Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

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A quick glance over the border at Moldova

June 27, 2014

Today a very quick glance over the border at Moldova – and why not?

With tomorrow almost certainly seeing Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova signing EU Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreements, despite Ukraine currently taking by far the most grief of the three nations from The Kremlin, it goes without saying that these other two nations are not going to be spared some form of retribution either.

It therefore raised an eyebrow when the following tweet left the bowels of the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday:

The reasons for the proposed delay according to Sergei Gubarev , Russian Ambassador at large  – “Russia does not see any need for holding talks for the sake of talks.   We returned to the initial stage when the parties lay claims.

The key task is to make our meetings effective: if the July round does not yield any result, this will discredit the negotiations.”

That may seem fair enough prima facie when considering The Kremlin’s “realist” perception of the world and how it should work.

If there is nothing to say, why say anything? – Or even bother sitting down?

However, September is only 8 weeks away.  How will matters have moved on from a “return to the initial stage when parties lay claims” between July and September without any dialogue?  Surely such a problem existing in July will remain an existing problem in September?

Perhaps this is nothing more than the first of many obstructionist acts by The Kremlin regarding Moldova and nothing more?

Perhaps, however, it is also necessary to look to events in either Russia or Moldova in September, that may possibly suit The Kremlin for one reason or another – over and above simple obstructionism.

I may have touched upon one in yesterday’s entry regarding the Russian military, although that may have no connection considering what would undoubtedly follow by way of western reaction.  Would military intervention in Moldova be worth it for The Kremlin?  No – particularly so when 15-20% of Moldavian citizens also hold Romanian passports and are thus EU and NATO citizens by extension.  A very dim Romanian view of any such act would follow.

So what else could be gained for The Kremlin by moving such negotiations back to September?

The answer may very well be found in the forthcoming Moldavian parliamentary elections that occur in November – elections that are likely to give a far more Kremlin accommodating Communist Party a very reasonable chance of gaining electoral victory and the parliamentary majority.

September therefore would provide for the negotiations taking place at the beginning of the electoral campaign cycle – and throwing a spanner into the works of the existing pro-European majority at this time via the 5+2 negotiations – as well as gas, economic and social  shenanigans undoubtedly – may just be enough to tip the scales away from another pro-European parliamentary term.

Moldova will sign the agreements with the EU tomorrow.  If the current pro-European parliament has any sense it will ratify the agreements with the uppermost speed too (as will Ukraine no doubt).  However, whilst any new Communist majority would probably not undo any such agreements, it can be expected to slow implementation of these agreements down to a snails pace.

For The Kremlin, to throw spanners into the 5+2 negotiations in July, either directly – unlikely – or via instruction to Transnistria to do so, and inferring (pro-European) Chisinau inability/fault for the results (or lack of) – would seem premature considering the far greater impact that can be had by doing so at the start of parliamentary election campaigning in September.

Something to keep a watchful eye on perhaps?

Tomorrow, back to Ukraine and a signed AA/DCFTA with the EU and a simultaneously expiring ceasefire in the east.

 

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Abkhazia – A good question

May 31, 2014

Now and again readers send questions that are both difficult and/or deserving of an entry in and of themselves – and quite rightly too when reading the European “experts” and “commentators” half-informed waffle being offered up as “Gospel” relating events they are clearly on an editorial time-line to submit – that or they are entirely ill-informed.

The question raised, was whether events in Abkhazia have any direct linkage with those in Ukraine.  I am not an expert on Abkhazia or Russia – though I know a thing or two about Ukraine and there is some limited overlap.

The answer I will leave to the readers to deduce having presented a very basic situation which much like an onion has layers for them to then peel away.  I will not go into great detail – for it is not necessary.

For some time Abkhazia has drifted along, turning from a staunchly pro-Russian region into nothing more than a corrupt fiefdom for its leadership that pays little more than lip-service to its pro-Russian foundations and financiers.

Very recently, Vladislav Surkov – a grey cardinal of considerable significants in the mechanics of The Kremlin, and an architect of Kremlin actions with regard to recent Ukrainian events – flew several aides to Abkhazia with the Vice President of the Rotenburg brothers construction company – a company that will no doubt have a large and nefarious role in the new Sino-Russian gas pipelines.

The reason for the visit related to a construction project financed by Moscow – running gas to a couple of small villages.  Upon arrival quite simply the visitors from Moscow could see it had not even began.  The money stolen.

That is nothing new in Abkhazia or indeed across Russia – except in this case it appears the corrupt Abkhazia leadership forgot to ask those sending the money if it was OK to steal it and funnel some of the cash to the vested parties from Russia.

Dutifully the aides return to Moscow and recanted their tales to Mr Surkov, including a snippet that the Abkhazian leadership inferred that should the financial tap be turned off, a political change of direction may occur.

Mr Surkov is a man gifted in making the most of a political opportunity when it presents itself.   The stolen money here, is not the issue as far as Mr Surkov is concerned.

