I started out to write a typical story about NATO and Georgia, but soon realised that, in the present climate, I would have to do more than simply research the usual sort of article and then put a spin on it for NEO’s discriminating audience. One thing you soon realise as a journalist, especially a muckraking one, is never to believe in coincidence, and too many things have been happening lately which are a bit too obviously timed to coincide with each other.
Samantha Power recently visited Brussels and told everyone to give more of their GDP to NATO. This happened because members such as Turkey are distancing themselves from any increase in contributions, as they are beginning to understand, at least publicly, that NATO has evolved into an instrument of one sided US foreign policy.
No longer is NATO a means of protecting the West from any enemy. The members themselves know this, and being an NATO ally has as much to do with choice of arms suppliers as the defence needs of individual members. The lack of trust within the organisation is obvious – it is merely a question of who will break ranks first, and who will have the nerve to do anything about it.
At the same time some members of the EU are calling for a European Army. This also is not by happenstance. As Russian Insider has asked: Is EU Army Intended to Reduce US Influence in Europe?
The ostensible reason for such an army is the so-called Russian threat, but that is too superficial. A NATO force including both US and EU components would be a more effective deterrent and operational force than an EU army alone, even if the latter could agree on a command structure. This is why Germany, increasingly critical of US actions, has reacted enthusiastically to this proposal.
Getting your retaliation in first
Geopolitical concerns such as these are generally the province of political scientists. They do not generally impact on people’s daily lives until a real crisis has developed. This is why alarm bells started ringing when a casual contact in Tbilisi received a strange letter from the international school his son attends. The gist of it was that it was revising their security arrangements because of “THE DETERIORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION”.
“Tuesday 10th March 2015
Dear Parents / Guardians,
Security Policy at New School
We believe that the most important aspect of school is that of the children’s safety. Due to the deteriorating stability of the international situation, we wish to make the school as secure as possible. We are following recommendations by the USA Embassy in Tbilisi in order to deter or prevent any incident at our school.”
My contact asked me what was meant by this and I said “World War III, of course”. I wasn’t being serious, but later I realised that I might as well have been. If the US Embassy is even suggesting to schools that they take special measures because some incident may occur, there is either a greater real threat of one than it is prepared to say, or it wants us to think that such a threat exists.
This is not any school – it costs more than most parents can afford. Other parents received the same letter. The implication is that these particular students, not ordinary Georgians, are at risk of being targeted. The letter does not say by whom, but the implication is all too clear when we bear in mind what we already know is going to happen in Georgia.
Whimper to bang
Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) Party is intending to hold a protest rally on March 21st, demanding that the government resign over the state of the economy. The UNM is doing everything it can to destroy the Georgian economy from within, and has a number of levers for doing so as a former UNM Prime Minister runs the Bank of Georgia, but of course this will not be said.
The UNM also argues that the new government is not interested in joining the EU, as the UNM and most Georgians want. This again ignores the fact that the present government signed an Association Agreement with the EU and the UNM was never allowed to. This in spite of the fact that France and Germany will see Georgia in NATO when hell freezes over, no matter who is in charge.
Saakashvili has tried to bring Georgia out into the streets before, but few people listen to him now. Whatever else the present Georgian government is, it doesn’t use the state apparatus to terrorise the population as Saakashvili did, and the people can see the difference. Nevertheless, he has been running a lot of adverts on local radio and subjecting people to all sorts of propaganda via the traditional UNM mouthpiece, Rustavi2.
So Misha is confident of achieving something this time even though he has got nowhere thus far. Why? Because he is being used as the US response to this proclaimed “deteriorating international situation”.
The US has to make people believe that civilization is under threat in order to extend its own leverage at the expense of the EU. What better way than to bring its poster boy back on the pretext that the democrats have ruined the country—and only this man can restore order?
