of US foreign policy. Aloud or confidentially, the definition of "the ill man of the world", applied to the United States, is going to become a working term of the international expert community.

The sight of carnage, blessed by "the ill man of the world" in Tskhinval, arouses dismay and disgust, recalling the image of a defunct torture machine in Kafka's story "The Penitentiary", combines disgust and fear. European politicians, as well as their close friends beyond the ocean, don't exactly know what and where the US clans, controlling arms trade along with special operations, are about to undertake next day. It is only clear that Europe, with its lame legitimacy and rising economic problems, is quite uninterested in new wars on its periphery and in involvement of transit countries Ц like Ukraine and the Baltic States Ц in those wars.

Therefore, the European reaction to the tragedy in South Ossetia can be only ambiguous and vague. The EU as a unity is restrained with its own irrationally expanded borders. The European bureaucracy would not like to contradict to rabidly anti-Russian position of Vilnius and Tallinn. At the same time, the manners of Georgia's leadership haven't been viewed with delight by diplomats and criminologists Ц including such a convinced anti-Moscow expert as Juergen Roth. The EU flag on Saakashvili's table on the say of the bloody assault is associated in the minds of Europeans Ц both politicians and Philistines Ц with new flows of refugees.

It is easy to guess what the top officials of Brussels and Berlin are dreaming of Ц naturally, about the triumphant access of Barack Obama. The manner of following the winds of Washington conjuncture has been impregnated in the European political tradition throughout the decades of the Cold War. The doubts, associated with the possible victory of John McCain expressed, particularly, by such a renowned expert as Anatol Lieven, doubles and triples at the sight of the South Ossetian drama. These concerns are increased with the statements of Kiev, seeming to deliberately provoke internationalization of the conflict. The probability of a Moscow-Kiev conflict is fraught with a real menace of energy instability, while alternatives are not visible Ц especially after Baku's decision to cease oil shipments along the Baku-Ceyhan route.

It is similarly clear for Europe that the South Ossetia drama is unlikely to weaken Russia, even in case Moscow takes all the humanitarian costs upon itself. It is cleat that the further bilateral policy is going to be more determined by the Russian side, even in case of a complete paralysis of Ukrainian gas transit. Even imagining that the South Ossetia massacre would be quietly forgotten, European politicians realize the impossibility of preventing similar bloody exercises of US satraps only by obedient compliance with Washington's whims. It is fairly possible that in the nearest future, European experts will undertake a thorough investigation of shadowy deals with delivery of NATO weapons, feeding Georgian and other "hot points" that may burst out in the same way.

Meanwhile, Russia no longer needs to curtsey before any Western institutions. It is as senseless to convince NATO to refrain from adopting Georgia (the "diplomacy" chosen by Special Envoy Yury Popov) Ц as to beg for a seat for itself in WTO (especially after the failure of the Doha round). The recognition of one's strength comes after overcoming troubles; the qualms of conscience follow the failure to prevent death of kids. The terrorist act in Beslan motivated a significant change in the political system of Russia that the West had to accept. The air attack on Tskhinval on the Hiroshima date sufficiently justifies not only a serious revision of the military doctrine but also a purge of the Russian establishment where Washington-bowers and Brussels-nodders are no longer in demand. Let the EU adapt to the change. Russia, overcoming the sticky bonds of fear, requires sovereign decision-making of the elite that does not hide their eyes at the face of current and oncoming challenges.


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