Category Archives: Georgia

Mikheil Saakashvili and The Georgian Invasion of Ukraine

Lincoln Mitchell writes for the New York Observer:

In one of the stranger developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Ukrainian President Petro Poroschenko recently appointed former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as governor of the Odessa region. Mr. Saakasvhili, who had served as his country’s President between 2004-2013, had been spending his days since leaving office alternating between being one the world’s most outspoken supporters of Ukraine’s struggle against Russia, and enjoying a hipster lifestyle of semi-retirement in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, the Georgian government has indicted Saakashvili on charges related to the violent dispersal of protests and other malfeasance.

At first glance, this seems like a very strange move by the Ukrainian President, not least because Mr. Saakashvili is not even Ukrainian. However, since taking the appointment, Mr. Saakashvili, who had been a member of Mr. Poroschenko’s Council of International Advisors, has given up his Georgian citizen to become a citizen of Ukraine. The appointment seems to indicate a belief, on the part of Mr. Poroschenko, that in a country of well over 40 million people, there is not one person who is sufficiently smart, incorruptible, loyal to the President and visionary enough to serve as governor of this key region. Additionally, in recent years, many critics of Vladimir Putin, including Ukraine’s current Prime Minister, have argued the Russian President is seeking to reconstitute the Soviet Union. Yet, now it is Ukraine’s President who is behaving as if he is not exactly clear that Georgia and Ukraine are separate countries. Saakashvili, after all, is only one of several Georgians, all previously part of his government, who are serving in very high level positions.’



NATO Plans to Open Georgia Training Center by Year’s End

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow announced today that the alliance intends to open a new military training center in the Republic of Georgia by year’s end, threatening to add to NATO-Russia tensions.

Officials say this is part of an effort to strengthen both their relationship with Georgia and the nation’s military capabilities. Georgia’s military was largely destroyed during the brief 2008 Russo-Georgian War.’


The Most Dangerous Time in Russian-US Relations Since the Cuban Missile Crisis: Interview w/ Prof. Stephen F. Cohen

Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.



US and Europe at odds over NATO expansion to Ukraine, Georgia

Christoph Hasselbach reports for DW:

‘NATO is only obliged to collectively defend its own member states against attack from outside. Many European politicians must currently be secretly relieved by the existence of the principle. If Ukraine were a member of NATO, the annexation of Crimea in March would have plunged the Western alliance into an immediate military confrontation with Russia.

Yet only a few years ago, there was serious discussion about inviting Ukraine and Georgia to join the alliance. At the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, the United States, under President George W. Bush, campaigned vehemently in favor. However, several European states – including Germany – had misgivings, because even then they were concerned about the possibility of serious tensions with Russia.

Today, Berlin is more convinced of this than ever.’


Hagel Vows Increased Military Aid to Georgia

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today promised more US military aid to Georgia, during a visit to the Caucasus republic, insisting the aid was part of a response to Russia’s “long-term challenge” to the US.

Georgia has been keen to cash in on the ongoing eastern Ukrainian war, which the US is blaming Russia for, and trying to present it as somehow related to the brief 2008 Russo-Georgian War.’


Rasmussen: Ball in Ukraine’s court over NATO after election

Adrian Croft reports for Reuters:

‘NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that Ukraine’s political leaders expect a new parliament to abandon the country’s non-aligned status after an election next month in a possible prelude to an application to join NATO. Ukraine said on Friday it would seek the protection of NATO membership after what Kiev and its Western allies say is the open participation of the Russian military in the war in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.

Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich, who was toppled in a revolution this year, had pursued non-aligned status since he took power 2010 – a route taken by many developing countries not wishing to be linked with NATO or any major power bloc. If Ukraine scrapped its non-alliance status after the Oct. 26 vote, NATO would discuss with Kiev “how to move forward”, Rasmussen said, but he said it was too early to say how long it might take for Ukraine to join the U.S.-led alliance.’


NATO will not offer Georgia membership step, avoiding Russia clash

Adrian Croft reports for Reuters:

NATO will stop short of approving a formal step to membership for Georgia at its summit in September, officials said on Wednesday, dodging a possible confrontation with Moscow over the alliance’s expansion to Russia’s neighbours.

NATO members agreed in principle to draw up a “substantive package” of cooperation with Georgia that would help it move closer to NATO, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at a meeting of alliance foreign ministers. But that falls short of an invitation to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) – a formal step towards membership – that Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, had hoped for.

Putting Georgia on a path to NATO membership would have angered Russia, which is deeply hostile to the Western military alliance advancing into former Soviet republics, and some allies feared it could provoke Russian retaliation. Welcoming Georgia into the alliance would mean NATO could be obliged to go to its defence in the event of another war with Russia. And with NATO-Russia tensions running high after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, any invitation to Georgia to join the MAP has become even more of a political hot potato.’


