November 25th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

By the way, part of the reason for the dearth of posts is that I’m also writing:

All that remain here are the dregs; the posts too dull, too long, too confused or too obscure to go elsewhere. Appealing, eh?
In cheerier news, I’ve finally got round to half-reviving the comments; I’m hoping OpenID will give me at least some hope of weeding out the spam.

Germany in Central Asia

November 24th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve not written – or read – much about Central Asia recently. But since I’m now living in Berlin, I can’t help thinking about German policies there. And…I haven’t yet figured it out. First some background. Later,
Germany is more concerned about Central Asia than is the rest of Europe. It used it’s 2007 EU presidency to drive through a European policy towards Central Asia; official websites and documents talk up the region. The government has poured several hundred million Euros into Central Asia in aid and inter-government activities, and Berlin hosts more than a few gatherings of Central Asian politicians and professionals.
Nor is Berlin’s interest in Central Asia entirely unexpected. The East German legacy means some ties with the rest of the former Soviet Union, especially since Stalin deported millions of Germans to Central Asia. Besides, German foreign policy has traditionally aimed to dominate countries to the East: Kazakhstan may be further afield than usual, but this is the era of globalization.
And yet, the media and public attention to this is almost non-existent. That’s only to be expected, although the genuine goverment interest might give you slightly higher hopes. And it’s a pity, because German Central Asia policy is substantially different from the policy of any other country, and it would be interesting to see it batted about a bit more in the public sphere.

Iran in Afghanistan

October 4th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Barnett Rubin’s take on Iran’s activities in Afghanistan. Iran is a long-time supporter of the Northern Alliance and the Karzai government, so has been supporting the US (& followers)’ efforts. With the escalation of US/Iranian confrontation, though, some Iranian leaders might sacrifice a friendly, stable Afghanistan in favour of harming the USA. That is, they might destabilise Afghanistan just to bog down the Americans. So the Bushies’ ranting about Iran in Afghanistan may not be entirely wrong.

Incidentally, like 90% of the worthwhile videos on the internet, this would function perfectly well without any pictures. I may be turning into a radio partisan.
[via Registan]

Hersh for the lazy

November 21st, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

[Seymour Hersh’s latest piece on Iran](http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/061127fa_fact) isn’t one of his greatest hits, but there are still some fascinating nuggets…
>In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the [Party for Free Life in Kurdistan](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_for_a_Free_Life_in_Kurdistan). The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran
Having this run as a military rather than a CIA operation apparently reduces the need for the US administration to report on it. But most of the article isn’t about covert ops so much as it’s about showing how crazy the people in power are:
>many in the White House and the Pentagon insist that getting tough with Iran is the only way to salvage Iraq…..They believe that by tipping over Iran they would recover their losses in Iraq–like doubling your bet. It would be an attempt to revive the concept of spreading democracy in the Middle East by creating one new model state.
um. Iran is at least somewhat democratic – imperfect, but certainly more appealing than a US puppet imposed by force. So here’s another idea for saving Iraq:
>The White House believes that if American troops stay in Iraq long enough-with enough troops-the bad guys will end up killing each other, and Iraqi citizens, fed up with internal strife, will come up with a solution.
In their defence, although the optimism is misplaced, getting the army out of Iraq’s cities isn’t a bad start. Back to Iran, and another example of the American tendency to exaggerate Sunni-Shia differences:
>A nuclear-armed Iran would not only threaten Israel. It could trigger a strategic-arms race throughout the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt-all led by Sunni governments-would be compelled to take steps to defend themselves.
And finally, yet another reason why bombing Iran is a very stupid idea:
>the C.I.A.’s assessment suggested that Iran might even see some benefits in a limited military strike-especially one that did not succeed in fully destroying its nuclear program in that an attack might enhance its position in the Islamic world.

