Saakashvili promotes NATO expansion into Georgia which is a clear “red line” for Russia
The Georgian capital of Tbilisi has been engulfed in protests over the last weeks that have the appearance of a color revolution backed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA offshoot that finances civil society groups in countries targeted by the U.S. government for regime change.
In 2021, the NED provided Georgia with over $2.5 million in grants. The country has been promised by NATO that it will be admitted in the future. It is a key battleground along with Ukraine in the new Cold War.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov charged that protests in Tbilisi “closely resemble Kyiv’s Maidan coup,” which resulted in the overthrow of a pro-Russian government, and plunged Ukraine into civil war and then a hot war with Russia.
Georgia has been in the U.S. orbit since the 2003 U.S.-backed Rose Revolution brought to power Mikheil Saakashvili, a darling of the neoconservatives in Washington who pushed for EU and NATO membership.
The latest demonstrations are supposedly in response to a new law requiring that NGOs receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad register as foreign agents. Opponents have called this a “Russian”-style law, and it has been denounced as going against Georgia’s “European course”—a clear indication of the kind of color revolution that is intended.
There has also been agitation around the release of Saakashvili, who was convicted in absentia in 2018 of abuse of power during his presidency, and imprisoned on his return to Georgia in 2021.
Many of the demonstrators have worn gas masks and helmets, and some have been throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police. They blockaded the parliament, and may have the entire building surrounded.
Despite their violent character, the U.S. Embassy has come out in support of the protesters, saying that the imposition of the “foreign agents” law is a “dark day for democracy” in Georgia. The embassy also mulled the possibility of imposing sanctions on the country for suppressing the protests.
After the protests continued to grow, on March 9 the governing coalition withdrew the bill in an effort to calm them down. A statement announcing the withdrawal said, “The machine of lies was able to present the bill in a negative light and mislead a certain part of the public.”
The opposition, however, released a joint statement in response, insisting that the protests would continue nonetheless, “because there are many young people who do not trust Georgian Dream,” referring to the governing party.
Phony Political Prisoner
Professor Richard Sakwa, in his definitive work “Frontline Ukraine—Crisis in the Borderlands,” makes several references which include the subject of Saakashvili, championed as a “political prisoner” by the British elite, as evidenced by the hearing in the House of Lords on February 27, 2023, which has been recorded on a video file. This material can be viewed here:
On viewing this video, the wider matter of concern here is that the British State is acting in such a way as to have Georgia admitted to both the European Union and NATO, which, along with the presence of NATO operatives within Ukraine, constituted a “red line not to be crossed” according to the substance of the speech made by President Putin at the 2007 Munich Security Conference.
Neocons Favored Son in Georgia
Coached by Richard Miles, the one-time U.S. ambassador in Belgrade who helped organize street protests against Serb socialist leader Slobodan Milošević, Saakashvili was just 36 years old when in 2003 he led the so-called Rose Revolution, against Georgia’s old Soviet-era leadership.
He came to power the following year with more than 96% of the vote and moved quickly to carry out reforms—cracking down on organized crime, rebuilding the police force, and cutting red tape for business.
But in 2008, Georgia fought a five-day war with Russia over South Ossetia that ended in humiliating defeat, the loss of territory, and the displacement of tens of thousands of Georgians. As commander-in-chief, Saakashvili was ultimately held responsible.
His government became increasingly authoritarian, shutting down a critical media channel, violently dispersing protests, extorting money from businesses, and imprisoning thousands of people for minor offenses.
The final straw came in a video on the eve of elections in 2012 featuring allegations of prison torture and abuse. Georgians voted decisively against Saakashvili’s United National Movement ending its nine years in power.
Saakashvili left Georgia for a new political career in Ukraine, later becoming governor of the southern region of Odessa, while continuing to champion the cause of NATO expansion in Georgia. When he returned to his home country last year, he was arrested and charged with committing high crimes in office.
Since the Russian Special Military operation commenced in February 2022, Saakashvili has spoken out against Vladimir Putin and praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom he called “the new Churchill in this part of Europe [who] will determine not only things that will happen in Ukraine but in many countries around it, including Russia.”
Extracts from Sakwa’s work are referenced here:
“The Russo-Georgian war of August 2008 acted as the forewarning of the major earthquake that has engulfed Europe in 2013-14. As Mikhail Margelov, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council, put it, noting the West’s surprise at ‘Russia’s firm stance on Ukraine,’ given that everything had been pointed in that direction for the last decade:”
“Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the West failed to forsake the principle according to which only Western interests are legitimate. Nor has it learned the lesson of the events of August 2008, when Russia intervened in the war unleashed by the regime of Mikheil Saakashvili, in order to enforce peace in the region. The Georgian crisis should have made clear to everyone that Russia is not only ready to make its voice heard, but is also prepared to use force when its national interests are at stake.” (p. 5)
“The Russian intervention in Georgia in August 2008 changed the tone of the discussion and bolstered the Polish argument that Russia’s western neighbors needed stronger links with the EU, ‘partly for their own security and partly for the security of the EU.’ Most Western accounts of the Georgian conflict have been tendentious, too often swallowing uncritically the line put out by the Georgian President from 2004 to 2013, Mikheil Saakashvili. Russia’s response to the Georgian attack on the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, included the temporary occupation of part of Georgia proper followed soon after by the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This may have been disproportionate and ill-judged, yet in broad terms was a response to the threat of NATO enlargement. Misrepresentations of this conflict led directly to the Ukraine crisis.” (p. 40)
“The perceived promise of NATO membership granted to Georgia and Ukraine at the Bucharest Summit on April 2-4, 2008 raised the stakes on all sides. Ukraine’s non-bloc status is enshrined in its constitution, yet this seemed to matter little to advocates of enlargement. The summit radicalized the Russian position, with Putin strengthening the military, diplomatic, and aid links with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Equally, Bucharest endowed the Georgians with what turned out to be ill-founded optimism that they had, even if informally, come under Western protection. Saakashvili apparently sabotaged all attempts to de-escalate the growing conflict not only between Tbilisi and its two breakaway regions, but also between Tbilisi and Moscow. The Russian action, very simply, can be called ‘the war to stop NATO enlargement.’ It was an issue of existential security importance for the country, and in that light, Russian actions can be considered defensive. However, instead of drawing the appropriate lessons, the ferocious propaganda put out by the Saakashvili regime about ‘Russian aggression’ shaped Western perceptions. The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, visited Kyiv and pledged Britain’s support, dooming the country to become the next epicenter of the artificially constructed struggle for mastery in Europe.” (p. 47)
The tension between a continental vision of European security and what appeared to be the inexorable enlargement of NATO prepared the stage for the Ukrainian confrontation of 2014 that was, as Stephen Cohen repeatedly warned, two steps from another Cuban missile crisis and three steps from World War III. Greater Europe and continental approaches to the management of European affairs were dismissed as the ‘Gaullist heresy’, and discussion was thereby rendered illegitimate. Atlanticism became the new ideology to contain Russia. (p. 223)
Here, Sakwa identifies Saakashvili as a useful propagandist for Atlantic interests, he writes:
“Militancy is further fostered by a range of politicians and public activists who continue the ‘Russophobe’ tradition of the 19th century, when the Polish question after the failed uprising of 1830 allowed Russia to be framed as an irredeemable despotism. The role played by Poland in the nineteenth century now looks set to be taken by Ukraine in the twenty-first. Let Saakashvili speak for this group, since he distills the axiology of the war party.”
In an article in the Wall Street Journal, published on June 22 2014 under the title “The Tasks Ahead for Ukraine’s New President,” Saakashvili argued:
“Poroshenko can deal with Russia only with Western help. What we have observed recently is a major international discrepancy; Russia is weak, but it has a strong will to pursue adventurist policies. The West is much stronger but cannot agree on a unified response, and thereby is projecting weakness. Mr Putin knows he is vulnerable, and this makes him more willing to exploit his window of opportunity. The West knows well what Mr Putin’s vulnerabilities are, but the European Union and the U.S. have been unwilling to endure even a minimum of pain to exploit them.”
Sakwa continues his assessment of Saakashvili as a Russophobic belligerent:
“Here is the voice of war to the end of time to bring Russia to heel, irrespective of the cost. Such a policy, whose discourse is redolent of the dangers of appeasement, standing up to bullies and other anachronisms, threatens to turn the eastern part of Europe into the wastelands already created in the Middle East and North Africa.”
