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Russia’s winnings and losings11.02.2009 | 14:32
It has been half a year since the end of the August war that keeps being an inexhaustible source of judgments and conclusions which are very different: from emphatically personal to claiming to be ultimate truth. Our today's publication is in no way the latter. On the contrary, the author, a well-known journalist Valery Kadzhaya, is not trying to impose his opinion. He brings forward the arguments that as he believes are transparent. Tomorrow we will present the position of his opponent who has its own arguments and understanding of the causes and consequences of the war.
The fact that the USA took interest in Georgia following the collapse of the USSR does not necessarily mean that this republic was really greatly different from other fourteen. With the sleeves rolled up the USA immediately started laying hands on them and the Warsaw treaty states with all these countries having a passionate desire to be embraced by Uncle Sam.
The Baltic states even managed to join NATO which is Georgia's dream. In fact, this striving was the main reason of aggravation of Georgia-Russia relations that finally became one of the causes of the August war.
The Russian army achieved an overwhelming victory while the Russian political leaders found themselves in quite a complicated situation. Regarding the recognition of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's independence Russia turned out completely isolated by its partners from the West and even the CIS.
I can't make sense why there is so much partiality towards Georgia. The accession of Baltic states to NATO was taken rather calmly omitting the State Duma's and Foreign Ministry's resentment though both facts are senseless whistles. But if we reflect on it, Russian security is more threatened by the Balts' membership in the North Atlantic Alliance: it is absolutely clear that Vilnius, Riga or especially Tallinn are very close to Saint-Petersburg or Moscow.
As for Georgia, it lost any strategic meaning for Russia following the USSR breakup. It is obvious that in the Soviet times Georgia was a key to all South Caucasus and a base opening a gateway to Front Asia. But South Caucasus dropped out of Russia, and in the near future it will not be able to get it back any way.
Georgia's second role has no more significance either - it used to be an antimissile shield defending the USSR central regions from Turkey, a NATO member. Turkey was and remains Russia's potential opponent and the US and NATO bases in its territory are a threat first of all to the USSR successor, and not to Iran or Iraq.
So was the game worth the candle? What have we won and what have we lost in this short victorious war against tiny Georgia?
We have already lost a lot - savoring a bitter aftertaste of this victory in terms of both economy and politics. What have we won? Two disputable territories that are too expensive for the Russian budget. The major objective has not been achieved either: Saakashvili's regime has not been overturned and a way to NATO has not been blocked for Georgia.
If we had left Georgia immediately after the Sarkozy pact was signed, Saakashvili's situation would have been really pitiable. Georgians wouldn't have forgiven him for the defeat in the war, for the improvidence and cowardice he displayed. But we exaggerated, put too much salt and pepper so to say. And now the whole world is either explicitly against us or is silently but amusedly watching the Russian bear milling about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, quasi independent states recognized by Russia and Nicaragua only.
It is true that our army has destroyed Georgia's military infrastructure but this is not at all a disaster having the USA and the EU as supporters. It took Americans five years and over five billion dollars to set up this very infrastructure and create a modern Georgian army. Now together with the Europeans they contributed four and a half billion to its restoration. In two years' time at the longest the Georgian army will recover and the infrastructure will start functioning even better than before plus there will be the US presence with us having nothing to oppose. Such huge financial inflows will doubtless strengthen Saakashvili's position giving a powerful impact on the Georgian economy and the increase in the standard of living.
There are two reasons why the United States take interest in Georgia. First of all it was very important not only to alienate it from Russia but turn it into the ex-Big Brother's implacable enemy for the foreseeable future. All that was successfully achieved.
Secondly Georgia becomes the USA's important partner in their confrontation with Iran. Turkey refused to make its airfields available for the US in the war with Iraq. It is neither enthusiastic about supporting America in a cold war with Iran. If - God forbid - it grows into a "hot" war Turkey will stay neutral, as with Iraq. This is when Georgia's involvement in the conflict will be needed.
It has two first-rate modern airfields in Marneuli and Vasiani. The first one was upgraded by the Turks according to NATO standards. And Vasiani that is basically a Tbilisi suburb hosts the biggest Soviet military base and airfield in Transcaucasia.