Slamming just says “let’s not fight”

November 16th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

When [Radio Free Europe](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/11/678c546b-425c-450c-ae5a-cfd9879a166d.html) report that “Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze today slammed the [Commonwealth of Independent States](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_of_independent_states)“, they’re missing the point slightly. The news isn’t that Georgia dislikes the CIS (we know that already), but that they aren’t doing anything about it. ‘Slamming’ is a de-escalation, not an escalation, compared to their other options.
If Georgia wanted to cause trouble, they would be trying to leave the CIS. That’s [what the opposition want](http://civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=13874), and what Russia is afraid of: this summit was due to be held last month, at the height of Georgian-Russian anger, but Russia arranged a [postponement](http://mosnews.com/news/2006/10/10/cissummit.shtml) to avoid a rash pullout by Georgia.
Leaving the CIS is one of the few weapons Georgia has against Russia: the organisation represents the last vestige of Moscow’s control over its ‘near abroad’, but is being held together with chewing gum and bits of string. To the East it’s being eclipsed by the [Shanghai Cooperation Organization](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Cooperation_Organization), and to the West by [GUAM](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GUAM). Since these can fulfil most of the functions of an international talking shop, nobody except Russia has an interest in keeping the CIS running. If Georgia left, it could plausibly bring down the whole house of cards.
But the Georgians are being smart. If they actially leave the CIS, they lose a barganing chip and don’t gain much beyond the joy of watching Russia suffer. Much better to turn up, [refuse to pay membership fees](http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=10988607&PageNum=0), grandstand about Russia’s crimes, and [keep that threat on the table](http://www.regnum.ru/english/740070.html):
>“We are here to make sure once again if we have any reasons to stay in the organization, or it has no future,” Burjanadze announced.
Along with the recent replacement of the Defence Minister, this seems to be part of a very sensible pattern of de-escalation by Georgia.

