Sunday, November 26, 2006

Changing The Conception of Georgian Identity

For us, growing up during the cold war, Georgia was in USA, and Russia was THE enemy. What we learned about the Soviet Union, or Russia, as most of us called it was that they had many rockets, a lot of spies, and big hairy women able to throw heavy objects longer than the rest of the worlds females. That was the image perceived from the television up to the eighties.

Flawed political analysis from NUPI
Somehow the label “Russia” managed to stay alive after the collapse of the Soviet Union, describing all former republics. A container concept widely used by the vast majority of at least the Norwegian population. The fact that Russia “inherited” the UN position in the Security Council from the former Soviet Union established the concept further. The most worrying result of this is that you can see the remains of the Union rethorics also in political research in Norway. NUPI ( Norwegian Forreign Politics Institute) employ a lot of bright heads. Some of them unfortunately a bit biased or less enlightened about the Georgian Reality. In a Newspaper article last week two of them came up with an analysis of the situation between Russia and Georgia, giving the impression that Georgia was a rebellion state choosing a suicidal path in their foreign policy towards Russia. The impression left after reading the article was that Georgia should do what the Russians say, and act like a dependency. The scientists also managed to present some subjective critical comments towards the US – Georgian connection without commenting on the alternatives for Georgia. The passive EU for instance.

Georgia pictured as the “Enfant Terrible”
The article was without any reflections concerning Georgian status as an independent nation, Russian imperialism or Russian support to the breakaway regions. The article was flawed with misconceptions and lack of discussions around central issues debated in international media and the G8 meeting. The scientists might have asked the central question: “Why should Russia have ANY influence on Georgian territorial demands, wich has been acknowledged by the international community, and also Russia. They could have asked questions concerning Russians role as peacekeepers in the breakaway regions. But they didn’t. The whole article ended up as a defense for Russian politics, where Georgia was portrayed as the “enfant terrible”, led by a wild and unpredictable president, and Russia as the key to stability and development.

Misconceptions from a governmental institute is serious
The serious issue in this particular article is that NUPI is a governmental organization. What gives the Russian legitimacy in their ongoing campaign of destabilizing an other independent country’s government? One should at least expect this scientists to bare in mind the problems with the Russian lack of respect for treaties and other countries borders, like the problems in the Barents-sea, the blockade of Norwegian salmon, and the 101 Russian trawlers fishing illegally in the Norwegian sector in the Grey Zone in the Barents sea. They should bare in mind that the captain on a Russian trawler kidnapped Norwegian officials boarding the trawler to stop it’s illegal fishing. They should bare in mind that the crew on the trawler didn’t get punished in a Russian court, and that the Russians killed a Japanese fishing crew in an incident taking place in what they regarded Russian territory.

The Post Soviet reality doesn’t match the established pattern of thinking
The immediate conclusion, if we were to follow those scientists reasoning, is that the Norwegian government should give in for Russian demands in the northern territories in order to avoid a “suicidal” relationship with the Russians. As far as I understand there are no plans of “surrender”. So why should the strategy apply to Georgia? I think the reason is found in the concept of thinking about Russia as the Soviet Union with dependencies rather than Russia as ONE nation among other independent nations. The fact that Russia inherited the Soviet Unions votes in the UN Security Council might be yet another reason for the misconception . Therein lies the failure to implement post-soviet realities into to days research and analysis. And of course, in this case, also a badly hidden bias against Bush.

The Rhetoric; establishing an European identity.
A possible way to cope with this misconceptions could be to adjust the rhetoric to fit exactly a European way of communication. Not implementing the US way of cowboy-rethorics. Norway has a very close relationship with the US but never fall into the pit of using the American aggressive rhetoric that has alienated the US in it’s relationship with Europe. The EU-demand of toning down the rhetoric in the Georgia-Russia conflict might be a good advice. Not only to avoid extreme measures from Russia, but also to establish an European identity in order to avoid being alienated because of the close ties to USA. And second: To signal independence and diversity from Russia by using a more diplomatic rhetoric than Putin and the Russian Duma.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

To my subscribers

I am alive but overworked. Sadly this blog suffers from that fact, but I promise to be more active in near future. I have watched the reports from the Feedburner and notice that quite a lot of people subscribe to the blog. Some even take great effort in commenting my writings. I hope several more of you will consider doing the same in the future. Maybe one of you would consider writing a piece for the blog, send it to me by mail and have it published here?

I would like to thank you for reading this blog!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Standing ovations!

Today President Saakashvili held a half hour speech on Georgian-Russian relation and the situation in the breakout republics for the EU-Parliament. For that he was rewarded with standing ovations. And it was fully deserved. He touched several sensitive political issues and managed to place Georgia and it’s cultural traditions within the European culture. In the speech Saaakashvili gave a solid impression of Georgia as the cooperative and clear minded part of the Georgia-Russia conflict.

The speech was on par, or even better that the one he held at the G8 meeting this summer. Obviously this should contribute to boost the Georgian image as a modern and progressive nation in Europe.

President Saakashvili is an impressive speaker when he has a manuscript, but not always on top of things when he must improvise. A number of episodes on national TV have contributed to give an impression of a more emotional politician. Still his performances on the international stage by far outweigh his alleged shortcomings in more heated situations. A big applause for Saakashvili, and a big applause for his writer’s!
The speech can be seen at Rustavi TV

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Sopranos in Moscow

The Georgians will have a cold and dark winter. In order to discipline the free democratic republic Georgia, Russia find it necessary to use every available means. First the price of Russian gas to Georgia is going to be doubled from 01.01.2007. Gazprom have suggested that Georgia gives them the control over gas pipes and the distribution system in Georgia in change for a lower gas price in 2007. Needless to say the Georgian parliament were not thrilled over this generous offer. When this obviously didn’t impress the Georgians, Putin quickly found out that he had to put pressure on the potential distributors of gas like Azerbadjan in order to secure the Georgians the coldest winter ever. Just like the methods mafia-organizations uses.

Must the world really have to be bothered with this embarrassing display of primitivism? To illustrate what this doubling of the gas price means for a Georgian we can use a teacher as example. He earns 150 Lari pr. month, and pays 70 Lari in gas. Now he will have to pay 140 Lari. That means he have to live on 10 Lari a month, approximately 6$, six dollars. And he even HAS a job.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sjevardnadze questions Putins power

These last weeks the Norwegian Broadcasting have made several long reportages about the situation in Georgia. The NRK correspondent Snorre Tønset covers most of Caucasus and Russia, and is an excellent and professional reporter. The main subject have been the Russian embargo and the possibilities and problems in the Georgia and NATO / EU question. The situation in the breakout republics has also been targeted.

Putin might have been weakened
Tonight former president Sjevardnadze was interviewed. As a former Russian foreign minister he knows Russian politics from the inside, and went as far as questioning Putins power in Russia. “I know Putin as an intelligent and reasonable man, but of course people can change”, Sjevardadze said. The fact that Putin is resigning within 2 years could call for other forces to have more influence on the politics concerning both Russia and the former Soviet republics. Sjevardnadze implied that strong nationalist forces in Russia could have gained substantial power. He also commented on Saakashvili as president, and made a positive point of the broad cross political support the president has at the moment in the Georgian parliament.

(picture curtesy of NRK)