Will Twisted History of Georgian War Facilitate a Repetition?

Steve Rendall writes for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting:

Russian peacekeeping barracks in Ossetia, 2008 (cc photo: Dmitrij Steshin/Wikimedia)When the US press takes sides, the necessary lionizing of allies and demonizing of opponents begins in earnest. And so the fascists and antisemites in Ukraine’s current “pro-West” government are downplayed or ignored (Fair Blog3/7/14), as is the US hypocrisy that denounces Russia’s military adventures while supporting the violent ouster of a democratic, if odious, Ukrainian government (Consortium News, 3/4/14).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has even been pronounced “delusional” for the rather obvious observation that, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the US “acted either without any sanction from the UN Security Council or distorted the content of these resolutions.”

The jingoistic process also requires a careful rewriting of history. Thus, in reporting and commentary on Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War provides a handy anti-Russian talking point…if you leave out half the story.


John Glaser: Russia Didn’t Invade Ukraine Because of US ‘Weakness’

John Glaser writes for Reason:

Obama and PutinOne of the more vivid political talking points to come out of Washington in the midst of Russia’s military incursions into Ukraine is that Russian President Vladimir Putin carried out such provocative actions because Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” on Syria and commence with a bombing campaign this past fall signaled to Putin he would not face consequences. “I really believe that when Vladimir Putin looks around the world—sees what happened in Syria when the red line turned pink and the president didn’t act,” Republican Senator John McCain told CNN, “I think he’s emboldened and he’s acting.”

The Wall Street Journal, similarly, put it down to “Western weakness,” arguing “it’s no coincidence that Mr. Putin asserted himself in Ukraine not long after Mr. Obama retreated in humiliating fashion from his ‘red line’ in Syria.” The truth is, anyone who actually believes Putin took military action in Ukraine because Obama backed away from his plans to bomb Syria illegally, doesn’t know anything about international relations.

First of all, the most immediate parallel to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Ukraine’s semi-autonomous peninsula, is Russia’s 2008 military action in Georgia, another former Soviet state that was leaning too far West for Moscow’s comfort. Following violent skirmishes, Russian forces occupied Georgia’s separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This happened during the George W. Bush administration, which was so willing to use military force that it invaded Iraq on trumped up pretexts and in violation of international law. If Moscow were taking its cues based on Washington’s willingness to use force, surely it would have held back in Georgia for fear of retaliation from the Bush administration.

Whenever the United States fails to act with violence abroad—a rarity, mind you—you have politicians and pundits howling about America’s “credibility” being at stake. If other countries see us backing down, goes the thinking, they won’t properly fear U.S. power and therefore they’ll be unrestrained in their actions. Actually, the technical political science literature has largely put the “credibility” argument to rest. “There’s little evidence that supports the view that countries’ record for keeping commitments determines their credibility,” write two scholars who have studied the concept.


US Urges Georgia to Align With EU, NATO

Matthew Lee writes for AP:

The United States on Wednesday warned Russia against a military intervention in Ukraine as it renewed demands that Moscow withdraw troops from disputed enclaves in another former Soviet republic, Georgia. The U.S. also urged Georgia to further integrate with Europe and NATO in calls that come amid growing tensions between Russia and the West over the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president.

In pointed comments likely to fuel already heightened Russian suspicions over Western intentions in its backyard, Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia should be “very careful” in how it proceeds in Ukraine. In addition, he announced additional, but unspecified, U.S. assistance “to help support Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic vision.” And, he denounced Russia’s continued military presence in the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the cease-fire that ended the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict.

Kerry, speaking at a meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission at the State Department, insisted that U.S. policy toward Ukraine, Georgia and the other states that once made up the Soviet Union is not aimed at reducing Russia’s influence in its neighborhood. Instead, he maintained that U.S. encouragement for former Soviet states to integrate with the West is driven by America’s desire to see them succeed as robust democracies with strong economies.

“We don’t make that urging … as some sort of zero-sum game between the East and West or between us and any other party,” Kerry said. “We simply want people to be able to exercise their freedom of choice and be able to maximize their economic opportunities. That doesn’t mean that it can’t also mean engagement with others.”


NATO: Russia’s Olympics Defense Border Violates International Law

From Antiwar:

While most of the world expresses concern about security at the Winter Olympics, NATO is reacting angrily to Russia’s security buffer around Sochi, claiming it is in violation of international law. Russia has set up a temporary buffer of checkpoints for the games, and they cross the border into the neighboring Republic of Abkhazia. Though the Abkhaz government is totally fine with this and is cooperating, NATO ally Georgia is mad.

