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Who knows anything about rumours of another war in the Caucasus?02.03.2009 | 10:04
The revelations by an expert and commentator for "Novaya Gazeta", Pavel Felgenhauer, about preparations being taken for a war with Georgia have disturbed the public. The Georgian authorities were the first to respond to them. They spent all last week scaring the people with talk of possible aggression from Russia. The opposition thinks that the authorities are deliberately stifling the mood for protest using the Russian threat.
Many people in Tbilisi view Pavel Felgenhauer as a type of oracle or prophet. In one of his articles he foresaw the fighting in August. Last week in an interview with the Georgian newspaper Kviris palitra (Palette of the week), he said: "It is highly likely that large-scale military activities will resume soon. If technically it won't be possible in April, the start will probably be put back to May. The danger of this is very high and it is obvious, as people in both Moscow and Tbilisi are saying."
Moscow has ignored "the oracle". Tbilisi officials started citing the old song about the essence of the problem: Russia is to blame for all Georgia's troubles, therefore war is not far off.
In this respect, the head of the temporary commission for restoring territorial integrity, Shota Malashkhia, said the following to the GHN news agency: "If Russia's actions in August were caused by oil and gas prices, that is to say by an economic boom, now in these times of crisis, it will try to switch attention onto Georgia or Ukraine. The main thing is that Russia has a real opportunity to do this." The leader of the parliamentary minority, Georgi Targamadze, has advised the authorities to listen closely to Felgenhauer's predictions and prepare for the expected threat. And the member of the parliamentary majority Goka Gabashvili said: "Russia's aims are as clear as day, as is Georgia's response." Therefore he appealed for society, which is seething with discontent over the authorities' social, economic, domestic and foreign policies, to "come together as much as possible".
The final salvo in the anti-Russian bombardment provoked by Felgenhauer's predictions came with the actions timed to coincide with the 88th anniversary of the death of Georgian Junkers. "A century has passed since the first annexation of Georgia by Russia, but we are again being threatened with occupation," declared Mikheil Saakashvili at one of these events, which this year were also supplemented by a boycott of the Russian language.
The Georgian opposition has drawn its own conclusions from the anti-Russian military hysteria. The leader of the Conservatives, Kakha Kukava, even held a special press conference where he declared: "The Georgian authorities are trying to use the talk of expected danger from Russia to stifle the mood of opposition within Georgian society. It is one of the authorities' favourite tactics. Several times when protest actions have begun, they have started talking about threats from Russia."
We should remember that the opposition has planned wide-scale protest actions for the spring. Within the broad ranks of the chronically fractured opposition, there has even been a trend for some of them to come together: nine opposition parties have given Saakashvili until April to either go, or the people will again take to the streets.
Most Georgian analysts think that this talk of a war is exaggerated, to put it mildly. In an interview with your GeorgiaTimes correspondent, the political commentator Paata Zakareishvili remarked that, "inflaming the situation by talking about a war is beneficial to the authorities. After all, only the danger of an external threat will enable the current government to unite the people once more. Russia has already got everything it wanted, and is now strengthening its positions on the political stage. The Georgian authorities are the ones talking about a war, because they are losing on all fronts."
The head of the International Centre for Conflicts and Negotiations, Goga Khutsishvili, as GHN report, affirms the following: "There are no grounds for panic, as some within the regime are trying to instil in society. However, if the Georgians try to carry out acts of provocation and complicate the situation in the conflict zone, then I think that Russia will make every possible use of this."
I remember that just before the August events, the word "war" was literally hovering over Tbilisi. Everyone was talking about it, except the regime. And war did come. Having lost territory, the army, and having sacrificed many people's lives and turned thousands into refugees, the president is claiming that he won the war. The gunfire has only just abated, and rumours are spreading of another war. It was expected in November, on the day of the Rose Revolution, then on 25th December, probably to coincide with Catholic Christmas, and now it is being expected in the spring, following Felgenhauer's gloomy predictions. Do we now have to live in permanent anticipation of a war?
I would like to believe that reason will win out. And that Georgians, Russians, Ossetians, Abkhazians and more than 100 other ethnic groups populating the unstable Caucasus will sign up to the words of the French author Roman Roland: "I think that war is despicable, but what I find even more despicable are those people who extol it without even taking part."