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Georgia in the Eye of a Storm

It seems that a defining moment has been reached in the postSaakashvilian geometry of emerging Georgia.
While the new administration has apparently made some errors of
judgment, the scenery offstage has shifted too.
It is less a moment of chickens coming home to roost than one of
those ill-kempt, stateless dogs of the villages, sopheleshi, running
round and baying to the moon and reminding us, in case we ever
forgot, that we are in an emerging economy. And that there is a
wider picture.
Worse errors seem to be being made elsewhere. When you
listen to John Simpsons interview with Dmitry Peskov
[John Simpson: Can Russia and the West reconcile?]
you hear a benighted luminary of the old school berating a
spokesman for Russia who, if you listen carefully, is giving some
quite reasonable answers.

Mr Peskov is quite rightly concerned about the security of Europe,

the balance of power, and the role of NATO. But John Simpsons
question remind me of T.S. Eliots
'For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.'

Simpson harps on about the symptoms of the current political

crisis: the identity of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, reconnaissance
flights, state control of the Russian media; and then in an
extremely superior way almost provokes Mr Peskov by capping
Peskovs statement that we feel nervous (about NATO
encirclement Simpson himself brings in this term) with: it
makes you aggressive!

This is very much tailored for the armchair lounger back at home
in the Surrey suburbs; and amounts to deliberately ratcheting up
tensions while at the same time insinuating that the old, Cold War,
dispensation still exists. Mr Peskov, however, remains quite calm
and even-handed; and seems quite sincere in his desire that a
Cold War scenario should not return. He does not rise to John
Simpsons bullying.

There is a presumption on Mr Simpsons part and on the part of

all of left-wing western opinion that any pro-democratic
revolution, however illegitimately arrived at in terms of
international law, is OK.
This is exactly what Mr Peskov is calmly and legitimately
For my part, I am outraged (only that is far too weak a term!) that
the people whom I was brought up to trust and regard as friends,
allies, mentors and betters the BBC and the American
administration should be so obtuse; so intellectually lazy; and
also, so out of touch.
You do not need more than O Level history to realize that you
cannot dismantle a great power and with it, the balance in world
peace dynamics which that powers presence previously
guaranteed. There will be side-effects.
That balance needs to be modulated into a new key. It will not just
go away. It cannot simply be ignored.
Before the great changes of the Nineties, this was the whole
reason for NATO.
But NATO now is incompatible with the new Europe-driven
geo-political landscape.

This point has scarcely been made, so far as I can see, but Bryan
MacDonald, an Irish journalist writing in a website called RT,
looks at America, Russia and China
and in the course of this, reminds us of Mr Putins genuine
European vision of four years ago: A harmonious economic
community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Bryan MacDonald then goes on to say:
For years commentators have speculated: imagine Russias resources and military power with
Western Europes technology and fiscal heft? It would, of course, be the single most powerful
economic and martial bloc in the world. Not only that, but such a rapprochement makes
complete sense and has done since 1991.
However, it is Washingtons worst nightmare. An EU-Russia alliance and partial union would
erode Americas influence in Europe. Hence, to knock it on [the] head, just as it seemed
Germany was warming to the notion, the US has managed to drive a massive wedge between
Moscow and its natural allies in Europe.

At this point it is salutary to understand how America came about.

Its roots are in Europe and it owes a historical debt to the worlds
most successful civilization: Europe. Everything almost that
we cherish has its origins here.
That ancient idea and concept must now, in the twenty-first
century, be allowed to develop unfettered, much as Halecki
envisaged in his classic book, The Limits and Divisions of
European History, which I devoured as a teenager.
A triadic world of America Europe China is far more sane and
of the moment than a bipartite, confrontational Cold War one, as
MacDonald eloquently states.
'For last year's words belong to last year's language And next
year's words await another voice.'
Meanwhile, what of Georgia? The Economist
in a typical London-based, patrician, condescending, we-knowbest way slates both an ineffectual Georgia and surmises that
Russia in fact, these days, one of the countrys friends is
waiting like an eager bear to jump on it again.
Georgia is just the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle.
It even describes the new Georgian visa regime as imposing
pointless restrictions on foreigners; whereas even the most
disappointed of us would grant the legitimate aims Georgia had,
in making and then very commendably emending this
legislation: that of defending its borders, however inconvenient
this may temporarily be for some of the countrys guests.
Luckily, we were also, yesterday, brought news of a possible
meeting between Mr Putin and President Margvelashili :
There is nothing impossible in this world, the minister said, adding and, in my opinion,
President Putin has already answered such a question, saying that, if there is a need, if there is
an interest in this, we can always find an opportunity.

Add this to Georgias impressive track-record of trying to keep

friends with everybody, and Mr Peskovs remarks that Russia is
consistently trying to avoid a new cold war, and we have a recipe
of hope.
It is a lot more constructive than what is emanating from
Washington and Brussels.
Admittedly and as the Economist article, to its credit,
acknowledges Georgia may be playing a waiting game.
But whether massively failing to spend the funds allocated in the
state budget in time for December, and canceling all
infrastructural projects and sending the Lari spinning to its
worst-ever historic slide is quite the right way to go about it, is
open to question
[Creation of free industrial area in Georgia postponed
5 DECEMBER 2014]
As I walk down Tbilisis Baratashvili Street and see that strange
skeletal building on the elevated side lurking, whether halffinished, or this is how it is supposed to be and it is another of
Mishas sculptures, I am not sure, I cannot help being reminded of
the lines of the Anglo-Saxon poem which Kenneth Clark quotes
so eloquently, and quite early on, in his classic volume,

"A wise man may grasp how ghastly it shall be/ When all this world's wealth stands waste/ Even
as now, in many places over the earth,/ Walls stand wind beaten,/ heavy with hoar frost; ruinedhabitations.../The maker of men has so marred this dwelling/ That human laughter is not heard
about it/ and idle stand these old giant works."

Where the west is thoroughly unreasonable, it seems to me, is

always seeing the game from their side of the net.

Georgia, Russia and some other countries are in unprecedentedly

new and complicated strategic positions.
Ill-will should not be suspected at every street corner.
In Georgia, tragedy frequently stares you in the face and things
seem bleak; but a few days later, a huge blessing frequently
arrives. It may always have been thus, here, since the days of
And as I have only one life, I would not have elected to come here
with all the excitement and periodic inconvenience and danger
which that entails, had I not believed that it is the epicenter of the
world, and that, in the end, it will deliver!

Martin Smith 6 December 2014