How Pakistan wins in Central Asia

November 9th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Pakistan is quietly setting itself up to do very well out of Central Asia, slightly underneath the radar. Despite being a significant power it itself, militarily and population-wise, Pakistan’s playing the typical game of the small state. It’s piggybacking on the aspirations of China, America, and even India, being bankrolled and supported by them without ever quite becoming a client state.
###China and the oil
China is famously desperate for oil, and Pakistan is doing well by helping it get at what’s in Central Asia. At the core of this is [Gwadar](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwadar), a fishing village that Pakistan is furiously turning into a port and transport hub – funded by over $400m of Chinese money. It might be a [grim place to visit](http://www.time.com/time/asia/2004/journey/pakistan.html), but it’s also the site of a fascinating convergence of superpowers.
Remember the [oil pipeline through Afghanistan](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Afghanistan_Pipeline) – the one some people claimed was behind the US invasion of Afghanistan? That was going to end up in Gwadar – and still will, if it ever goes ahead. It might end up being extended at both ends, to Azerbaijan and India, with Pakistan sitting happily in the middle taking transit fees. If that pipeline doesn’t come off (building anything through Afghanistan seems pretty dubious), there’s another one waiting in the wings: the Iran-Pakistan-India gas route – which would again go through Gwadar.
China has been [considering](http://pakobserver.net/200609/04/news/topstories12.asp?txt=Gwadar-China%20oil%20pipeline%20study%20underway) building another pipeline on from Gwadar into China – and even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll be able to ship oil out by sea.
Meanwhile the Chinese are building one railway to connect Gwadar to the [Karakoram Highway](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karakoram_highway), have already [built](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makran_Coastal_Highway) a road linking it to Karachi, and are looking at linking it to Iran.
So, China gets a little more energy security, Pakistan gets road, railways, a new port, earnings from transit fees, and Chinese interest in keeping Pakistan stable.
###America and the Taliban
Then there’s America – an even clearer case of Pakistan selling off its foreign policy, but getting a good proce for it. In September 2001 Musharraf managed to spin Pakistan’s foreign policy 180 degrees, abandon the Taliban, and let the American army use Pakistan to invade Afghanistan. And boy, were they rewarded – with [money](http://www.guardian.co.uk/pakistan/Story/0,2763,984792,00.html), with [weapons](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A800-2005Mar25.html), with a [trade deal](http://www.bilaterals.org/article.php3?id_article=282) and with general support for the regime.
###India
Pakistan can’t use quite the same approach to dealing with its greatest enemy – but even here there are pragmatic elements. It’s just that here Pakistan’s deal-makers are competing with the populists and the nationalists, and they only come out on top some of the time.
Let’s take the populists first. India-bashing always goes down well, and if there’s an election coming up the politicians will say some nasty things about India. But this isn’t all that important: sometimes politicians get boxed in by their rhetoric and forced to do something, sometimes talking tough affects the situation by itself – but in general, the grandstanding doesn’t amount to much.
More important is the body of nationalistic, paranoid, anti-Indian opinion which dominates Pakistans army and [intelligence services](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inter-Services_Intelligence). These are the people who got Pakistan involved in supporting the Taliban to provide ‘Strategic Depth’ – that is, having friendly space for Pakistan’s army to regroup in the face of an attack from India, and avoiding India and her allies encircling Pakistan. These people get nervous when they see India [stationing a dozen MiG-29 fighter planes in Tajikistan](http://www.tribuneindia.com/2006/20060422/main6.htm)
But then there’s the third group, who want to cut the same kind of deal with India as they’ve made with China and the US. That is, let India use Pakistan as a route to Central Asia (and Iran, in this case), and on the back of that get money and an Indian interest in keeping Pakistan stable. The big avenue for this is a proposed [gas pipeline](http://www.iags.org/n0115042.htm) running from Iran to India, through Pakistan. From that idea, it’s only a short step to getting India a share of what comes off any pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan. When gas is involved, even the arch-enemy can be turned into a friend.
###Keeping everybody happy
It’s not easy keeping three superpowers in bed together, but Pakistan is navigating through the straits pretty well. The US didn’t like the look of China’s involvement in Gwadar – they saw it as a listening post and a way for China to project naval power into the Arabian sea. So they leant on Pakistan to push China out of the deal. What did Pakistan do? They raised the price of Chinese involvement, [demanding](http://www.india-defence.com/reports/1056) $1.5bn per year from Beijing. So Islamabad turns a conflict into a win: either China coughs up and they’re in the money, or they back out and the US takes over Gwadar (which they’d find useful for browbeating Iran and for supplying trops in Iraq)
When Pakistan chooses to defy the superpowers, it can, because every power involved has an interest in propping up the Musharraf government. Most obviously, the US is still relying on their support in the War on Terror. But nobody wants to see a nuclear power in civil war, and both China and (especially) India know that a disintegrating Pakistan is infinitely worse than a stable Pakistan.
###Going it alone?
Apart from being everybody’s accomplice, is Pakistan getting involved in Central Asia? Well, they’ve tried a little, but not enough for anybody to care much. According to [RAND](http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG440.pdf):
> In the early 1990s, many Pakistani firms and the Bank of Pakistan moved into the region expecting rapid liberalization and acceptance of their services. After attempting to conduct business in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for several years, many firms re-sorted to looking for an exit strategy.1
Pakistan’s government has made a few [attempts](http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/apr2005-daily/29-04-2005/business/b2.htm) at promoting business in Central Asia, but it’s mostly trivia. In 2003-4, Pakistan’s exports to Central Asia and the Caucasus amounted to just 1.2bn rupees – or slightly over US$20m!
There’s no much worth mentioning militarily, either: Pakistan’s army may be the 7th largest in the world, but it’s pointed entirely at India. The ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence service) reputedly has agents all over the region, but they don’t exactly do a great deal. In the past they were accused of stirring up Islamist movements in Uzbekistan and elsewhere, but that was mostly a by-product of what was happening in Afghanistan – and has stopped since 2001 in any case. It doesn’t matter much, because Pakistan is doing far better from helping superpowers than it could do by itself.

Who are the Bishkek protesters?

November 8th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Rather than another blow-by-blow accoutn of what’s going on in Kyrgyzstan, I thought it might be more useful to do a ‘who’s who’ of the protesters. I’ve also tried to touch-up/create bios for some of them over at Wikipedia. Beware: the below is neither comprenensive nor fully checked…

  • Almaz Atambaev. Social Democratic Party Businessman, failed presidential candidate in 2000, briefly minister for Industry, trade and tourism
  • Omurbek Tekebaev. Speaker (former speaker?) of the Kyrgyz parliament, presidential candidate in 2000. Is his brother, Asylbek Tekebayev, also involved?
  • Edil Baisalov: NGO-wallah, blogger, victim of an assassination attempt earlier this year. No formal party affiliation, as far as I know.
  • Roza Otunbayeva, former Foreign Minister. Founder of the small Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party. She was banned from standing in the 2005 elections because she hadn’t been resident in Kyrgyzstan for five years (she had been serving as ambassador to the US!)
  • Isa Omurkulov. Former minister of railroads.
  • Timur Sariev. Being quoted a lot, but I can’t find anything about him, except that he’s a member of parliament.
  • Kubatbek Baibolov – leader of the Union of Democratic Forces
  • Melis Eshimkanov. Deputy chair, social democratic party, and former presidential candidate.

Yurt-blogging

November 8th, 2006 § 3 comments § permalink

You’ll only find [one article](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/03/wkryg03.xml) on it in the British broadsheets, but Kyrgyzstan has spent the past five days in the middle of massive, peaceful anti-government demonstrations. The protesters are principally calling for a change in the constitution to reduce the power of the president, but they also want to get rid of the President, [Kurmanbek Bakiyev](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurmanbek_Bakiyev) and Prime Minister [Felix Kulov](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Kulov).
I love watching the role of blogs in all this. [Edil Baisalov](http://baisalov.livejournal.com) the protesters’ unofficial spokesman, is posting frequent (Russian) updates on Livejournal – from a yurt outside the parliament building. Meanwhile Yulia at [New Eurasia](http://kyrgyzstan.neweurasia.net/) is keeping up a commentary from the opposite side, very critical of the opposition and worried that repeated coups will turn the country into a banana republic. Even Kyrgyz news agency AKIpress has turned to livejournal: they were having trouble keeping their site up, so they set up a livejournal and started posting reports up there.
If you want to follow what’s going on in English: here are news updates, analysis from people outside the country here and here. Currently [Eurasianet](http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav110706.shtml#) is reporting that things have started to turn violent – here’s hoping for a compromise of some kind.

Memes: toxic in China

November 7th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Remember the Free Hugs meme? Somebody in Australia started hugging people in the streets, it spread to Russia, Italy, Taiwan, Korea, Poland, and pretty much the rest of the world.
Then, some people in Shanghai tried it – and were promptly arrested

Shanghai Free Hugs

Before the arrest, presumably

The huggers were released after a couple of hours, but still: a big ‘meh!’ to the Chinese police
[cross-post from livejournal]

Georgia, still

November 3rd, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

In lieu of content about Georgia, here’s some of what other people have been saying…

The News

  • Russia’s anti-Georgia measures have cost Georgia 1.5% of its GDP, and 17% of its export markets, according to the Georgian Prime Minister. That’s including the wine ban earlier in the year – but presumably not including the remittances sent home by Georgian workers in Russia, which would push the figure much higher.
  • The media always faithfully reports diplomatic visits like the time Georgian foreign minister Gela Bezhuashvili spent in Moscow this week, but I find it pretty hard to get excited about them. Anyway, Putin refused to meet Bezhuashvili, who in turn went on the radio and threatened to veto Russia’s WTO entry.
  • Russia is threatening to double the price of gas supplies to Georgia (RFE/RL,BBC)
  • Eurasianet reports on Georgia’s attempts to accommodate the deportees
  • Foreign policy carries a surprisingly lightweight article from Jon Sawyer. He argues that the US “has helped to fuel this crisis: by showering Georgia with cash and praise, by extending the promise of NATO membership, and by standing silent as Saakashvili and his government made ever rasher attacks on Russia

The blogs

Vilhelm Konnander had an excellent post on Georgia a fortnight ago. He turns up a recent opinion poll saying that 61% of Russians consider Georgia “a bandit state”.

Registan also has plenty of posts on Georgia, and DJ Drive is still at it, blogging both in English and Russian. This translation from Kommersant seemed particularly interesting:

The Kommersant Daily speculates that Andrei Illarionov, ex senior advisor and an outspoken critic of Putin’s economic policies (which include arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky), might become the next economics advisor for the president of Georgia.

Illarionov, who recently has been hired by Cato Institute, a US libertarian economics think-tank, visited Tbilisi a few days ago to participate in “Freedom, Commerce & Peace: A Regional Agenda” international conference and, according to Kommersant, was invited for a dinner with president Saakashvili.

IHT makes LJ look calm

October 28th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Wow. The International Herald Tribune wades into the fray over Six Apart’s deal with Sup over Russian livejournal, and comes down firmly on the side of paranoia:


What’s so pernicious about the deal is that it replicates the very Kremlin model that poisoned the rest of the Russian media.

