Does this look like a man with a problem? Or, is he just badly in need of a tailor?
Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili has to be either a man of immense courage and vision to take on the might of the Russian military and expect to win, or a downright bloody fool.
My money’s on the latter.
While the western media slags off Putin and Medvedev (well, just Putin really, as the other fellow is irrelevant) accusing them of invading another sovereign nation, it totally ignores the fact that this guy with the seven o’clock shadow first of all sent his army into South Ossetia, an independent province since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and began shelling its capital city, Tskhinvali. The Russians, who have maintained a peacekeeping force in the area, along with Georgian and South Ossetian troops, are pledged to defend South Ossetian citizens, most of whom hold Russian passports.
Admittedly, the Russians have been supplying the South Ossetians with arms with which to harass the Georgians, and have stepped up the nudging of them to do even more of it of late, but one has to admire Putin’s strategy.
The core of this problem is George W Bush’s insistence on sticking loads of American warheads on Russia’s doorstep. Putin tried to be nice about it. He asked Bush not to do it.
The West had taken it’s usual predatory stance when the USSR collapsed, and spent a lot of time and money bribing the old satellite states to dissolve their allegiance to the wounded superpower and throw in their lot with NATO. Bush wasn’t going to cast that to the winds. He saw an opportunity to advance NATO right up to Putin’s front door.
Saakashvili was one of those who ran straight to the outstretched arms of the West, in the shape of the EU. He practically slavered at the idea of US bases in Georgia, Or, maybe the dribbling had more to do with the vast quantities of American dollars being poured into his grubby little mittens, in exchange.
There’s no doubt Russia, via the South Ossetian rebels, has been needling Saakashvili into taking the action he did. It’s exactly what Putin wanted. Georgia’s US-trained army was never a match for the Russian military.
Quite why the Georgian leader took the decision to invade at this time is unclear. One must assume he expected the West and NATO to come to his aid; not so wild a supposition, perhaps, given that only last April NATO agreed to Georgia’s eventual acceptance as a full member. Even so, if Saakashvili believed Europe and the US would strike at Russia on his behalf, then he’s truly a case for the psyche ward.
It’s unlikely that NATO invitation will still be on the table. One of the provisions must surely have been the integration of South Ossetia into Georgia, and another breakaway province, Abkhazia, in the north-west of the country. By its military action, Russia has made it quite clear that integration will never be allowed to occur. It is, anyway, against the wishes of a majority of its people. A referendum (observed by the EU and declared fair) in November 2006 clearly showed a massive 98%-99% of the populace wished to remain independent.
Prior to the referendum, however, a European Union representative had stated, “results of the South Ossetian independence referendum will have no meaning for the European Union” – a statement that clearly defines the dedication of European politicians to democracy.
Vladimir Putin is playing a dangerous game of chess with South Ossetia. His opponent is not Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who’s no more than a mere pawn in the game, but the Western powers of the United States and Europe. By his strategy, Putin has now defined the line over which NATO must not cross. The West would do well to heed, and withdraw. Neither side will risk an open confrontation and Putin has called a decisive “Check” on George W Bush and NATO’s plans for expansion into what was once the ‘Soviet bloc’.
Saakashvili is almost certainly finished politically. South Ossetia will remain independent. Eventually, the conflict will calm down like an expired squib. Russia will retain its influence, the West retire to lick its wounded pride, and the great Soviet chess master will no doubt quietly gloat over his latest triumph.
What a pity so many had to die in the process.
Filed under: Political Olympics