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November 19, 2007


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Noel Maurer

Maybe the place has gotten lucky and wound up with its own version of Lee Kwan Yew. Hey. It happens. Sometimes authoritarian systems get lucky. Mostly not, of course. But sometimes. Well, at least once. Or so it appears. What the hell do I actually know about Singapore?

Anyway, I'd've been more partial to the guy if he liked to yell "Forever until victory!"

Why does Russia hate him, anyway? And what's up with Abkhazia and South Ossetia? I'm not tracking with that.

Will Baird

Abkhazia used to be a major area for Russians to vacation. A lot of important types have dachas there, from what Lyuda has told me. They'd rather it was under Russian Control (TM). There's more with Revanchist, paranoid and Chechen related agendas from what I can tell too.

As usual with things Russian, it's as clear as mud and has so many layers to it even - or perhaps especially - the Russians under really understand what's going on.

Sorry. xUSSR states are depressing me these days.

Doug M.

-- I actually agree about Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew was and is an asshole, but so what? He lifted his country from the Third World to the First, without breaking too many heads in the process; the evil he did (and he did some real evil) has been vastly outweighed by the good. It's an awe-inspiring accomplishment.

Saakashvili would like to be Lee, I think, but he's been dealt a much harder hand. (And may not be as bright and competent to begin with, though that's hard to tell at this distance).

Abhkazia and South Ossetia are two very different things. Yeah, they're both separatist regions of Georgia that have found shelter in the ample bosom of Mother Russia. But South Ossetia is probably solvable with some patience and goodwill... qualities often in short supply around here, but still.

Abkhazia, OTOH, is a real tragedy; there is no solution that can possibly satisfy all parties, and any plausible outcome is going to leave a lot of innocent people screwed. The most likely outcome is the status quo, which is pretty bad.

One of these days I'll post about it, probably over at the fistful.

Doug M.

Jussi Jalonen

I remember Gamsakhurdia very well. The most famous Mengrel in history, right after Beria.

... so, Noel, what _do_ you want to know of the situation in South Ossetia? The region has been de facto Russian territory, to the extent that some 90% of the locals still hold Russian citizenship. And they like it just fine. You do remember their petition for formal (re-)incorporation to the Russian Federation the last summer?

(The present-day Osset national identity has its roots in Finland. Seriously. Suitably enough, Heikki Talvitie used to be the EU special representative for South Caucasus.)


J. J.

Doug M.

Jussi, I wouldn't push this "like it just fine" thing too far. The Ossetians mistrust the Georgians, but don't hate them; they like the Russians tolerably well, but the petition for incorporation is for mutual convenience, not because they think it's the only way they can survive.

There's a farcical element to the South Ossetia dispute. Frex, several hundred Ossetians were lured over to the Georgian side this year by a program that gave them heavily subsidized vacations on the Black Sea. Wossname, the leader of the South Ossetian state, made a long speech more or less anathematizing them.

That's why I think it could potentially be settled... if the Georgians make the Ossetians an offer that's good enough (and believable), they'll switch sides easily enough. It's not a conflict written in blood.

This is very different from Abkhazia, where passions run much higher and the bitterness goes deep. Abkhazia is not going back under Georgian rule, no matter how good the offer looks.

That post at fistful? I started a series on the frozen conflicts a while back. They're in ascending order of awfulness: Transnistria first, then Ossetia, then Abkhazia. Karabakh last, since it was the most violent and is still most likely to produce a new war. But I had to think about it, because Abkhazia was pretty awful too.

Mingrelians: yeah, Gamsakhurdia had that whole "must be more Georgian than the Georgians" thing. Like Kossuth the half-Slovak, among others. And that was in addition to the "great man's son" thing, which he also had in full measure. Just Georgia's bad fortune to get a leader who had Issues.

Doug M.

Noel Maurer

Jussi: what confuses me is Russia's endgame. What is Putin's goal? Annexation of the two territories? Well, he's got their virtual annexation, and he doesn't seem to be taking the obvious steps towards formalizing that status. This leaves me with two equally perplexing possibilities:

(1)Putin doesn't care about a final settlement, and I'd like to know what he gains from keeping things frozen;

(2)he believes that he is taking the correct steps towards ending the crises with a gain for Russia, in which case I'd like to know what that "gain" is ... because right now the situation seems to me to be producing neither:

(a) greater popularity at home;
(b) territorial aggrandizement;
(c) greater influence in other parts of the near abroad;
nor, (d) international brownie points. /Especially/ not (d), in fact.

So I'm missing something. Somewhere in there Putin must be getting (a), (b), or (c) from keeping the situation static, or he must be moving towards a solution in a mysterious way that he thinks will get him (a), (b), or (c).

Which is it? Me confused. This hemisphere, much easier to understand.

The New York City High School Math Teacher

Wasn't Gamsakhurdia pried out of the smoking ruin of his presidential palace twelve years ago? Thirteen? Damn, I know it was [one of the] coup d'état followed by fighting, and pause/posturing and then civil war again, and he died in mystery. '92? Must have been, because Shevardnadze was Georgian president by 1993. So, obviously, the current government, which exists in opposition to Shevardnadze, taking office by knocking him off bloodlessly, must be rehabbing Gamsakhurdia for national unity's [sticking it to Shevardnadze's] sake.

Oy. I don't want to think about the geopolitics of the Caucasus any longer.

In other news, Georgian wines like Tvishi or Kvanchkara are excellent (unlike, say, Old Scuppernong, or Kedem Malaga Extra Thick).

Noel Maurer

Well, I do! No, seriously --- I lack your knowledge, NYCHSMT. I am very confused about the geopolitics of the Caucasus.

I'd like to start with a village idiot question: why is there a geopolitics of the Caucasus? Pipelines? Schmipelines. (Or if that's the answer, it'd be nice to know why the E.U. or U.S. should worry.) There's no geopolitics of the Caribbean, because the U.S. (and Venezuela, if you stretch things) is the only power who counts and cares. So what're the interests in the Caucasus?

While there may be a convincing answer, this question is not as obvious as it seems when you're in Boston, Port-of-Spain, or Mexico City.

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