Thursday, November 08, 2007

Georgia on My Mind

The Daily Telegraph reports that Georgia, which lies between the Black Sea and Russia, has declared a state of emergency on the grounds that Russia is trying to take over the country.

Georgia's government has declared a state of emergency, accusing Russia of orchestrating a coup attempt following pitched battles between police and opposition supporters in the capital.

The country's image as a bastion of democratic western values in the former Soviet sphere took a battering after riot police attacked opposition protesters in Tbilisi and used force to pull the main anti-government television station off the air.

The immediate question is whether the state of emergency -- the second in as many weeks in a key allied country in the War on Terror -- is a power play by Mikhail Saakashvili or a genuine response to Russian subversion.

So far official American sources have been noncomittal on which of the two cases obtains. The Washington Post reports that the State Department has not taken a definite stand on whether Russia is in fact threatening Georgia.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called on the two sides to settle their differences peacefully. He declined to comment on claims of Russian interference. U.S. officials in the past have praised reform efforts but said that Georgia has a long way to go to achieve true democracy and tolerance of dissent.

Those reforms apparently include a significant reduction in the amount of perceived corruption.

Since coming to power in 2003, Saakashvili has boosted spending on the country's armed forces and increased its overall size to around 45,000. Of that figure, 12,000 have been trained in advanced techniques by U.S. military instructors. Some of these troops have been stationed in Iraq as part of the international coalition in the region, serving in Baqubah and the Green Zone of Baghdad. In May 2005, the 13th Infantry Battalion ("Shavnabada") became the first full battalion to serve outside of Georgia. This unit was responsible for two checkpoints to the Green Zone, and provided security for the Iraqi Parliament. In October 2005, the unit was replaced by the 21st Infantry Battalion. Soldiers of the 13th battalion wear the "combat patches" of the American unit they served under, the Third Infantry Division. The Georgian government claims to have restored "constitutional order" in the upper Kodori Gorge — the sole Georgia-controlled part of breakaway region Abkhazia.

Georgia has in the past few years significantly reduced corruption. Transparency International ranked Georgia at joint number 99th in the world in its 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (with number 1 being the least corrupt nation), giving it a score of 2.8 (with number 10 being considered the best possible score).This is a significant improvement on Georgia's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index, where Georgia was rated joint 130th.

The main irritant for Russia is probably Georgia's attempt to shift its orientation West, towards NATO, the EU and the United States. The Russians are probably indifferent to any domestic grievances the Georgian opposition might have, but are probably interested in stopping Georgia from leaving their sphere of influence. That will inevitably happen if Saakashvili has his way. Russia has for some time been accused of trying to re-assemble the old Soviet Empire. The question, to which the reaction of the State Department leaves no answer, is whether the current unrest in Georgia is part of a Russian attempt to end the Rose Revolution. State probably hopes the problem solves itself. But what happens if it doesn't?


Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

The Georgians are the closest thing to Good Guys there are in the Caucasus. We should be good to them. They are going to be key to the evacuation of ISAF from Afghanistan once Musharraf falls.

11/08/2007 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/08/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

11/08/2007 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Georgia on my Mind Ray Charles

Georgia on my Mind Ella Fitzgerald

11/08/2007 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

I liked Ray Charles' version. Ray brings energy to his interpretation. I totally despised Ella Fitzgerald's version. Ella sucks the last bit of juice out of you.

11/08/2007 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Georgia is an interesting case in that Putin is going against the epochal trend of political fragmentation we see almost everywhere else by trying to patch together another version of the Soviet Union.

Demographically Russia is a disaster with ethnic Russians dying off faster than a shot of Stoly. Putin is paying a cash bonus of about $8,000 for each new birth.

Bringing Georgia back into the fold will help the demographics.

11/08/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Smith said...

Does anyone know of an issue the State Dept does take a stand on?

I don't care what Saakashvili is up to, the KGB thug is the enemy.

11/08/2007 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Say Iraq is a wonderful thing, a bad thing, we are winning or not --but the fact remains while we are bogged down and stuck there other rivals of the US are enjoying a field day of freedom of action with no fear of America stepping in.

Effectively, American power and ability to influence events from Venezuela to Georgia has degraded from profound to nearly nil in 4 years.

And won't recover until we get our fiscal house in order and begin rebuilding our military after Iraq is stabilized or we withdraw.

11/09/2007 03:40:00 PM  

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