That’s because Georgia claims Abkhazia doesn’t exist and is actually a breakaway part of their territory. NATO won’t recognize Abkhazia either, and termed the move a “violation of Georgian sovereignty.” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen objected to security checkpoints, saying “the 21st century is for bridge-building, not fence-building.” That may well be a clever slogan, but with terrorist groups openly threatening the Olympic Games Russia seems more interested in security.

As a practical matter, Abkhazia has vied for independence since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Georgia has insisted that Abkhazia belongs to them, but as a practical matter has not been able to quell secessionist efforts there, and after the brief 2008 Russo-Georgia War both they and South Ossetia have had some international recognition as independent republics.

Georgian PM names successor, ties with Russia a priority

Georgia's Interior Minister Garibashvili speaks during a news conference as Prime Minister Ivanishvili looks on in TbilisiFrom Reuters:

Georgia’s prime minister named Interior Minister Irakly Garibashvili as his successor on Saturday, handing a close ally the task of treading a political tightrope between Russia and the West.

Billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili has said he will quit as premier after Georgy Margvelashvili is sworn in as president on November 17.

Margvelashvili was elected last month to take over from Mikheil Saakashvili, who spent a decade in power pursuing friendly relations with the West – often at the expense of Russia.

Ivanishvili, who entered politics two years ago following a business career in which he made a fortune estimated at $5.3 billion, made efforts to maintain good ties with the West while improving them with Moscow.


Rasmussen: NATO won’t extend membership to Ukraine, Georgia

From UPI:

Ukraine and Georgia will not join NATO next year, the trans-Atlantic alliance’s top official said Tuesday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Ukraine decided to end its long-standing bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization while Georgia remained interested but would not become a member in 2014, Russia’s RIA Novosti news service reported.

Both countries will still have partnership action plans with the alliance and will still work together, Rasmussen said before a two-day NATO defense ministers’ meeting began in Brussels.

Ukraine and Georgia, lobbying to become NATO members for years, both enjoy full support for their bids from the United States, but alliance members rejected a proposal to offer them membership in 2008, RIA Novosti said.

Russia has opposed eastward expansion by NATO, particularly when it involves former Soviet Union republics.

Rasmussen also said the alliance does not plan to create any new formal coalitions with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a loose Eurasian military alliance based in Russia.


EU warns Russia to stop pressuring nations that seek closer ties with EU

From The Washington Post:

European Union trade ministers are warning Russia to stop pressuring neighborhood countries that seek closer ties with the EU.

The 28 nations hope to sign or initial closer cooperation agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia at a special summit next month, but Moscow has urged them to instead align themselves closer to Russia.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius chaired the meeting and said that “pressure exerted by Russia against eastern partnership partners is unacceptable.”

Russia has told Ukraine a price cut in gas would only be possible if Ukraine doesn’t sign up to an EU association agreement at a Nov. 28-29 summit. Last month, Russia banned Moldovan wine, arguing it did not meet quality standards.

The ministers also criticized Moscow for banning Lithuanian dairy products.

Washington’s Drive For Hegemony Is A Drive To War

From Paul Craig Roberts:

[…] If Washington succeeds in installing Georgia into NATO, then an attempt by Georgia to recover what it regards as lost territories would escalate the conflict. An attack by Georgia would comprise an attack by the US and NATO against Russia. Despite the risk to Europe of being pulled into a war with Russia, this month the chief of Denmark’s Home Guard was in Georgia on Washington’s mission discussing cooperation between the defense ministries of Denmark and Georgia on regional security issues.

Georgia lies to the East of the Black Sea. What “regional security issues” does Georgia have with Denmark and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? NATO was established to defend Western Europe against Soviet attack.

Finland and Sweden remained neutral during the Cold War, but both are now being recruited by NATO. NATO lost its purpose with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet, it has been greatly expanded and now includes former constituent parts of the Soviet Empire. NATO has become a cover for US military aggression and supplies troops for Washington’s wars. Georgia’s troops are fighting for Washington in Afghanistan and fought for Washington in Iraq.

Washington kept NATO alive and made it into a mercenary army that serves Washington’s world empire.

In a provocation to both Russia and China, the US is currently conducting military exercises in Mongolia. Troops from Korea and Tajikistan, formerly part of the Soviet Union, are also participating. Washington calls such operations “building interoperability between peacekeeping nations.” Obviously, foreign military forces are being incorporated into the Empire’s army.

Are Americans aware that Washington is conducting military exercises all over the world, is surrounding Russia and China with military bases, and now has an Africa Command? Have Congress and the American people signed off on Amerika Uber Alles? Shouldn’t Washington and the military/security complex be reined in before Washington’s aggression triggers a nuclear war?