With that being said, Mike's October 5-6 Quick Takes had the following point to make regarding the current Russian-Georgian conflict:
Outside View: The Russia-Georgia DivideSo, let's see what each of these articles has to say. From the World Peace Herald article by Victor Litovkin, Georgia's Illegal Actions, cited above:
A number of individuals were aware of these realities awhile back. In some circles, such realities only become acknowledged when the media elites controlling the editing process decide that it's okay to release what had been obvious.
Dispute With Russia Threatens Georgia
This NYT article has a noticeably different slant from the one linked just before it.
The circus show, poorly orchestrated and performed by the Georgian security services, is over. The four arrested Russian officers were deported to Russia after five days in prison, and arrived in Moscow safe and sound.And from the NY Times article Dispute With Russia Threatens Georgia by Daria Vaisman (International Herald Tribune) cited by Mike:
Nevertheless, Russia's economic, transport, bank and postal blockade of Georgia in response to what President Vladimir Putin called an "act of state terrorism", has not been lifted. Nobody can guarantee that the Georgian authorities will stop their illegal actions against Russian citizens in Georgia.
The outrageous impudence and brazen provocations of the Georgian leadership towards Russia and its citizens have become typical of what the West still calls "Georgia's most successful democratic government." It is hard to judge of "the successes of the Georgian economy" if the very existence of the Tbilisi ruling elite depends on the aid of its Western sponsors.
As for the "democratic" character of President Mikhail Saakashvili and his ministers, the arrest of the Russian officers speaks for itself. The officers arrived in Georgia a couple of months ago to organize troop withdrawal. They were accused of spying, establishing an espionage network, preparing a coup d'etat, and staging acts of terror at power transmission lines in Kavkasioni. They were also charged with the explosion of a car in the town of Gori last year, as a result of which three people died and 18 were wounded. The officers must have been very busy!
No conclusive evidence was presented to buttress these accusations. There was only a poorly doctored tape with a recording of some car conversations, whereby one officer handed money to the locals -- either for spying, or as payment for chacha (Georgian home-brew).
Marina Tutberidze’s husband works in Moscow, illegally, at a construction site, sending home much of the money he earns. Now an escalating confrontation between Georgia and Russia has left that support in doubt, along with much of Georgia’s economy.
Russia’s decision to sever transportation links — including flights, trains and ferries between the countries — has left Georgians and their businesses scrambling to cope with the disappearance of their country’s biggest and closest market. Millions of dollars in Georgian goods are languishing at customs terminals, even as Moscow-bound travelers seek ways around the transportation disruptions.
In Russia, Georgians faced investigations that have already closed several businesses, including a second Georgian-owned casino on Wednesday. The Russian news media have been almost universally hostile to Georgia in their reports, comparing Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to Hitler or to Lavrenti P. Beria, the secret police chief in the Stalin era. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia also made the Beria comparison this week.
Russian newspapers reported that the authorities were checking lists of Georgian migrants and would soon raid dozens of businesses. Ms. Tutberidze, speaking through an interpreter, said her husband feared arrest and deportation if he left his living quarters.
Russia has shown no sign that it intends to ease the pressure, despite the release Monday of four Russian military officers, whose arrests last week precipitated the latest deterioration of relations. In Moscow on Wednesday, Mr. Putin warned Georgia in unusually harsh terms. “I would not allow anyone to talk to Russia in the language of provocation and blackmail,” he told parliamentary leaders.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe appealed to each country to tone down the war of words and actions, but Russian lawmakers vowed to toughen, not ease, the economic sanctions against Georgia, their southern neighbor.
Additional steps could include a ban on all money transfers to Georgia, which could hit hardest the poorest Georgians, who rely on money from an estimated 500,000 Georgians who live and work in Russia. The World Bank has estimated that that money amounts to 10 percent of Georgia’s gross domestic product. In Georgia, officials sounded defiant and resigned. Mr. Saakashvili and others have said that the country would learn to do without Russian trade, if necessary. The chief of the central bank, Roman Gotsiridze, told Reuters that Georgia would seek to block Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization as long as the sanctions were in effect.
The current sanctions followed several punitive trade barriers, including a Russian ban on wine and mineral water, the major Georgian exports to Russia. “Businesses were ready for the worst-case scenario after the problems with wine and water,” said Giorgi Isakadze, the leader of the Georgian Business Association. Russia closed the principal land crossing into Georgia, Kazbegi, in July, forcing Georgian exporters to find other ways.
