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The roads we chose

By Messenger staff
Wednesday, November 19
Georgia and Moldova are tiny former Soviet Republics with very similar destinies. Russia provoked ethnic conflicts in both of them and their territories are now under the threat of disintegration. Moscow is trying to use this leverage to force these states to stay within its sphere of interest. Georgia stubbornly insists on its Western orientation, whereas Moldova tries to please Moscow and recover its integrity through maneouvering between the West and Russia.

In 2003, before the Rose Revolution, President Eduard Shevardnadze was severely criticized by the opposition for his balanced position. After overthrowing him the Rose Revolution administration took a clear cut pro-Western position. We cannot say that Georgia has not tried to please Russia at all, or it would not have opened its doors so widely to Russian capital. But strangely enough, the economy did not become a key factor in regulating the situation between the two countries. Moscow could not forgive Georgia its openly declared pro-Western moves. First serious sanctions were taken against Tbilisi and then Moscow carried out a full-scale military invasion of its neighbour. It is happy to share the economic benefits of pro-Western orientation, but not the inevitable political consequences, which for Russia, with all its inherent wealth, will always be more important.

Whether or not we blame Georgian leadership for what has happened here and point out its shortcomings, the end result is the same: almost one quarter of Georgia’s territory is occupied by Russia. Although the bear tries to disguise its aggression by creating two “independent” states nobody is so naive as to believe that they are any such thing. This model is well known from Soviet practice: divide and rule, occupy by proxy. The West has serious interests in the South Caucasus as well, which are largely to do with creating alternative energy supply routes. This is unacceptable to a Russia rich with oil dollars, which equates wealth with imperialistic ambition.

Russia does not care about Abkhazians and Ossetians, what it cares about is ousting the West from this region and monopolizing energy supply routes to Europe.

The EU stopped the bloodshed in Georgia but did not stop the Russian aggression. Moreover, we will have to put our dreams of restoring our territorial integrity on the back burner for some time, probably until the total collapse of the Russian Federation, which is unlikely to happen within the next 30 years because the West would not be As the West has told the world often enough that its values are superior, surely the world has a right to expect that the guardians of these ideas should do more to defend them?

How about Moldova? It has taken the course of pleasing the Kremlin: distancing itself from NATO and European integration, ignoring its GUAM membership. As a result Moldovan products, starting with wine, have returned to the Russian market, a big relief for this predominantly agricultural country. While Georgia has left the CIS Moldova is its current Chair, and Vladimir Putin recently declared that Russia would render a full range of assistance to Moldova to help it fulfil its Chairmanship of the CIS successfully. So far so good. However there are no signs that the secessionist Transdnestria region, lopped off by Moscow to control Moldova, will return to the Kishinev fold. Is Moscow waiting for more tokens of loyalty from its tiny ally? Support Russia or oppose it, the result is the same: Russia grows stronger, everyone else grows weaker, and any talk of a ‘community of sovereign states’ bears no relation to the political reality the world faces at this time.

Russia is unpredictable if judged by the standards the rest of the world uses. We do not know which accepted norm it will break next, or where. What is predictable, however, is its outlook. Other countries see that there will sometimes be a conflict between their interests and someone else’s. Russia believes the only interest in the world is its own. Everyone else pays the price for thinking differently. Only by thinking as Russia does will we ever be able to speak to it on equal terms, unless the world takes appropriate steps.