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Obama Meets Saakashvili; Words, Words Words

President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili is in Washington this week for a meeting with President Obama, a meeting that is all talk and smiles but no substance.

Russia, Georgia’s main rival, joined the WTO recently. Georgian opposition was the “last stumbling block” in that process, and the White House likely promised Saakashvili a meeting with Obama in return for dropping objections to Russia’s WTO membership.

Washington’s attempted re-set with Moscow has not been smooth, but the Obama administration isn’t eager to provoke the Kremlin or encourage the fiery and nationalistic Georgians to take Russia on.

Georgians often think that a Republican White House would be more sympathetic to their cause (significant chunks of their country have been occupied by Russia which recognized the breakaway ‘republics’ of South Ossetia and Abkhazia).  They are, I think, wrong. Both US parties sympathize with Georgia, but no US president wants the hyperactive Georgian tail to wag the dog of US-Russian relations.

As for Georgia’s long term goals of NATO and EU membership, the US again sympathizes, but there is not a lot we can do.  NATO candidates need unanimous support to join the alliance and many NATO countries want to avoid annoying Russia — and also worry that Georgia’s unresolved disputes with Russia and tradition of hotheaded leadership could create a dangerous crisis.  For its part, the EU seems unlikely to take on any new challenges soon; it has more than enough on its plate.

Saakashvili will make the most of his official reception in the White House, but Georgia needs to understand the limits of western support.  US-Russian relations may be cooling as the reset fades, but the US is more interested in avoiding unnecessary run-ins with the Russians than in launching a new policy of containment.

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  • stephen b

    “All talk and no substance…” pretty much describes almost all of O’s verbal utterances, except when mask slips and we here how he thinks it’s good to “spread the wealth around.”

  • John

    An excellent analysis. First, the sad part is that most Georgians, especially the ruling elites, believe that the US will actively arm Georgia and send forces to intervene in any military conflict between Russia and Georgia. Despite the lessons of August 2008 disastrous war, where Georgian army literally abandoned the battlefield and left hundreds of trophies to the advancing Russian troops, they still don’t learn.
    Second, President Obama mentioned the status of the minorities in Georgia. It was a polite way of saying that Georgians should treat their minorities with respect and stop the discrimination. “georgia is a little empire.” Guess who said that? Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. Mr. Sakharov knew about Georgian imperialist, chauvinist, anti-democratic mindset. The human monster, aka Joseph Stalin, an ethnic georgian, “donated” Abkhazia (totally different people inhabiting their historical homeland), South Ossetia (not ethnically related to Georgians living in their homeland), Javakh (historically Armenian land, with no ethnic affinity to Georgians), Adjaria (a Muslim region) to Georgia – his homeland. After years of persecution and discrimination, no wonder Abkhazians and Ossetians welcomed Russia and fought against their former occupiers. Georgians do not even allow the Bible to be published in Mingrelian language for the Mingrel minority. They remove the ancient transcripts from Armenian and Abkhazian churches and “claim” them Georgian. Georgia has a long way to go before it becomes a liberty-oriented, representative democracy with human and minority rights.

    Lastly, we advised their hot-headed president, Saakashvili , not to entangle with Russia in an armed conflict (whether active aggression or giving Russians a pretext for war). Yet, his blitzkrieg to occupy South Ossetia, including the shelling of peaceful towns and villages, ended up in a disaster. He cannot be trusted, because he is psychologically unstable, besides being a terribly geostrategist. Watch him chew a tie while waiting to be interviewed on Fox Business News!

    Lastly, our relationship with Russia is MORE important than engaging in a confrontation (especially military) for a small, insignificant nation with its chauvinistic, “imperialistic” attitudes.

  • Michael

    I admire Georgia for its successful implementation of reforms in a post-Soviet country. Its success breaks the assumption that corruption is impossible to strip out of a culture. WRM’s warning to Georgia that its concerns are only a part of a much bigger geo-political equation is understandable, but anyone who knows Georgia and its people well, would not, as one person wrote, consider it small and insignificant. It is a wonderful country with a rich culture and history and a people successfully striving to break with a painful Soviet past to become a member of the Euro-Atlantic Community.

