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Messages to the US President

By Messenger Staff
Monday, July 20
Expectations concerning US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Georgia are very high. Both the authorities and opposition are getting ready for it, staging dress rehearsals of how to present themselves to him. But expectations have risen even further since Russian President Dmitry Medvedev briefly visited the capital of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.

Many here in Georgia understand this visit as a challenge to President Obama’s statements about Georgia. Some even suggest that Medvedev’s visit was a slap in the face for the USA, putting the process of resetting US-Russia relations under threat. If the US does not respond to the Kremlin’s challenge by taking adequate steps this will considerably damage the US’s image not only in Georgia but worldwide.

The same type of sentiment is expressed in the open letter sent to US President Barack Obama by some former and current leaders of Central and Eastern European countries. The authors of the letter express their concern that Russia is promoting 19th century politics using 21st century methods and tactics. Effectively, Russia is fighting against Europe to subordinate it to its interests.

The Kremlin is pursuing its goal using sometimes open and sometimes disguised methods. It openly attacked Georgia and in a disguised way it forced Ukraine to take extravagant steps through cutting off the gas supply. The Kremlin uses energy blockades to blackmail Europe and many of its investments are politically motivated. It often uses bribery as a disguised form of oppression, giving high paid positions to influential Western figures. It also very effectively uses mass media propaganda and manipulations to brainwash its own population and the people of other countries when it needs to. The world should not give concessions to such a Russia, as the consequences would be very dramatic for the whole of Europe.

The signatories of the open letter to President Obama think that NATO has problems. The EU is not unanimous in its opinion and approach towards Russia and the USA, due to the resetting policy it initiated, is prepared to make extra concessions to Russia. The authors of the letter are mainly concerned about the weakness of NATO. “Many countries were deeply disturbed to see the Atlantic alliance stand by as Russia violated the core principles of the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris, and the territorial integrity of the country that was a member of the NATO Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council - all in the name of defending a sphere of influence outside its borders,” says the statement. The East European statesmen express the concern of their people. “Although we are full members [of NATO], people question whether NATO will be able to come to our defence in some future crisis. European dependence on Russian energy also creates concern about the cohesion of the alliance.”

The authors of the letter propose to reconfigure NATO and suggest different programmes which should be implemented for the mutual benefit of the USA, the EU and neighbourhood countries and the whole world. The letter, published on July 15, caused the utmost irritation in Russia. Russian political analysts suggest that the political figures who signed the open letter don’t accept the pragmatic approach which present-day Europe wants to establish with Russia. Here however we think that Georgia should support each and every word in the letter, because although Georgia is not formally a NATO or EU member it shares all the values these bodies promote. It would be pragmatic to stop criticising Russia in exchange for natural gas, but the former Soviet countries at the eastern boundary of the EU are the very ones who receive Russian gas, and when they are the ones who most consistently call for sanctions against Russia, as the open letter confirms, this is ample reason for Western countries with no experience of living under Soviet rule to sit up and take notice.

Here in Georgia we understand that NATO will obviously not engage in military confrontation with Moscow because of us. But there are some other levers which could be used to force Russia to understand that it should comply with the civilized rules of the game and international law. For example, boycotting the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 or removing them from Sochi completely would be a serious step to take. The first reason for doing this would be a moral one. Russia launched a full scale military attack on Georgia on the opening day of the Beijing Olympic Games. In ancient Greece no wars were conducted during the Olympic Games and peace was declared by all the competing countries. Secondly the move would have security significance as Sochi is just on the border with Abkhazia, and therefore at the scene of a proven crime. Thirdly it would be a punishment for Russia for being an aggressor, rather than a country promoting the peaceful unity of all peoples, as the ethics of the Olympics and sport in general will always require.

Different levers for showing Moscow that it must become a worthy member of the international community, not a guerilla state, could also be found. Of course the Obama administration should play a key role and lead the struggle for democracy, justice and freedom around the world.