Archive for September 9th, 2017


Misha’s (unsightly) circus rolls back into town – or not

September 9, 2017

10th September is due to witness what is likely to be a very unsightly event as the currently stateless Misha Saakashvili attempts to return to Ukraine from Poland at the Krakovets border crossing near Lviv.

Full disclosure, the blog has many times met Misha and found him to be entertaining, intelligent and often insightful.  Undoubtedly as a friend he would be great fun to spend time with away from the public gaze – he is however no more than an acquaintance.

A golden rule for policy wonks is not idolise individual political personalities, for eventually disagreement and disappointment will assuredly follow – no matter how much they may appeal (or not) as a person.

Mr Saakashvili is also a leader, not a manager.  He can be, and often is, a destructive whirlwind.   He can go off half-cocked.  He is spontaneous, passionate, but also prone to exaggeration (rather than barefaced lies).

Often little attention appears to be paid to corroborating evidence prior to prickly public statements being made that are later struggling to garner unambiguous legitimacy.

Whatever team he has behind him thus requires to be both loyal and capable – capable of clearing up the unintended mess, and managing and implementing the decisions he makes, and quietly undoing errors.    Sometimes it is necessary to be no more than a mere, humble, servant.  Other times it is necessary to be blunt and resolute when presenting alternative options to decisions – even if to be ignored.   Undoubtedly both rewarding and irritating in equal measure if part of that team – and the blog was acquainted with many of that team, with some of them well acquainted, when he was Governor of Odessa.

Both President Poroshenko and Misha Saakashvili place loyalty and trust above ability.  A failure of either is neither forgiven nor forgotten – particularly if there are public consequences.   Vengeance, even if a dish served cold, will assuredly be served.

By extension alliances and “understandings” are therefore only ever temporary in nature for as long as they are necessary.  They are suffered and endured.   As soon as they are deemed expendable, they are dissolved and/or discarded.

A reader can only ponder what was said between Misha Saakashvili and Ihor Kolomoisky in a private meeting in Switzerland a few days ago – but like Dmitry Firtash, both have axes to grind with President Poroshenko.  President Poroshenko will (rightly or wrongly) undoubtedly feel betrayed by all three, as they in turn may (rightly or wrongly) feel betrayed by President Poroshenko – thus vengeance as a dish, be it served cold or hot, there is plenty to go around.

Needless to say, on 10th September should Mr Saakashvili arrive as announced at the Ukrainian border with the  intention of entering Ukraine, the Ukrainian border guards are unlikely to allow Mr Saakashvili entry into Ukraine as a stateless person.  Particularly so when it was Ukraine, or more precisely President Poroshenko, that made him stateless.

President Poroshenko would rightly point out that Mr Saakashvili is but one of twenty four people of whom Ukrainian citizenship has been withdrawn during his tenure as President.  More will probably follow.

He would also be very likely to highlight alleged falsehoods and/or carelessness upon the Saakashvili citizenship application – whether such falsehoods and/or carelessness be genuine or contrived.

Not all who have lost their Ukrainian citizenship have become stateless as a result of those presidential decisions however – some held dual citizenship, which was precisely why their Ukrainian citizenship was removed.

(A reader will rightly wonder why the (in)famous Roman Nasirov has not been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship when the UK Government has publicly, repeatedly, and unambiguously confirmed his possession of UK citizenship.  It clearly suggests a selective application of the law, and thus infers President Poroshenko rules by law rather than all being equal before the rule of law.  Perhaps he will eventually get around to it)

Prima facie, those individuals who became stateless as a result of such decisions appear to have legal remedy within the Ukrainian Constitution – notwithstanding international obligations made by Ukraine regarding the avoidance of making individuals stateless.

Ergo, Mr Saakashvili has every right to address this apparent transgression of his Constitutional rights via the judicial system of Ukraine, and ultimately if unsuccessful, via the European Court of Human Rights.  This however takes time and even post-judicial reform, presidential influence over this institution remains significant.  The European Court of Human Rights is also not the fastest institution in existence – but which independent, deliberative, and integrity driven judicial institution is known for speed?  Clearly Misha sees political mileage in forcing the issue now – or alternatively fears political irrelevance as a possible consequence of awaiting the judicial machinery to go through the motions.

However, despite very low polling figures, Mr Saakashvili has some very visible supporters who have stated they will attend the border crossing in an attempt to facilitate his entry.

An unsightly circus seems likely to ensue.

The border guards are duty bound to refuse Mr Saakashvili entry (even if they actually support him) due to his current legal status (pending any appeal efforts) as far as the State is concerned.

However the Ukrainian parliamentarians that will attend the proposed Saakashvili entry have absolute immunity (and thus impunity) from the law.  How their perhaps physical interceding may affect the way the incident plays out remains to be seen.  They certainly cannot be arrested or detained even if forcibly facilitating Mr Saakashvili’s entry into the country.

Thus there will be many that take the view that any such interference in the border guards carrying out their duties will represent an even weaker grasp upon the rule of law than many currently perceive.  Alternatively others will take the view that the State decision is unlawful and therefore attempting to enforce it should be overcome “by whatever means” in the absence of judicial ruling in Mr Saakashvili’s favour.

There will be yet other parliamentarians that simply attend, not to support Mr Saakashvili, but to score political points now that pre-election electioneering has clearly started – Yulia Tymoshenko being one such individual who has stated she will personally attend.

She will gladly take this PR opportunity, and equally be content to see Misha turned away.  Ms Tymoshenko will be there for the benefit only of Ms Tymoshenko.

Nobody with even a modicum of sense could see a workable relationship between Yulia Tymoshenko and Misha Saakashvili.  Neither ego would allow it.  You either work for one of them, or against them – but such is their individual ego and leadership style, you do not work with them.

If, however, Misha Saakashvili manages to gain entry to Ukraine (and the only way will be through force by his supporters), Georgia has requested Ukraine detain him and extradite him to face charges – be they spurious or otherwise – for incidents during his presidency of that nation.  As unsightly as this entire event is likely to be on 10th September, perhaps the worst possible outcome for both Misha Saakashvili, President Poroshenko and Ukraine by extension of both international and domestic perception, would be his detention, a drawn out extradition process, and an eventual result of extradition being granted.

That said, President Poroshenko, the rule of law, – or rule by law depending upon a reader’s perception – and the enforcing institutions would also look particularly weak by allowing his entry following repeatedly clear statements entry will be denied – no matter how the immunity carrying Ukrainian politicians may attempt to hinder those enforcing his repulsion at the border.

The odds therefore, no matter how ugly matters may get at the Krakovets border crossing, would seem to favour Mr Saakashvili remaining on the Polish side – stateless for the time being at least – unless use of force by those around him is used to propel him physically into Ukraine.

Few, if anybody, will emerge from this incident looking good.


%d bloggers like this: