Arab scenario prospects in Georgia
© The Messenger
February 4, 2011
So far, the Georgian political establishment has not paid much attention to the developments in the Arab world. They have been more focused on Arab-Israeli developments. But recently the situation in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries has attracted the attention of the Georgian media. Some analysts try to draw comparisons between some of what is happening in the Arab countries and Georgia. Certain analysts think that the situation in Georgia looks much like the situation in Tunisia. The latter was a western oriented country with a developed tourism sector and claims of democratic development. However it appeared that it was only a facade in Tunisia. It appeared that the country was not having democratic leadership. For tens of years the country was ruled by the same people. It is managed by small groups of people who subordinate everything to their interest. These groups controlled the media and all of the important levers. The opposition was very weak and almost invisible. During the last elections, the head of state of Tunisia Ben Ali gained 90% of the votes; however it appeared that, in reality, people do not want him anymore.
A similar situation seems to be taking place in Egypt where the people openly state that they are fed up with Mubarak who has been head of state for 30 years. (Similarly, prior to the Rose revolution, the people’s dissatisfaction was mainly targeted at the figure of then president Eduard Shevardnadze who had been leader of Georgia for more than 30 years. First, as the communist party boss of Georgia during Soviet Union and later as head of state of independent Georgia. We think that this was the main stimulus for people to come out into the streets rather than problems during the elections).
In Tunisia and in Egypt people came out into the streets of their own accord. There was not much done in terms of opposition propaganda. Some analysts think that this could be kind of an example for Georgian situation. On one hand it shows that it is not necessary to have strong opposition but on the other hand this should be a warning to the ruling party to take appropriate action. However we had already mentioned that the ruling power might prefer to have some unrest so that new parliamentary elections could be arranged. The ruling administration is sure that if the elections are held now their victory is almost guaranteed. There are two reasons for that: regular scheduled parliamentary elections in 2012 could coincide with an even more aggravated situation in the country. Social problems, unemployment and inflation could deteriorate badly and, on the other hand, today the opposition is extremely weak and fragmented. Besides, the elections code is not amended quite yet. So these arguments could be behind the possible decision of holding snap elections.
There is a possible threat as well that public protests could take place on a larger scale and could get out of control. So, nobody could predict what might happen if there were such developments. The best way however is smooth democratic development, introducing logical amendments in the elections code to ensure that regular elections can be held in a fair and transparent manner. When such a structure is in place, if the ruling administration wins, the opposition should have no doubt as to the fairness of the process and congratulate the winner and vice versa.
The following article is reprinted with permission from NEWS.am, Yerevan.
Saakashvili may provoke mass flow of Chechens and terrorists into Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze says
November 1, 2010 11:56
The Georgian government’s decision to annul the visa regime for residents of the North Caucasus may open the country up to terrorism, stated Georgian former President Eduard Shevardnadze, Trend News reports.
“Georgian border is open and there are no conditions to ensure security. I am scared of this decision because this could be very bad for Georgia. Who is going to cross the border – an honest citizen or a terrorist? It will be hard to understand,” Shevardnadze told Georgian Asaval-Dasavali weekly.
The former president stressed the country may also see a mass flow of Chechens into Georgia, as occurred after the first Russian-Chechen war.
Shevardnadze stressed that the decision may spoil Georgia’s relations with North Caucasians, especially the Chechens.
As NEWS.am reported previously, on October 11, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili signed a decree abolishing visa requirements for citizens of Russia’s North Caucasus republics as a step to facilitate tourism, trade and educational relations.
The following analysis is reprinted with permission from RIA Novosti, Moscow.
The South Caucasus and the Russia-Turkey-Iran geopolitical triangle
© RIA Novosti
September 6, 2010
In connection with the recent visits of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev to Armenia and Azerbaijan political analyst Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky, a senior fellow of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations assesses geopolitical situation in the region and gives his opinion on the ambitions of other regional powers – Turkey and Iran.
Samir Shahbaz: What are Russia’s geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus?
Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky: Russia views the Caucasus security as an important issue. Consequently, we display caution on Nagorno-Karabakh issues and try to relegate them to the concerned parties, without dictating anything to anyone. Of course, we would like to see equitable and well-balanced international cooperation here. External influence should not upset the current balance because disruption could lead to unpredictable consequences. And nobody needs a new war. At any rate, Russia does not need such a war.
Shahbaz: Who would be interested in disrupting today’s relative stability in the region?
