I take the side of firefighters13.02.2009 | 09:49
Leonid Zhukhovitsky, a well-known writer and publicist is arguing with the author of "Russia's winnings and losings" article (see publication of February 10)
I'm not personally acquainted with Valery Kadzhaya, but I value and respect him as a bright, gifted and convincing journalist. I'm also ready to agree with him on the final conclusion in his article: Russia has lost more than it has won. But I agree with it only in one case: if these events are examined in terms of a big political game.
But this is not the only standpoint!
I'm not a state person and I don't really care for all political games. In real life many people openly prefer to lose as there are things more important than the result of today. For instance, a journalist who opposes a powerful jerk risks being fired or even going to jail though freedom is certainly more important than a published article. An honest policeman or a casual passer-by protecting a weak person in a street fight, risks being wounded in a knife attack or even losing their life - though life must be more important than another person's injury. But people often take the risk and in case of failure - accept losses.
But a losing game is not always voluntary - sometimes it is part of official duties.
When a lonely pensioner's apartment on the seventh floor is on fire there come three, or even five fire engines. And a group of young able-bodied men thrust at the fire in order to rescue the only old lady likely to die by herself in a week's time. Are the efforts justified? The losses - at least material- are undeniable and where is the gain?
It is true that Russia lost a lot that August. But did the Russian (far from ideal) authorities have another way out? Eighty per cent of South Ossetian citizens have Russian passports - to hell with them, let everybody say that their salvation is too extravagant? But who needs the government unable to protect its people?
I have a lot of questions to our current authorities. I don't appreciate the fact that practically all TV channels are Gazprom's property, that the country is virtually returning to one-party system, that the happiest time of high prices for raw materials was not used for economy modernization, that clumsy state-owned monopolies snatch control of more companies instead of making way to much more efficient private enterprises. Finally I don't like it that we have quite tense relations with a good half of our ex compatriots. But I have nothing to claim after the August war - in this case the Russian authorities just performed their official duties, as firefighters do throwing themselves into the fire.
As for political isolation....
In the war with Iraq the USA were politically isolated too - and so what? Bush did what he thought necessary and only time will show whether he was right or not. Even if he was wrong, his mistake made sense: there is one fanatic regime less in the world. The world's recognition or non-recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia does not matter that much: for these two little Transcaucasian nations it makes no difference. Does North Cyprus suffer a lot being recognized only by Turkey? Cyprus Turks lived and live as they always did growing oranges and tending sheep. Will the taste of Sukhum tangerines get worse in case Latvia does not recognize Abkhazia?
Generally speaking small countries rarely play big political games: all they want is quiet living in their own way in the shade of powerful neighbors who would not crush them accidentally in another conflict between "big brothers". And for tiny South Ossetia Georgia with its 5 million people is unfortunately a huge and dangerous "big brother".
I'm not really sure that the Russian authorities aimed at blocking a way to NATO for Georgia or overthrowing Saakashvili - these are a priori unfeasible objectives, and as a rule not romantics but pragmatics rule the countries. But I think there are some practical achievements. Thousands of South Ossetians are alive - is it not enough?
From the first bomb falling on Tskhinval the war was knowingly a failure. Everybody lost it.
It is clear why Russia lost: dozens of its citizens are dead, there is unnecessary (especially for Russia) tension in international affairs, budget money is spent on Tskhinval recovery.
It is also clear why Georgia lost: the army is destroyed, demoralized, unfit for action for a long time, and the billions spent on it won't be restituted. Condoleezza Rice's promises today after the change of power in Washington are as worthless as Condoleezza Rice herself and it is senseless to create such an expensive army again even on the US money - who will it fight with? The autonomies (formally) belonging to Georgia are lost forever.
But America too lost this war: it was a most powerful blow to its prestige, the great empire's allies saw and made a conclusion for the future that the States would not get involved even in the shortest war for a small country in the Caucasus.