Friday, May 29, 2009

A new war? - Russia’s Caucasian Mess

“Territorial integrity is a thing of the past”, Russias UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (picture) said during the attack on Georgia last summer. It’s wise to have that statement in mind as we now learn that the Russians, like last spring, is planning their big military exercise Kavkaz 2009 in June, and the South Ossetians have began shooting at Georgians ( in the buffer zone (29.05.09), maybe to prepare the ground for yet a Russian “humanitarian intervension” like last year? They have also deployed more troops, missile launchers and tanks along the borderzones.The unstable situation has affected the whole of Georgia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia appear to be in deep political crisis, with various political forces fighting for power. The mess Russia has created after its invasion of Georgia in 2008 is considerable. As Solzhenitsyn pointed out, a Federation is always based on a mutual wish for a beneficial unity, a centripetal force, not the Russian centrifugal military invasion and oppression strategy. So naturally what Russia has achieved by its occupation of Georgian territory is more or less chaos and hostility everywhere. Maybe more than they wished for.
Political turmoil in Georgia proper
In Tbilisi, the opposition has gone completely off the rails lead by a singer called “Ucnobi”, the unknown. Gathering 60 000 at his political rallies, this oppositional figure, presumably perceived as a sort of romantic revolutionary hero, has his own TV show where he pours out his wrath in a small cell, only interrupted by frequent drinking and smoking. The man has no political program, and no identifiable political direction. He is supported by several opposition figures (also without any program or direction) like former Saakashvili allied and Parliamentary speaker Nino Burdjanaze and her compatriot Salome Zurabishvili, determined to commit political suicide as soon as possible. The goal is to topple president Saakashvili, which remains calm and relatively unprovoked judging from the lack of interference with the bold demonstrators. Blocking railroads and main roads, alienating it self and the vast majority of Georgians that wants peaceful reforms is playing it directly into the Russians hands. Destabilization and riots only serves the Russian Federation. The former Georgian Ambassador to the UN, Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia, is in spite of this a point of light. His fraction has turned from activism to more democratic means of protest, and wants to negotiate with the Saakashvili regime instead. A very smart move:According to Caucasus Research Resources Centres 20% - 30% of the population support the government. 20% support the more strident opposition. 50% to 60% are more or less undecided politically. Put in other terms: 20-30% want stability 20% want change, even if this involves risk, and 50-60% want significant change, but also sufficient stability. This means that for the opposition, they could have found up to 80% of the population agreeing with them that they want change -up to a point, and only if stability could be guaranteed.
Abkhazia – Soon to be swallowed by Putin.
According to the De facto Vice-President of Abkhazia Raul Khajimba, which is supported by Moscow and seen as the guarantor of Russian expansion in Abkhazia, there is a “deep governmental crisis” in Abkhazia. Khajimba says that President Baghapsh uses force against the opposition in Abkhazia, and accused Baghapsh of behaving in a “non-transparent” way when giving control over the Abkhazian-Georgian administrative border to Russian forces. Baghapsh is also accused by the opposition of “selling” the country to Russia. The majority of Abkhazian strategic and economic facilities are owned by Russian citizens and that the de facto authorities are drafting a law which will allow Russians to purchase Abkhazian land. Baghapsh has already signed a deal giving the Russian ownership to railroads and airfields for ten years ahead, given permission to drill for oil off the shores of Abkhazia, and finally given space for the mighty Russian Black Sea Fleet.
South Ossetia – dictatorship, corruption and nepotism
Separatist leader Eduard Kokoity is expected to extend what the opposition calls his tyranny over South Ossetia when the Russian-backed rebel region holds an election on Sunday. The opposition say Kokoity wants to change the constitution so that he can run for a third term in 2011 and an overwhelming success in the parliamentary election would help him do this.South Ossetia awaits Parliamentary elections on May 31. Representatives of the South Ossetian opposition have stated that the current separatist leader Eduard Kokoity is using “dirty tricks” to keep his party in power. Some opposition members have accused him of “stealing Russian money” destined for the rehabilitation of the region after the August 2008 conflict. “A dictatorship is being established in South Ossetia right now and the President Kokoity and his brother are stealing Russian humanitarian aid and budget funds destined for rehabilitation,” said a Moscow-backed ethnic Ossetian, Jambulat Tedeev. The South Ossetian opposition believes the election will be rigged, and will organize protests against Kokoity

Sources: Temur Kiguradze, Guy Faulconbridge - Reuters, Georgia Dayly, Caucasus Research Resources Centres