The Russian Blockade

Progressive Russian publication Kommersant reports that the attitude of Georgians towards their President is not unanimously favorable. Many believe the President has gone too far in his negative rhetoric in regards Russia, rhetoric which has prompted Russian sanctions.

With the harvest in full bloom, this is the best time for Georgian farmers to make money by selling to the Russian market. This season they cannot do this and must now struggle to survive, because their President did not handle a diplomatic situation with the care that it required. Until the Russian blockade was imposed, Saakashvili talked the language of defiance. Once the hard reality set in, he suddenly became open to dialogue and was suddenly perplexed by Russian response. This only goes to show his political immaturity — one of the main tenets of his presidency has been criticizing (rightly so, and not) Russia. This is healthy, but one’s presidency cannot lie on just one raison d’être: denying your neighbor.

War Plans?

This weekend, Georgia replied to Russian President Putin’s suggestion that the conflict may end in bloodshed, and denied having war plans.

This is rather curious as tensions have been rampant in the two separatist (and pro-Russian) regions of Georgia. In fact, on several occasions President Saakashvili has made statements about getting those areas under complete Georgian control — in domestic media, of course.

Curiously enough, the situation that played itself out this fall in Georgia had a very familiar ring to the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict of this summer.

Four supposed spies were arrested and held by Georgia, much like the Israeli soldiers that spurred the violence in Lebanon this summer. Except Russia did not respond with force. And force is what Saakashvili has wanted for so long — painting Russia as an aggressive villain, this is exactly what he needed, the confirmation of the corrupt nature of the Russian state. After all, Russia’s aggression has been Georgia’s (i.e. Saahashvili’s) raison d’être.

Not this time. But tensions are not falling and in all likelihood some sort of military confrontation will take place, unless proper diplomacy is finally exercised by both sides.

Russia’s Shame

The Russian government showed a political immaturity of its own by implementing an anti-Georgian policy within the country. Cracking down on illegal casinos and probing Georgian-owned businesses, the authorities have also began to target simple citizens with Georgian credentials. This is nationalism at its worse and it doesn’t help anyone: nationalistic discrimination is simply unacceptable. It has touched everyone, young and old, as has been reported throughout most major media. (For example, see this BBC story.) When I was on the phone with Moscow 10 days ago, I was told of a 19 year old girl who “looked Georgian” (and was not) being constantly harrassed by police officers to provide her credentials. What threat simple citizens pose to Russia, is simply unclear. And this is shameful state nationalism.

Thankfully, most Russians have realized the level of discrimination and have started to write in to papers to complain. Ashamed of the policy, Russia’s stars have started protests of their own. For example, Russian Actor Stanislav Sadalsky has applied for Georgian citizenship as a sign of solidarity for the Georgians living in Russia. Other members of the entertainment industry have made a statement about the ongoing discrimination.