The argument is that Sup is a Kremlin hack (dolboeb, “a former associate of Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin’s spindoctor”), backed by an oligarch (Aleksandr Mamut), and that therefore they are obviously going to turn the abuse team into politicial censorship. Therefore, “the days of the Russian blogosphere buzzing with criticial opinions are numbered“.
Well, the IHT has certainly managed to make bloggers look like a picture of reason and calmness, compared to foreign correspondents in the MSM. Much better commentary by Veronica at [Global Voices](http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/-/world/eastern-central-europe/russia/), and [Bradfitz’ list of complaints](http://community.livejournal.com/sup_ru/33527.html) about the deal is alternately sad and hilarious.

Dariga

October 28th, 2006 § 2 comments § permalink

Off on a different tangent today – dynastic politics in Kazakhstan. [Nathan Hamm](http://www.registan.net) and [Sean Roberts](http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/) are far better informed on the nitty gritty of Kazakh politics than I am. But there’s one bit that’s just too much fun to leave to the professionals: Dariga.
Dariga Nazarbayeva is the President’s daughter. She’s had a privileged life, and she’s run with it. Degree in history from MGU, PhD in politics, speaks four languages, even moonlights as an opera singer (how well is open to question). Yes, it’s easy to [go overboard](http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1307812,00.html) in singing her praises, and she can only do it because of daddy – but when did you last hear anything about her sisters, who have had lives just as charmed?
Anyway, the past few years Dariga has been managing her rise to power – with a lot more panache than most can muster. You’re never sure quite where she’s going to come from next. She started with the media, when daddy put her in charge of state media company Khabar. She’s no longer officially in charge, but there’s no doubt that a lot of journalists will do what she tells them to.
The reason she’s no longer officially running Khabar is that it conflicted with her move into politics. In December 2003 she founded the ASAR party. Different folks have different views on how much this was her decision, and how much she was playing puppet to her father. She [claims](http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1307812,00.html)

‘I was not forced to found this party….but there comes a moment when just to observe is dull because there is a a self-satisfaction in the pro-presidential camp which can turn to stagnation. The business and political elite is in crisis.
‘My father tried to convince me not to do this….But when I discussed with him my vision of his party, I told him: “I will be dealing with your team.” I want to take away this piece of cake from his party. The new party will involve real people, not state officials.’

But one pundit [said](http://www.iicas.org/2004en/publ_24_02.htm) at the time:

Big politics do not like impromptu actions, and any initiative not coordinated with political partners is punishable. Therefore, if the daughter is in the Asar party, then the father is also present there, but his presence is hidden! Asar is not a whim of the president’s daughter, it is a project of the whole Family, dictated by the need for new methods of retaining power.

Either way, her party was doing really rather well. It’s growing success made it likely that Dariga would eventually become Speaker of parliament – a position open to the head of the largest party, which carries with it the chance to replace the president if he dies. Then daddy decided to close down her political adventure, and arranged for her party to be merged into his own Otan party. Since then, she’s seemed desperate for some other route into the centre of politics.
What’s next? Her current fantasy seems to involve painting herself as a democratic reformer. She’s got the media nous to fake it to the West – look at her spot-on approach to the Borat affair (making a point of getting the joke), or the article “[Deja Vu](http://www.caravan.kz/article/?pid=11&aid=472)” that she wrote in March which combined revelations from the inner sanctum of Kazakh politics with the kind of angry rhetoric you’d expect from [Craig Murray](http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/) or a Western journalist.
And she’s making more substantive moves. And, as [Sean Roberts](http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/2006/10/are-miner-strikes-in-temirtau-merely.html) reports, she is becoming a champion of trades unions, supporting a group of striking miners. Then there’s her [involvement](http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/2006/10/husband-for-monarchy-wife-for.html) in a ‘commission for democratization’. But, again, nobody can tell how much this is Dariga, and how much it’s her father trying to paint a rosy picture of a reforming Kazakhstan.
In the end, everything Dariga does comes down to a question mark about her relationship with her father. He clearly gets his way when he wants to – witness the way he had her political party merged into his this summer. But the rest of the time, she can more or less get away with stirring things up (the ‘Deja Vu’ article is a good example).
One explanation is that Nursultan Nazarbayev wants Dariga to be powerful, but only as one person within a balance of power. This strategy makes sense given the political situation. The President’s power is pretty much unassailable – partly because of the constitution (Nazarbayev was re-elected for six years last december), but mostly because Nazarbayev is one of the smarter leaders in the region, and he’s made the GDP rise by something like 9% a year. If he can keep it that way, his position remains secure and the bloody battles move down a rung.
Dariga, along with her husband, is one of the blocs of power. (see [this analysis](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/3/DB5B3199-34BD-4D3E-BD3F-8B74FC42000F.html) for a rundown of the rest). If she gets too powerful, she’ll be cut down to size. If she falls, she’ll be picked up. So she does what anybody would in those circumstances: she experiments.
More information: [Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dariga_Nazarbayeva), [Dariga’s own site](http://dariga.kz/fam1.php), [Taipei Times](http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2004/02/01/2003097047), and some [semi-official profile](http://www.eamedia.org/orgcom.php).