The concern of Mr Surkov is the ever decreasing lack of overt, repeated, pro-Russian rhetoric from the Abkhazian leadership, whilst they are too busy simply enriching themselves.  Stealing the money is not the problem, doing so whilst publicly omitting to praise The Kremlin to the heavens is.

However, a changing of the Abkhazian leadership does not necessarily suit the Kremlin when matters can be quickly put back on track by other methods.

Thus, a swift destabilising campaign is bought and paid for using the appearance of divisions between ethnic Russians and Georgians – catching on-lookers by surprise and leading to a lot of ill-informed waffle and guesswork in the western media.  Here some readers will undoubtedly draw parallels between with ethnic framing in Ukraine, again the work of Mr Surkov.

Since Abkhazia caught the headlines, Mr Surkov has informed the political elite of Abkhazia of the new rules of the game.  Those rules are clear.  Mr Surkov is the Kremlin author of scripts for regions that trouble Moscow.  His script will be adhered to at all times.  There will be no ad-libbing and no forgetting of lines.  Oratory will be recited on cue.

In future Kremlin control will be deniably reasserted either by framing the people verses the corrupt leadership, or by enabling ethnic unrest – both of which will lead to the overthrowing of power in such troubled regions should they not remember whose song-sheet they are to sing from – often.  Theft is irrelevant in comparison to political subordination.  Conventional military events will become a last resort.

So, the relationship to Ukraine is that of similarities in framing.  The core issue is a slippage in pro-Kremlin public adoration as far as Abkhazia is concerned – rather than Ukrainian refusal to undergo Kremlin suffrage once more.  And then there is Mr Surkov – a grey cardinal of notable ability.

Indirect linkages aplenty.  Part of a larger grand plan?  No –  At least not yet.

 

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Georgia becomes a parliamentary republic – Did anyone notice?

November 19, 2013

Yesterday, with the swearing in of the new Georgian President, Georgia made the move from presidential/parliamentary rule to that of parliamentary/presidential governance.

The president now little more than a figurehead, no different to the German President, with parliament holding the real power.

In my opinion, a very positive move, removing the claims of legitimacy to absolute personal power and authority concentrated within a single political office and an individual.  We need only look to Kyiv and the surrounding post-Soviet neighbourhood to see the problems with presidential rather than parliamentary governance, and the misuse of power when concentrated in the hands of individuals past and present.

Perhaps, if Mr Klitschko becomes president and carries out his “Saakashvilliian” purge on state officials, he will also follow Misha in the transference of power from the office of President to parliament?  Not that it worked out as Mr Saakashvili planned.  No other likely presidential candidate would entertain the idea, that’s for certain.

Sadly, I very much doubt we will see a similar move by Ukraine anytime soon – and it will probably be very much to the detriment of the country.

Nevertheless, congratulations to Georgia on becoming a parliamentary republic – regardless of the calibre of governance that comes forth from parliament, there is at least a very European model of governance now in place.

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Niko Pirosmani exhibition – Odessa

November 3, 2012

Odessa has become, at last, distinctly autumnal. +15, cloudy and wet today to be exact.

We don’t get that many wet days to be honest, but what is there to do in a seaside city when the heat of summer has gone and weather such as today casts its dreary cloak?

Fortunately, the city is not short of cultural venues or exhibitions at any time of year.

So, wet and miserable as it is, I’m going out to the Odessa Municipal Art Gallery at St Archangel Mikhail Nunnery where the Georgian Consulate are sponsoring an exhibition of paintings by Niko Pirosmani, a very well know Georgian painter from days gone by.

If you are at a loose end and in Odessa, it is probably well worth spending a few hours perusing and appreciating his work – especially if the weather remains as it is!

The exhibition runs until 21st November.

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Georgia – Free & Fair elections? Ignoring the means and legitimising the ends?

October 3, 2012

Well the Georgian people have spoken and President Saakashvili’s party are now in the minority.

I am neither surprised given the grievous and disgusting material to emerge from a Georgian prison,  nor sorry status quo in Georgia has been broken.  Whilst that may – or may not – prove disastrous for Georgia in the short term, lasting democracy is only ever built on the regular peaceful changing of government by public mandate when all is said and done.  To quote Aristotle – “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Not yet a habit, but at least an encouraging act.  Many bumps in the road ahead are undoubtedly waiting to be discovered.

Undoubtedly to get the result that we got, voting on election day was for the most part free.

However, the election campaigning itself was certainly not fair and I hope that it is not tidily swept under the carpet in view of the result few expected until the prison video scandal broke.

In fact, in all likelihood, had it not been for the aforementioned video galvanizing the Georgian public and returning the result they had, I strongly suspect the elections would have been deemed neither free nor fair by the international observers.

Certainly there are key areas that OSCE have already highlighted since the voting results have been given that remain cause for serious concern and would underline my suspicion that had the result been different, the Georgian elections would not have been deemed free or fair.

