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Russia’s message is not in code

Monday, November 10
Russian President Medvedev, in his recent speech to the Federal Council, confirmed once again the country’s aggressive plans in the South Caucasus. From the very first phrases it became clear that Moscow wants to affirm to the world that the South Caucasus is a ‘sphere of priority Russian interest’ and it does not have the slightest intention of retreating from it.

In order to prove its argument the Kremlin crushed the Georgian Army, occupied the territories of this sovereign country and then declared and recognized new ‘independent states’ there. This showed that it is the big power most interested in the region, and that the region is more susceptible to its influence than that of other states, as the occupation made clear. The occupation was a lesson for the rest of the world as well as any disobedient player on its borders. Who’s the boss here? Of course, Russia. US interests have been seriously challenged by this demented Russian flag-waving exercise and so have those of the EU.

Moscow tries to justify its actions, which would need no justification if they were legitimate, by continuously putting forward absurd arguments about Georgia starting the war. Alas, some naive (if not primitive) Western figures repeat these arrogant allegations. According to this argument the First World War was started by one man, the Serbian student Gavrilo Princip. Sadly enough certain politicians in the West are ready to share Moscow’s distorted viewpoint, loosen the pressure on it and forgive its violations of international laws and order and its slamming democracy in the face. By doing so they make themselves guilty of the same crimes, and if that is acceptable in the West of all places, what is not?

Moscow cries crocodile tears over its ‘peacekeepers’ it claims were killed by ‘aggressive’ Georgia, which was encouraged by the USA, which Medvedev assumes wanted to enter the Black Sea with NATO war ships and receive the consent of the Czech Republic and Poland for the deployment of anti-missile devices there. It explains occupying a neighbouring country long after a ceasefire had been declared like this. If we accept this argument there is only one saviour of the world –Russia. So far only Nicaragua and Hamas have supported it, so the rest of the world must be blind. Or maybe it is not blind at all, but just unwilling to face the seriousness of what it sees.

No one is blind to how wickedly the Kremlin is promoting its politics. It withdraws from the Buffer Zones and occupies the breakaway regions instead. It promises an uninterrupted supply of natural gas and deploys Iskander Missiles in Kaliningrad. Stick and carrot, but both are used to beat us! Medvedev has said, “We have our national pride. There are things we should love and protect and strive towards. Therefore we will not retreat from the Caucasus.” Medvedev and Putin love Kiev, there are Russians to protect there, Moscow strives for this. Following its own logic, will Russia not enter and fail to retreat from Ukraine?

Political analyst Shalva Pichkhadze thinks the Medvedev rhetoric was a test message for the West, a means of discovering to what extent the West, including US, will tolerate Moscow’s arrogance. The West did not effectively confront Russia over Georgia. The Kremlin did withdraw from the Buffer Zones, but staying there would have created extra headaches for it anyway. Moscow has got what it wanted, as it can deploy full scale military bases in the occupied territories and build appropriate infrastructures including air fields and naval base. Nothing more is needed by the imperialist force for the time being. By claiming political victories whilst ignoring this military build-up, the West has simply given Russia another victory and a tool for many more.

Moscow is not going to return its forces to their pre-August 7 positions, as it is obliged to do. It looks like the EU has silently accepted this. EU Chair France and some other countries are prepared to resume discussions on the framework agreement on co-operation between the EU and Russia, which was suspended on September 1 because Moscow would not fulfil the terms of the Sarkozy peace plan. It still will not do so. The only thing that has changed is the attitude of the EU, which does not accept the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with words, but thus does with its actions.

During Medvedev’s meeting with Russia’s great friend, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, noted for his humour, the Russian President said that the Russian-Georgian war should not influence Russia-EU relations. It looks like the guy knows what he asks for. As a politician, he might promise the impossible but not ask for it. Despite everything Europe has said and all the aid, it is possible that the war will indeed have no effect on Russia-EU relations, whatever the global consequences of this might be.

In the fog of uncertainty over what Russia will try next, one thing is perfectly obvious. Europe has done what it could, or at least thinks it has. Now it is the turn of the new US administration. Will it accept the Russian challenge, and how?