Thursday, April 9, 2009

Every Rose has its thorn

It's only six year since a hundred thousand jubilant Georgians wrestled their way into the Parliament in the Rose Revolution and installed their man, a bewildered thirtysomething Mikheil Saakashvili as president. Now the same numbers are being mustered to oust him.
Knowing Georgia reasonably well, having spent eighteen months there in the mid 90s I was delighted at the time that the people seemed to be getting what they wanted. And I was deeply moved at Saakashvili's humility and meekness as he took power from Papagei (the Parrot) Eduard Shevardnadze, perhaps the second-best known figure of the perestroika era.
But there was something about the tinny America accent and the love of Americana that rankled. The Ivy league generation were much in evidence in Georgia even in 1995/96. Smooth suits, western spouses, IQs off the scale, they were a brilliant advertisement for the country and showed that this achingly beautiful  country perched between the Black Sea and the Caucasus ("between Marx and Mohammed" as one author coined) was a separate, and vibrant place.
Sadly, the place is riddled with crime and corruption. And even a successful marketing campaign about the "other" Georgia couldn't bring all the improvements that Saakashviuli's erstwhile fans wanted. Yes, there may have been electricity (almost) 24 hours a day for the first time since Communism, but the country was still fragmented.
Stinging the bear to the north in the rump was a silly, silly move. The bear has just been made to look a little helpless over a new country in the Balkans, and was looking for a bee to swat. Saakashvili proved to be that bee and little Georgia was lucky to escape oblivion. The global recession may have come just in time for Russia to realise that military adventures might be fine when oil is 150 bucks a barrel, but a little less attractive when it's under 50.
So watch out little Mishiko. The bear may have lumbered away rubbing its stung butt, but you are just as vulnerable to a million ants who are right now crawling up the stem of your rose. If you go, remember how Babu Eduard did it. With grace and dignity, and without using the troops.



  1. The conflict in Georgia hints at proxy war and when in the hell will all this world conflict settle down? When the oil runs out? Or is that when it will start and all this is prelude?

  2. Georgia is geo-politics personified. It is a crossroads for pipelines to Europe from the Caspian (but do you turn right for Russia or left for Turkey?) - it is also a true cultural crossroads (and a gastronomic paradise). Proxy war? Not really. Geo political strategic and desirable territory? Absolutely. European, Causcasian, Sovietique, Trans Caucasian, Oriental or all of the above? Nah, pure Georgia - a great and independent minded country with a deep deep culture and identity that will never be a simple pawn or proxy. Just a small republic which has to fight for its independence and resist manipulation. Not an unfamiliar scenario.

  3. Geo-political strategic = proxy war. JL