“The border has been closed for some time,” said Esben Emborg, the Georgia country director for Nestlé. Amy Denman, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Tbilisi, said that Russia’s new sanctions would raise shipping costs for international companies like Nestlé, Colgate, Motorola and Philip Morris. “The embargo has definitely irritated them and made their life more difficult,” she said. The sanctions could force companies to look outside Russia for markets and supplies, she said, adding, “The feeling is that Russia is shooting itself in the foot a little here.”
Even so, Georgians fear that Russia could exert more pressure, particularly on the gas supply. Russia’s gas monopoly, Gazprom, has promised to maintain supplies to Georgia, but many here recall the brief shut-off last winter after a mysterious explosion on a gas pipeline that Mr. Saakashvili blamed on the Russians.
But for now Russia’s tough stance has strengthened support for Mr. Saakashvili, who has vowed to steer Georgia free of Russia’s influence, at times with provocative words and actions of his own, like the arrests of the Russian officers last week.
Even opposition groups that have previously attacked Mr. Saakashvili have portrayed Russia’s actions as a punitive response to Georgia’s desire to be integrated into Europe and NATO. That, some say, could build Mr. Saakashvili’s political support.
“Having Russia as an enemy was used before and is used now as a unifying factor and a symbol of strength,” said Tinatin Khidasheli, leader of the rival Republican Party. “The higher voice you use against Russia, the braver you appear.”
Reading both articles, I found myself having more questions about the obviously critical or sarcastic tone of the first article - rather than the sympathetic tone of the second article. What do you expect, I'm an American and opinions are shaped by reporting. The first article is an alien (in this case, Russian) point of view for most Americans.
I wrote the following questions to Mike, hoping to hear his response (he is usually quite good in replying if you take the time to ask his opinion).
Read through the NY Times and Victor Litovkin on World Peace Herald that you cited. The tone is definitely different, but the Litovkin piece left me with these thoughts.Mike appreciated the comments and felt I brought up some good points:
I wonder ... when Russia arrested those Brits last year with scant evidence and accused them of spying ... if that was also an "act of state terrorism" and an "illegal action" and "outrageous impudence and brazen provocations of the (Russian) leadership towards (the United Kingdom)"?
Would the UK have been justified to treat Russia in the wake of that fiasco - as Russia is now treating Georgia? Should the UK have kicked out all Russian citizens, withdrawn their diplomats, and cracked down on all Russian business enterprises in the UK? Even my Russian friends in Moscow didn't believe all that business about that "rock" being some high-tech gadget.
And, as regards the accusations that the Georgian leadership is being propped up with Western monies (maybe they mean the 1.5% of Georgian GDP that comes from the oil pipeline) - one has to wonder if such an accusation would need to be made, if Russia had not done everything in its power to squeeze the Georgian economy? I mean, after Putin always making a show of having a glass of Borjomi on his table - now you can't even buy it (legally) in Russia? If the West now did give some generous economic aid to Georgia (very unlikely given that it didn't happen with Ukraine), doesn't it become a self-fulfilling prophecy on the part of Russian officials?
I've really been struck with how Russian anger and response towards Georgia far exceeds the Georgian "provocation". There is an emotional factor in play there that exceeds reason. Perhaps some of this is historical between Georgia and Russia.
My feeling is this all goes back to the BTC oil pipeline, and the Russian government being pissed off that they are being bypassed somewhat in the pipeline game. Russia has refused pipeline sharing agreements - maybe for good reasons, as they want to assert more control over their oil assests and the price in the marketplace. Western powers, being the purchaser of oil and gas, seek to have as many suppliers as possible - are directly opposed to this.
The BTC pipeline - particularly if it is expanded and tied into by Kazakhstan (Aktau-Baku Oil pipeline and Gas pipeline projects) represents some threat to Russia being able to assert greater price control in the oil and gas marketplace.
Nice reply, which I 'd like to post with a detailed follow-up [...]
Actually, the Russian government isn't pleased with Britain's harboring of Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev.Whatever happened with that rock incident?As you know, I previously likened Mikheil Saakashvili as Russia's Hugo Chavez in the sense that both like to stick it to the power in their neighborhood.There's something to your fossil fuel connection. I sense that there would still be tensions were it not a factor.
As a footnote, Global Voices Online has commentary from around the blogosphere regarding the current conflict between Russia and Georgia. It is also well worth reading.