We often use the term “The West” to signify the US/EU/NATO bloc. But the deterioration of relations between the US and EU, which is largely driven by disputes about and within NATO, is making the casual use of this term increasingly suspect. The Georgian government is pro-EU and pro-NATO, but not as pro-US as the UNM regime. It is trying to prevent, or at least scale down, the litany of illegal actions the US has long committed on Georgian territory, and the US doesn’t like it.
For public consumption at least, the present Georgian government has removed the bio weapons lab near Tbilisi International Airport from US Defense Department control, and it is trying to reinvestigate the death of Zurab Zhvania, and a number of terrorist acts and defence deals, and the role the CIA has played in covering up the truth about these. It is doing this in the name of European democracy, not friendship with the US. Now there is a distinction between these two concepts, such actions become too serious to ignore.
The US-EU dispute is being fought out by proxy in Georgia, like so many other proxy conflicts from Cold War times and previously. The US wants us all to believe that everything is so bad in Europe we all need to be more American. This is the “deteriorating international situation” we are supposed to be scared of, but in reality the US is scared of nothing but itself.
Too much to ignore
A couple of weeks ago a Georgian opposition MP (from a different party to the UNM) claimed that plans were afoot to poison one of the high ranking former members of Saakashvili’s team who are currently behind bars – and that this was intended to be a false flag ordered by Saakashvili himself, with the blame to be pinned on the current government.
Rather alarmingly we now have a further claim by a former Georgian General Tristan Tsitelashvili that snipers have started arriving in Georgia from Ukraine, the same ones who ensured bloody revolution took place in Kyiv. He says that there is a list of persons the UNM intends to liquidate on March 21st, and these snipers have been tasked with this. It is known the UNM drew up such lists when it was in power, so such claims cannot be disregarded.
It is widely known that Georgian fighters have been fighting with Poroshenko’s forces in Ukraine, approximately 600 and at least 10 killed. This is all part of the latest US regional regime control project, and with carious irregular groups, and that two trouble-making NGOs which Saakashvili set up to do his dirty work in Georgia, Free Zone and Fair Generation, have already begun picketing the old Parliament Building in Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of the government.
In the Black Sea port of Batumi, a city of vital strategic importance in any attempt to seize the country by force, posters depicting Mikheil Saakashvili and images of inmates being tortured have appeared. They read, “No tolerance, everyone behind bars. He fulfilled this promise by imprisoning 300,000 people.” According to the UNM the posters were given to regional governors after a meeting with the Prime Minister for the purpose of discrediting their party. As it discredited enough, such an action is far more likely to be inspired by the UNM itself, which does, after all, have all the figures relating to its own actions.
A lot of planning has clearly gone into what may be a last ditch UNM attempt to regain power at any cost. The outcome may rest on how low it is prepared to go and how low the government will be prepared to go to stop it. Unfortunately, this gives the UNM a distinct advantage. It stopped at nothing when in power and has stopped at nothing since. The present government was elected to be the antidote to the UNM, so it will ultimately have to rely on goodwill, which has never counted for much in the political realities of Georgia.
Tied hands and broomsticks
The UNM says it has been “forced” into taking whatever action it will take because the government has refused its demand to hold a special parliamentary session on the depreciation of the Georgian Lari (GEL). It argues that as the economy is collapsing, only the UNM can save the country from crashing and burning.
Since it made that statement the Lari, previously dropping like a stone, has recovered somewhat. The National Bank has been forced to investigate and report and now it says that there is nothing to worry about. This may or may not be true, and consumer confidence is always a more practical measure of the state of an economy. But the UNM has used this economic argument before, no one has believed it yet and they are unlikely to start now the spectre of further political violence has been hung over them.
The US will never declare war on Europe. It will simply keep it in what it thinks is its place. The US is backing an impending coup, or threat thereof, in Georgia to stop the EU acting with increasing independence, as if that is any business of Georgia’s. Georgians won’t accept it but are weary of what seems endless struggle. We can only hope that someone, somewhere, is prepared to intervene here before everyone’s life is defined by how useful to US foreign policy it is.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.