I’ve joined Global Voices

October 17th, 2006 § 2 comments § permalink

Since I’ve been reading so many Russian livejournals recently, I figured I should do something useful with it. So I’ve got involved in Global Voices, a blog translation project. The plan is that I’ll post occasional snippets from Russian blogs, once a month or so. Here’s my first post, translating a Georgian post about the treatment of Georgians in Russia.

Serbia and Georgia

October 16th, 2006 § 2 comments § permalink

If Russia decides to escalate the dispute with Georgia, one option is for it to recognize Abkhazia as an independent state. Abkhazia is [pushing](http://www.regnum.ru/english/722014.html) Russia to do just that.
What makes this a plausible scenario is Kosovo. From Russia’s perspective, the situation of Abkhazia within Georgia is parallel to that of Kosovo within Serbia: regions enjoying de facto autonomy within hostile states, and pushing for formal self-determination. In [Putin’s words](http://www.ft.com/cms/s/b55abaf4-dfc0-11da-afe4-0000779e2340.html):

“If someone believes that Kosovo should be granted full independence as a state, then why should we deny it to the Abkhaz and the South Ossetians?”

The implied ‘someone’ is the UN, where glacial negotiations are moving towards the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. Russia is unlikely to let this through the UN without demanding a similar decision on Abkhazia. It might not even wait for Kosovo to come up at the UN – ten days ago, for instance, [Mikhail Gorbachev](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/10/5b958386-975f-40ca-9824-90f0c1f1048f.html) wrote that the “logic of international development may lead Russia to a situation in which we will have no other choice but to recognize Abkhazia

October 14th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Russia has made a point of maintaining transport links to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite the blockade of Georgia. It’s something that Georgian politicians have complained bitterly about. Now they’re driving it home by sending a train to South Ossetia loaded with $741,000 of humanitarian aid. Behind this is Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who is even more energetic than Ken Livingstone in maintaining his own foreign policy agenda. Luzhkov calls the train “a symbol of Russian assistance to South Ossetia, which wants to live independently and not to obey those, who have subjected these people to genocide,

Russia puts on its best face for the UN

October 13th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Russia has made some apparently conciliatory moves towards Georgia this week – notably a [promise](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/10/21d0a8f7-6bd1-47dc-bc8c-db532164fad4.html) of early withdrawal of the Russian troops based in Tbilisi.
Is this an olive branch to Georgia? No – it’s shrewd international politics. The UN has just passed a [resolution renewing the mandate of the UN observer mission in Georgia](http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/10/13/news/UN_GEN_UN_Georgia.php). Had Security Council members agreed with the EU’s (obviously correct, but politically awkward) [assessment](http://mosnews.com/news/2006/10/12/russiageorgia.shtml) that “Russia is not a neutral participant in the peacekeeping arrangements“, they could have produced a resolution limiting Russia’s role in Georgia. So, Russia keeps them sweet by making a concession – but notice that it is a concession that doesn’t require any immediate action. By the time it comes to remove the troops from Tbilisi, everybody except the Georgians will have forgotten what Russia promised.
Update: According to [Saakashvili](http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=13869),Russia was aiming for – and failed to get – two items included in the [resolution](http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8851.doc.htm):

The first is unconditional denunciation of the Georgian police operation in the upper Kodori gorge that would have a serious legal force, and the second, restoration of the status quo, which existed in the gorge prior to this operation. It would have meant the withdrawal of the legitimate Abkhaz authorities from the Kodori gorge and renaming of the Kodori gorge,

More on Russian anti-Georgian events.