House of Lords Hearing on Georgia
Turning now to the “questions to the government” session conducted in the House of Lords on February 27th. Here is an abbreviated abstract of the issues raised to the State of Georgia.
Chairing the session was Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Minister. He opened by raising the issue of the ongoing imprisonment of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, claiming that his incarceration was illegitimate.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth responded, initially by advocating that Georgia be brought deeper within the European sphere of influence, after which he expressed his concern regarding the treatment Saakashvili was receiving in prison and his current state of health. (Perhaps he would do better to consider the treatment that Julian Assange has been enduring over a decade now)
Lord Goldsmith responded in concurrence with the previous speaker, stressing the importance of the British Government’s support for Georgia’s broader European and NATO aspirations.
Next in line here was Lord Howell, who cited the usual litany of accusations against Russia regarding its actions in creating tension and instability, not only in Georgia but also in Moldova and Sudan as part of Russia’s expansionist agenda.
Lord Goldsmith responded, continuing the thread of this narrative of Russia’s widespread influence in bringing about instability in the region, making reference to the “de facto authorities” of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. (There are certain parallels to be drawn here regarding the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas.)
Following on from this was Lord Wallace of Saltaire who questioned the legality of vehicular traffic passing across the borders of Georgia and Russia, claiming that this was in breach of the sanctions that have been imposed according to “international law” and that it was crucial that democracy, Western style, was restored to Georgia. In the same vein, Lord Balfe emphasized a need for Georgia to conduct its parliamentary affairs in line with Western “standards of democracy.”
In response, Lord Goldsmith reiterated his exhortations, pressing for “progress and reform” in line with Georgia’s EU and NATO aspirations and that “discussions” were ongoing with regard to such Atlantic objectives, a view which was echoed by Lord Robertson of Port Ellen who expressed his desire that Georgia should move quickly to become part of the Euro-Atlantic family.
Lord Goldsmith responded, explaining that the UK is continuing its discussions with the Georgian government regarding such objectives, but he did not go as far as explaining exactly the nature and scope of such activities.
Next was Lord Carlile of Berriew who expressed his dismay at the “abandonment” of the “rule of law” standards in Georgia which, he claimed, threaten the business and economic interests of the region.
Yet again, Lord Goldsmith responded by reasserting the efforts to bring Georgia to achieve its Euro-Atlantic aspirations by further integration with the EU and NATO alliances.
Finally, Baroness Smith of Basildon expressed her most profound concern about the treatment meted out to LGBT groups and gay rights “pride parades” which were being threatened by the malign influence of Russia.
To conclude here, this was a cross-party consensus, where both Labour and Tory Lords were of one voice in condemning Russia as a malign influence, a violator of human rights, and which displays a dangerous predilection toward expanding its empire throughout the rest of Europe.
However, one could consider things from a wider context here. One could ask whether the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline by the U.S.-UK and Norway, serves as a convenient distraction from the possibility of Georgia being opened up as yet another flank with a view toward “overstretching” the Special Military Operation. We have seen the overthrow of governments by the Western powers in the form of outright violent military interventions such as Iraq and Libya. We have also seen “coups d’état” achieved by the expedient of “color revolutions.”
In fact it was the “Rose Revolution” which was a nonviolent change of power that occurred in Georgia in November 2003. The event was brought about by widespread protests over the disputed parliamentary elections and culminated in the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, which marked the end of the Soviet-era leadership in the country. It derives its name from the climactic moment, when demonstrators led by none other than Mikheil Saakashvili stormed the Parliament session with red roses in hand.
We also have witnessed the “Lawfare Coups” where bogus affidavits are served, such as those that deposed Brazilian President Lula and saw him jailed on trumped-up charges, as happened also in Argentina and Peru.
However, in this case we are looking at a “diplomatic coup” whereby, through the “benevolent influence” of the British Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, it appears that Georgia continues to be groomed as a prospective member of the European Union and yet another member of NATO on the borders of Russia.
And again we must be reminded of the warning made by President Putin in Munich in 2007 and ponder this question: Are the innocent civilians of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be sacrificed on the altar of U.S. hegemony?
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About the Author
Born in South Wales, Bernie Holland is a guitarist, composer, artist, writer, peace activist, scholar and practitioner of Mahayana Buddhism of the Nichiren School.
He has also taught english to refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq.
In his music career, Holland toured and recorded with many major artists, details of which can be found here.