In short, the result meant that voting day was free only – but fair, the campaigning certainly was not.  Hardly a stunning success for the EU’s lackluster EaP, although we can expect the result to be somehow spun by the EU as some form of EaP policy win no matter how hollow such statements would be.

Ergo, once the knee-jerk international and domestic media furore calms down, ultimately we are left with a process that was not fair by international standards – despite those obviously discriminated against emerging victorious thanks to the prison scandal breaking so close to election day as it did.

The ends, were not supported by the means, and as a policy man (rather than a political man), process, and therefore the means, are critically important – as such Georgia failed its latest democratic test to quite a large degree despite the eventual outcome and thus far peaceful handing over of power.

The question is whether the western political class will remain tireless in their dogma and still criticise the process – or not – given the eventual result?

We will have to wait and see, as for now they will be very busy trying to work out who’s who, what’s what and ultimately how it effects their national interests throughout the multi-layered onion that is international relations.

(As an aside – Anybody fancy a bet on a mysterious video nasty suddenly appearing a few days before the Ukrainian election and such a bandwagon being jumped upon by an increasingly desperate United Opposition in an effort to repeat the Georgian experience?).

In the meantime, despite any problems that may lay in wait for Georgia in the short term, this does seem a positive, and much needed step as far as the peaceful handing over of power goes.  Under the microscope though, Georgia is still yet to hold a genuinely free and fair election campaign.

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Statistical recording and national image‏

July 23, 2011

Following on rather nicely from yesterday’s post about benchmarks and getting behind the numbers and headlines, here is a very good example of how, depending upon the way it is recorded, a specific incident can have add or detract from a national image simply by the way it is recorded by the “international watchdogs”.

For those unfamiliar with a group called FEMEN, they are a group of ladies who have taken to making a bare breast of things when it comes to political protest. They started stripping off in public years ago to highlight sexual exploitation and Ukraine becoming a sex tourist hot-spot, but have since moved on to “getting them out” over seemingly almost any issue they can think of.

Unfortunately that rather detracts from their original protest message which has not been addressed given Ukraine still remains a hub for middle-aged western men looking the the kind of good looking women that would have no interest in them at home. (Needless to say the women here are also rarely interested either).

FEMEN however, have moved on, thus causing pause for thought as the whether they simply like “getting them out” and the attention it brings them as an organisation over and above any particular cause they protest over. Quite simply they do not seem to stick to a cause long enough to have any major effect.

Anyway the latest FEMEN protest was outside the Embassy of Georgia in Kyiv, over three photographers detained in Georgia ostensibly it seems, for spying, despite one being the President of Georgia’s personal photographer. During their protests, caught on video and camera, a security guard for the Georgian Embassy takes it upon himself to physically repel the media and FEMEN protesters from around the embassy.

The video of said incident is here and it has not been censored, so you lucky people get to see a couple of FEMEN girls in all their glory.

The incident brought a formal and public apology from the Georgian Ambassador to Ukraine for the assault on the journalists, as well as a written apology on the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. All very good and diplomatically correct as far as apologies public and private are concerned, as well as the dismissal of the offending security guard.

However, how will it be recorded? Where and who will this assault on journalists be attributed to by the chaps at Reporters Without Borders? Is it counted against Ukraine or Georgia?

Whilst it happened in Kyiv and is therefore Ukraine, the territory of the Embassy of Georgia is de facto Georgian soil. It did though happen in the street outside the Georgian Embassy, so where does that territory end?

Does the fact the security guard involved in this assault being employed by the Georgian Embassy provide any form of diplomatic immunity (as the US tried to claim for their rather wayward CIA contractor in Pakistan earlier in the year) or not? If it does, how will RWB record this when it is carried out by a security guard acting on behalf (even if wrongly and in an unacceptable way) of the Georgian Embassy? It certainly is the case that the nation of Georgia accepts responsibility.

Ukraine, after all, has nothing to do with the assault on the journalists in this particular instance. They were being allowed freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and freedom to do their job without influence. The incident did occur in Ukraine (possibly depending on the technicalities of where Georgian sovereign de facto soil ends). The security guard may well have been Ukrainian or Georgian. The journalists and protesters were certainly Ukrainian.

Nevertheless, it would seem rather harsh for RWB to count this as an assault on the press in Ukraine within the statistics, as the circumstances will soon be forgotten or never known surrounding it by those simply looking at the numbers during the hype of the next statistics publication.

Ukraine, fairly justifiably, may feel aggrieved at the opaque slight that it would have on the Ukrainian nation. It has enough instances of its own without being statistically held responsible for incidents at the Georgian Embassy in Kyiv, a location like all Embassies and Consuls that Ukraine has little control over on a day to day basis. Attempts to do so would cause a major diplomatic incident of far more gravity than the incident that has actually happened.

Any reasonable person would expect it to count against Georgian statistics given the full and very public apology from the government of Georgia.

The question is, will it count against Georgia given it happened in Kyiv?

As I said in yesterday’s post, it is always necessary to get behind the numbers and headlines to understand how the “international bodies and watchdogs” reach their published and somewhat influential results.

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