  • Shalva

    to John: where you take all this [excrement] from? 🙂

  • Dude

    Regarding John’s comments, every time I read an article on Georgia in the western media, there is invariably someone in the responses section making incendiary comments about Georgia which seem completely out of place to western ears. The notion that Abkhazia was somehow never part of Georgia until Stalin “donated it”, while factually incorrect, nevertheless is a revisionist form of history taught within Russia. It’s just fascinating that the Russians are so worried about western opinion that they feel the need to continuously slander this small country. Of course, it’s also possible that “John” is from Omaha and just likes to read Russian history books and quote the talking points of the Russian government.

  • John

    First, I noticed that the georgian embassy is not sitting idle. Three so-called replies in a row – something unseen before. The language is quite polished, indeed. Probably by the same person with split personality. 🙂 And they all engage in ad hominim attacks… Enough said.

    Second, I provide facts and the georgian propaganda “replies” with … well, slogans and personal attacks. It must be disheartening when such a historical figure and an anti- Communism as late Andrei Sakharov calls “georgia a little empire.”

    Third, he so-called democracy geogia is # 104 in the latest Press Freedom Index – below such African nations as Congo, Zambia, Kenya.,1043.html.

    Fourth, unemployment is almost 17% and the population below poverty is 31%. It is GDP per capita is #149 in the world.

    Fifth, I know the region very well and have traveled all over Caucasus /Transcaucasus. All the ethnic minorities – Abkhaz, Ossetians, Armenians, Mingrels, Azeris, etc. were all discriminated in Georgia. And they all hated and still hate their former or current “masters.” Facts are a stubborn thing.

    Sixth, I am glad to see “three” passionate defenders of the human monster and bloody dictator Joseph Stalin’s artificially drawn borders, which for some unknown reason favored his homeland – georgia at the expense of other nationalities.

    Seventh, Saakashvili, through his corrupt courts and cronies, revoked the citizenship of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who recently announced plans to create an opposition party to challenge Saakashvili. Why didn’t Obama come up with the idea of stripping Romney’s or Gingrich’s citizenship???

    P.S. John is a proud American. And John, just like professor Mead, does not think USA should engage in a confrontation, much less military action, for a small, insignificant country, with terrible record of failed military adventurism, lack of elementary understanding of geopolitics, human, religious and ethnic rights violations and chauvinistic, (little) “imperialistic” mentality like georgia.

  • Rick USA

    The precedent was set in Kosovo. No amount of word-parsing of the meaning of “unique circumstance” can change that.

    Using Washington’s own talking points, “Why should Abkhazian and S. Ossetian rights to self-determination be any less valid than those of the Balkans? One can’t seriously expect to take a complete 180 degree turn in foreign diplomacy and not raise eyebrows in the world.

    And yes, Saakashvili did very much expect the US to intervene in the conflict. NATO leaders are absolutely correct in keeping their distance from this loose cannon who plays the role of neocon sycophant to a tee.

    And NO, Mr. McCain…I am NOT a Georgian, nor a paid agent of the Kremlin, thank you.

  • Rick USA

    As an after thought; to anyone not yet familiar with the full plot of this story, please rent a copy of Peter Sellers’ “The Mouse that Roared” and note the ironic twist.

  • Tom

    “the fiery and nationalistic Georgians”

    – How wonderful… It’s like it was not US or Russia who have invaded dozens of countries… but Georgians who… as Kremlin says “Invaded ITSELF!”

  • Tom

    To Rick USA :

    1) The DIFFERENCE between Abkhzia/”South Ossetia” AND Kosovo is that in Kosovo Serbs killed Albanians(Who were MAJORITY in Kosovo) while in those two Georgian regions MAJORITY of population was Georgian and was ethnically cleansed by RUSSIAN ARMY! (1993-1994)

    THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE! In one case the criminal is punished in another a victim is punished.

    2) As for NATO’s involvement in war with Russia. I am 100% sure that no politician in Georgia or Moscow had any doubt that the west would not defend Georgia, that is the main reason why the war did happen. Do you think Putin is crazy? He was 100% sure that he COULD invade Georgia and get away with it and he did.

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