Nadein-Rayevsky: To be honest, this question implies only those who are interested in strengthening their own positions and weakening the positions of the main regional powers, primarily Russia. I don’t want to directly accuse any Western governments of this. But, judging by the actions of some non-regional players, it appears that their policy was aimed at upsetting the balance. At any rate, this is true of the developments in Georgia. Similar attempts are possible with regard to Azerbaijan. It appears that perfidious and dangerous information bombs implying that Azerbaijan planned to provide bases for U.S. forces, including those for operations against Iran, were not “dropped” by sheer coincidence. Azerbaijan emphatically denies any actions or even attempted actions against Iran. This is a correct stance because the situation might otherwise get out of control.
Shahbaz: What do you think about the actions of the two other important players bordering on the region, namely, Iran and Turkey?
Nadein-Rayevsky: Both countries have recently become visibly active in their own way. Previously, the Turkish policy could be perceived as a continuation and sharp point on the NATO “sword” in the eastern Mediterranean region. But the situation has now changed. The Republic of Turkey has long been formulating its policy in line with its national interests. The West, which is not used to this, frequently disapproves of various Turkish actions. In some cases, they even mention a veritable Russian-Turkish alliance which, of course, amounts to idle talk. Naturally, any strategic military alliance is also out of the question. These countries have different interests and goals. Nevertheless, there are common venues of cooperation, including the stabilization of the Caucasus.
As far as Azerbaijanian-Turkish relations are concerned, both countries signed a strategically important treaty prior to Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Yerevan. They say Turkey voices an absolutely pro-Azerbaijanian stance on many issues, primarily Nagorno-Karabakh. To be fair, it should be noted that the Turkish Government does not go to extremes and acts in line with the real situation. Turkey, an influential regional player, hopes to obtain sizeable dividends from its active policy. Turkey wants to become a key energy hub for the transportation of energy resources to western, central, southern and even northern Europe. Some projects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline, are currently being implemented.
Turkey also prioritizes relations with Iran because it receives natural gas from them. This does not always go smoothly, and acts of sabotage have taken place. Moreover, Turkey is seriously interested in developing Iranian mineral deposits. Although the United States reproaches and even threatens Turkey, Ankara invests in Iran. This is happening at a time when Washington has imposed serious sanctions on investment in Iran. Previously, it was forbidden to invest over $20 million in various energy projects in Iran. And now such restrictions have become even more strict. Western Europe is also involved in these sanctions. They are assuring us that such sanctions are not directed against the Iranian nation’s well-being. But an objective assessment of the situation shows that all this is empty talk. Of course, sanctions take their toll. By restricting gasoline exports to Iran, the West is dealing a serious blow against the everyday life of Iranians. Iran which lacks refineries has to import most of its petroleum. Just like Russian companies, Turkish companies have ignored the ban and trade with Iranians. Although Turkey is a NATO member, it has not joined the sanctions, continues to improve relations with Iran and maintains permanent bilateral contacts. However, Western conjecture about an Iranian-Turkish alliance and some kind of Islamic solidarity are groundless. Both countries preach Shia and Sunni Islam. However, Shia Muslims account for 8% of the Turkish population, Shia Islam is not popular in Turkey. So, any talk of Islamic unity is far-fetched. But economic interests are an important factor. And Turkey is willing to facilitate Iranian oil and gas transits via its territory, although much remains to be done in this respect.
Speaking of Iran’s interests in the Caucasus, Tehran has repeatedly offered its services in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran is willing to act as a mediator in this area. Iran maintains a sufficiently cautious policy which is non-hostile toward Armenia. This could be expected in connection with good-neighborly Iranian-Azerbaijanian relations. Moreover, Iran trades with Armenia, supplying gas and building railroads together with transport monopoly Russian Railways.
The following article is reprinted with permission from NEWS.am, Yerevan, Armenia.
New U.S. administration gets to South Caucasus, Georgian expert says
July 2, 2010
There will be no crucial changes after Hillary Clinton’s visit to the region, as it will probably be a fact-finding one, the Georgian expert Pata Zakareishvili told NEWS.am.
“One should not expect much from the visit, the new White House administration merely got down to our region. In the course of her meetings with the South Caucasian leaders, Hillary Clinton is likely to put emphasis on the U.S. policy in the South Caucasus. Besides, she will inform the presidents of the arrangements made in the course of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to U.S.,” he stressed. The expert stated that on the whole the visit should be considered in the light of Russian-U.S. relations. Zakareishvili believes the U.S. is not trying to compete with Russia in the South Caucasus, as there is a certain arrangement between Moscow and Washington.
“There is definitely a specific range of issues to be discussed with each state: South Ossetia and Abkhazia with Georgia, the Karabakh conflict with Armenia and Azerbaijan. I think that in the light of recent developments on the contact line, Clinton will persuade Yerevan to put aside ‘offences’ and remain committed to its commendable position in the talks,” the Georgian expert said.
