12 August 2008

Georgia: a simple lesson

After the collapse of the brutal Tsarist empire, Georgia proclaimed independence, with a more moderate leftwing government led by the Mensheviks, until the murderous Red Army invaded and absorbed Georgia into the USSR in 1921.

The USSR ceded some of Georgia to Turkey, with nearly a third of the entire territory of Georgia moved into Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republics. From then it was under the tyranny of Moscow, until 1991.

On independence, Georgia went through a coup deposing Zviad Gamsakhurdia as President, replacing him in due course with former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, who was President for eight years. While he ruled a corrupt state, he allowed freedom and civil society to flourish, leading the way for the Rose revolution in 2003

After independence, in 1991, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia became flashpoints for nationalist movements based on Russians seeking to join the Russian Federation. In both provinces, Georgia lost control and many tens of thousands of Georgians forced to flee in the bigoted tribalism that ensued.

Ossetians and Abkhazians have terrorised and murdered Georgians, and vice versa. Nationalists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia have spread the same sort of vile bigoted tribalism as is still seen in the Balkans, claiming Georgia will inflict genocide on them - which is nonsense. Georgians in those territories equally claim the locals will do the same to them.

Georgia has now poured gallons of petrol on the embers of those who say "genocide", by attacking South Ossetia. Now Russia is claiming "genocide" and helping the knuckle dragging nationalists terrorise Georgians.

Georgia is not in the right - it is willing to force people within its "territory" to submit to its rule, and as a result it has inspired Russia to be the bullying bear we all knew it to be. Russia could now invade and conquer Georgia, although it is too clever to be that blunt. However it will effectively annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia and know the world will do nothing. Don't be surprised if you hear stories of Georgians fleeing both regions, and massacres - don't be surprised if these too are exaggerated, but essentially true in substance if not scale.

It vindicates NATO not admitting Georgia, but it also raises the spectre of what happens when NATO does not expand. I believe it was a mistake to reject Georgia and Ukraine, rather than to specify preconditions for membership. It was a mistake bent on not frightening Russia - a country that only one as distant from reality as Adolf Hitler, would dare attempt to conquer.

Now Russia has flexed its muscles it may look elsewhere - the second Cold War has not begun, but the winds from the east look mightily chilly to those closest to the bear.

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