Why does it matter to the rest of us what happens in Georgia and environs? Answer: if the West cannot help an aspiring ally with dreams of joining Nato and the EU, cannot even protect it from Russian hegemony, what are we doing meddling in the Middle East or anywhere else? And if we can’t help Georgia, then what is left of the West’s victory in the Cold War?
I reported on the national elections in Tbilisi, Georgia, last October. On one occasion, I was shown a text from a politician of the party that won the election to a politician of the ruling party that lost (that of President Saakashvili). The text was nothing more nor less than a threat: the receiver should dump his affiliation to the President now, before the election, or face prosecution after. That entire campaign reeked of abuses and intimidation, above all by the opposition, but the world media only had eyes for the eccentricities of the billionaire challenger who owned zebras. The two sides spat poison at each other and it was a nice question as to who would win the besmirching match because whoever did would also clinch the outcome. In the end, the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili’s side succeeded in depicting the country under Saakashvili as a fearful prison-like state by releasing videos of scary abuses in the prison system, even though evidence showed that a jailed mafiotic hater of the President had paid for the videos. I chronicled much of the chicanery in my Newsweek International cover story of the time.
I bring all this up because the Presidential term of Saakashvili ended a few days ago. Not did his party lose the parlaimentary elections last October, but now his party candidate also just lost the vacated Presidency to the party of the ‘eccentric oligarch’, Georgian Dream. Almost simultaneously, oligarch-turned-Prime Minister Ivanishvili announced that he would indeed retire from politics as he said he would a year ago when he took office. There was then, and still is now, a great deal to concern the media worldwide in his past and present – that the media has effectively skated over. Ivanishvili was widely accused of being a Kremlin stooge since virtually all his money originated from Russia. I’m no expert business reporter but I remain astonished that no one in the entire global media probed this matter fully. How could anyone, as Ivanishvili did, liquidate his holdings in strategic Russian energy companies as easily and quickly as he did without the Kremlin green-lighting it? Nobody had managed this before. Buyers had to be found quickly, approved buyers who could be trusted to deploy their shares according to Kremlin needs. Funds had to be released. Nobody knew exactly how much or by whom but it allowed the oligarch to claim he no longer had Russian holdings, and it allowed him resources aplenty to fight and win the elections in Georgia. It’s worth asking, would any western politician be granted such an EZ Pass by the media?( Collapse )