Strictly speaking I should be working on my novel manuscript; those chaps from Sulakauri Publishing have been very patient with me and I keep avoiding sitting down and actually working on it at any length. And since I have the opportunity to do so now, I’ve decided to do something else. It’s funny how the mind works, ain’t it?
Since there’s a big rally on Rustaveli today with a woman shouting angrily into a megaphone standing in front of banners with South Ossetia and Abkhazia highlighted, I’ve decided we’ll talk about Georgia’s politics today (although God knows what she’s yelling about, it could be “Chairs to mend!” for all I know).
I had a good long chat with my mate Eduard (who is of Armenian extraction, but Georgian born and raised) about South Ossetia and Abkhazia the other day, and we came to some interesting conclusions. It’s a tricky business, and no mistake, but as it stands today both regions are historically part of Georgia, and so understandably the fact that they are unrecognised independent non-entities is a sore point for Georgian people. Eduard and I came to a decision: let them go.
Now, this opinion has proved rather controversial amongst some (but not all) of my Georgian friends, but been rather more popular with foreigners I’ve spoken to. ‘Ah ha,’ thinks you, ‘taking the side of the foreigners now, are you? And we thought you were a patriot, you swine!’ Not a bit of it; as a lover of Georgia, its people, its culture and its history, I simply want what’s best for my country.
You see, as things stand now, living conditions in both regions are getting close to appalling. Neither ‘republic’ is part of the Russian Federation as they had hoped to be when they seceded, and they have seemingly deteriorated into hotbeds for organised crime and corruption.
It seems to me that Saakashvili attempting to reclaim those areas by force is a little like the British attacking Canada, or Australia, or India, yelling ‘Give it back you insolent bastards!’. Well, perhaps not quite, but a more realistic example would be if Wales or Scotland attempted to secede from the United Kingdom (which those tartan buggers look like they’re close to doing, the ungrateful blackguards). Without England, Wales and Scotland have no economy, no unified defence and virtually nothing to gain. And so it is in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (near enough, although we’re skipping over the details in fine style).
One of my main worries these days is relations with Russia, and how awful they clearly are. Letting go of both territories should (in theory, but I don’t trust those Muscovite villains) ease things up a bit, especially since this year Moscow made it abundantly clear they have no interest in thawing relations after they refused to return Georgia’s gesture of lifting visa restrictions. NATO offers no guarantees of security. Their fearful attitude of ‘Ah, well, you never know, maybe next year…’ only makes matters worse, increasing, rather than discouraging, frantic Georgian interest in their organisation and hence prompting more aggression from Moscow. It’s also slightly ironic that Georgia’s armed forces are better trained, better equipped and vastly more experienced than any troops Lativa, Estonia and Lithuania (all NATO members) can field.
I remember when the war broke out in ’08, and America, Georgia’s greatest benefactor, ‘slammed’ the Russians, with Condoleeza Rice firmly stating, ‘We strongly condemn the actions of the Russian Federation’. Good show, Condoleeze, that’s sure to stop a few Russian tanks. I fancy if the Americans had suddenly deployed the 6th Fleet to the Black Sea, and unleashed the Marines, Army and an untold frenzy of airborne destruction, the Russians might have said ‘Oh, come on chaps, I was only joking, don’t ye know…’. But as it was, the White House looked rather pathetic after being Georgia’s greatest champion since the Rose Revolution and then dropping them like a shot and leaving it to the EU.
Going back to NATO, I also believe if Russia suddenly felt an impulse to invade the Baltic States with a cry of ‘Tally-ho, lads!’ the last thing NATO would do is send troops in, even though the original idea was that if you attacked one NATO nation, you attacked the lot (experience shows that didn’t work, just look at the Falklands in ’82). There’d be more condemnations and stern addresses to the Press, but if you’re an Eastern European crawling from the wreckage of your home while the tanks roll by, friends and family wounded or dead, you might not take a lot of comfort from a Western politician sweating in Parliament as he stammers out a speech that he hopes will appease the panicking Lithuanian President and at the same time not anger the Russians. Come come now, I hear you say, surely that’s a bit dramatic, ain’t it? Well, not really; go and ask the refugees from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and let ’em tell you.
So in that sense I don’t see the point in pursuing NATO membership, since it’s clearly become so stagnant and offers no true guarantee of security at all. I wonder if it was Saakashvili’s ploy all along to get NATO and then reaffirm his borders. Probably not, but you never know.
Getting back to my opinion on it all. Letting go of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is, I believe, the best thing to do to bring them back into the fold. Georgia itself is on the rise, things are improving all the time (and I think the place is already bloody fantastic, so snooks to you, England), what with more development now being done outside of the capital, like Parliament’s imminent relocation to Kutaisi. So, as Georgia progresses, South Ossetia and Abkhazia will only get worse, especially as their Russian support is decidedly intangible, manifesting only when it suits Moscow’s need to have a slap at Tbilisi. Eventually, the Abkhaz will wistfully recall their history, how things were perhaps better when they were part of greater Georgia, and the Ossetians will remember how David Soslani, husband to Queen Tamar and defeater of the Seljuks, was himself Ossetian.
If my theory is correct then I’m sure the Georgians will accept their neighbours again. It certainly won’t be anywhere as tense as things are, say, in Australia, where our convict cousins regard the aboriginal natives as a lumbering, thieving, stupid people. Like the Irish, I suppose, but without the gaiety.
So there you have it. My opinion on the Georgian regional crisis. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me, many already do; some advocating a sudden all-out assault on both regions (quite why they think this is a good idea, it didn’t work out so well last time) and others, for reasons unknown, pushing for a continuation of the awkward status quo. Others might agree with me. I might get the Nobel Peace Prize. And then it will be King David the Builder, Tamar the Great, George the Brilliant and…me. A man can dream. Well, if anyone is reading this, feel free to comment and leave your opinion, too.