Pata Zakareishvili also commented on the possible deployment of U.S. forces in Azerbaijan in the light of recent escalation over Iran: “I do not think that this issue will be underscored during the meetings in Azerbaijan. First, Russia will be dissatisfied with the deployment of the U.S. troops in the region. The sides agreed to continue efficient cooperation during Medvedev’s visit. Secondly, Azerbaijan itself will object to it so as not to worsen its relations with Iran. Thirdly, the U.S. does not need it as well, as the American infrastructure in Turkey is sufficient to keep an eye on Iran,” Zakareishvili noted.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit Armenia on June 4-5.
The following article is reprinted with permission from Kavkaz Center, Caucasus Emirate news agency.
Is U.S. ready to betray Georgia?
© Kavkaz Center
May 17, 2010 15:17 Emirate time
Some American experts believe that Obama’s administration for the sake of good relations with Russia is ready to betray Georgia and Moldova, which rely on U.S. help in opposition with Moscow.
For confirmation of the brought charge a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, David J. Kramer, in the Washington Post cites the statement of the U.S. president Barrack Obama on the situation in Georgia.
Last Tuesday, in a message accompanying the White House’s resubmission to Congress of a nuclear cooperation pact with Russia, Obama declared that the situation in Georgia need no longer be considered an obstacle. Obama in his message justified in detail his support for “123 agreement” with Russia. The president said that he approves the proposed agreement and believes it would strengthen the overall defense and security of the United States.
It is to be mentioned that the agreement was signed in May 2008 in Moscow, it establishes the basic principles of cooperation between the two countries in the development of peaceful atomic energy. In September of the same year the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush withdrew the agreement from Congress in the aftermath of Russian-Georgian military conflict.
As Obama noted in his message, the situation in Georgia now no longer needs to be considered an obstacle to proceeding with congressional review of the agreement. In addition, the president considers important U.S.-Russian cooperation on Iran’s nuclear issue.
Obama believes that the progress in the development of this issue is embodied in a wide range of bilateral decisions and documents, including the case of a new treaty on strategic offensive arms, signed recently in Prague.
It is to be noted that the approval of agreements on the peaceful atom in the Congress passes through simplified procedure. If it will not raise any objections against it, the agreement would automatically come into force 90 days after sending it to Congress. To block the document congressmen should adopt a special resolution. The president has the right to veto the decision of Congress. Congressmen, in turn, may revoke the veto, and if 2/3 members of this body vote for its abolition.
Agreement on the peaceful atom, if approved by Congress, would be concluded for a period of 30 years and permits the transfer on the basis of the relevant licenses, of technology, materials, equipment, and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production. Under the agreement, Russia and the U.S. will be able to sell nuclear technology for commercial purposes. The processing of radioactive fuel could become a very profitable business in Russia, experts say.
Last week, however, several congressmen said that the agreement on the peaceful atom would be too great of a concession to Russia by the United States. According to lawmakers, Russia without a proper zeal is involved in the adoption and implementation of sanctions against Iran in connection with the threat of a nuclear military program in this state. Some lawmakers have proposed to consider the document only after Russia shows its attitude towards Iran by deeds. Let’s note that the Congress, discussing the submitted document, said nothing about the treachery of the United States of Georgia and Moldova.
The Obama administration’s interest in reviving the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty from which Russia suspended its compliance at the end of 2007 raises similar concerns. Moscow refused to comply with Istanbul Commitments, signed in 1999, in which Russia pledged to withdraw its forces from Georgia and Moldova.
In the end of last year Russia offered to restore the CFE. According to experts, the Obama administration will betray Georgia and Moldova, if it stops insisting on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of these countries.
According to experts, the U.S. should continue to declare that the occupation of Moscow in these countries is unacceptable, and demand to solve this situation.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Moldova insists on a speedy withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria. This issue has been discussed both at the bilateral talks between Moldova and Russia, and within the competent international organizations, in particular the OSCE and the UN. The parties have not come to agreement so far.
Department of Monitoring
The following article is reprinted with permission from Kavkaz Center, Caucasus mujahideen news agency.
Armenians drove out of Abkhazia
© Kavkaz Center
February 27, 2010 14:24 Emirate time
Armenians are being evicted from Abkhazia, – informs Armenian newspaper Hraparak, noting that in recent years pressure has increased on local Armenians on the territory of Abkhazia, where Armenians constitute 30% of the population of the region.
Abkhazians, supported by Russia, demand from Armenia to recognize their independence – said “Hraparak” – otherwise they would not allow Armenians to live on this territory. According to the newspaper, official Yerevan has already been informed about the situation, but has taken no action. It does not even want to send a delegation to Sukhumi, fearing a negative reaction in Tbilisi.