October 13th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I tried to write a post on the high politics of the Russia-Georgia dispute, but I got sidetracked into the stuff that actually matters: the social impact of it all. There will be another post on Putin and Saakashvili throwing their toys at each other, but first, have something about the real people:
The politicians and pundits are talking up how bad things are. Saakashvili (Georgian president) calls it “a form of ethnic targeting not seen in Europe since the Balkans in the 1990s“, and to Bezuashvili (Georgian foreign minister) it is ‘_a mild form of ethnic cleansing_’. At Georgia Online, a columnist collects a list of recent anti-Georgian Russian headlines and comments “Replace ‘Georgian’ with ‘Jew’, change the date 2006 to 1933, and we fall back to Nazi Germany.
Certainly, things are bad. Newspaper Novaya Gazeta (employer of Anna Politkovskaya) has printed copies of letters Moscow police sent to local schools, demanding lists of Georgian students. The information required includes:


Relations of children of Georgian nationality with other pupils, cases of hostile relations between children, and such [hostile] relations toward them [i. e. Georgian children], facts about disobedience of Georgian children to teachers, facts of antisocial activities, and unlawful acts.

All this is “For the purpose of securing law and order and abidance of the law, the prevention of terrorist acts and aggressive feelings between children“. [Sean](http://seansrusskiiblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/moscow-police-documents-show-attempted.html) has full translations and commentary.
But, there is some good news. Many Russian bloggers are still trying to counter the anti-Georgian prejudice – the “[I am Georgian](http://ya-gruzin.ru/)” site is one of many examples. And it is striking that the anti-Georgian events in Russia haven’t been mirrored by anti-Russian events in Georgia. At Radio Free Europe, Jimsher Rekhviashvili [interviews](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/10/2168b35e-cec0-4e67-9766-82089160b5a4.html) ethnic Russians living in Georgia. And finds…nothing. No mirror of the anti-Georgian sentiment in Russia. One says “ I continue to receive warmth and love, the lack of which I have never experienced from the Georgian people.“. Another says her friends in Russia “ call and ask us not to believe what we’re hearing. We are by your side, they say. We love Georgia and Georgians.

Paranoid conspiracy theories: not an American monopoly

October 11th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m not sure how much [this](http://kbke.livejournal.com/3726214.html?style=mine)(RUS) is tongue in cheek, but it made me laugh:

Livejournal is spying on you!
American spies have developed a special search engine. It rummages through all livejournal posts, including locked ones, and adds politically dissident authors to a special list.
All personal information which you entrust to livejournal can be subjected to a political search.

Do you oppose interference of the secret services in personal life?
Do you oppose the illegal opening of internet postings?
Be sensible…don’t use Livejournal!

Seems the CIA aren’t content with [running Facebook](http://www.infowars.com/articles/bb/facebook_bb_with_a_smile.htm),and having the [NSA](http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025556.200?DCMP=NLC-nletter&nsref=mg19025556.200) fund research into scraping social software sites ;)
Oh, and before anybody says it: yes, I’m sure the CIA do search through anything you put on LJ or anywhere else on the web. That is their job, isn’t it?

Web hosts get in on the Russia-Georgia fight

October 10th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Oh, now this is getting silly…
Russian hosting company Garanthost is [closing down the accounts](http://blog.garanthost.ru/?p=12) (RUS) of Georgian customers, and refusing to serve Georgians.
Meanwhile on the other side of the fence, [Hostovik](http://www.hostovik.ru/gruzin.htm) is offering discount hosting for anybody who will display an “I am Georgian” logo on their site.
[via [webplanet](http://webplanet.ru/news/life/2006/10/09/gruzin.html) and [kbke](http://www.livejournal.com/users/kbke/)]

just because you’ve got a rose, doesn’t make you a revolutionary

October 10th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Warning: cynicism ahead…
It seems that now Saakashvili has won his elections, he knows he can stop ratcheting up the rhetoric, and grovelingly [offer](http://izvestia.ru/politic/article3097366/) (RUS) to meet Putin anywhere for talks.
Back home, the Industry will save Georgia party are making a pretty futile shot at copying the imagery of the colour revolutions. Roses in hands, they held a march in protest at alleged election fraud last week – and would doubtless have been totally ignored, except that somebody decided to [take some potshots at them](http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=19604)

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