Saakashvili’s best American friends are Sen. John McCain, who has made support of democracy in the former Soviet Union a major theme, and George Soros, who helped pay salaries for the bankrupt Georgian civil service system in 2004. This cannot please Putin. ~Richard Holbrooke, The Washington Post
Let’s see: a hot-headed hegemonist and an arch-fomenter of anti-Russian activism both like and support Saakashvili. This is not news to us, and this is exactly why Moscow views him (rightly) with suspicion. Why might Putin find Saakashvili more than a little irritating? Perhaps because he is bellicose and irresponsible, anti-Russian, and a perfect caricature of Third World tinpot dictator “elected” with an improbable 95% of the vote?
Whatever the many, many flaws of Putin, let us be clear about this: Saakashvili is not a defender of anyone’s freedom or a noble David struggling against overwhelming odds. He is a small-time crook who has overplayed his hand and now finds himself outgunned and surrounded. Lucky for him, he has major Western connections. But this Djindjic of the east may well meet a similar fate thanks to his own reckless and dangerous confrontational positions vis-a-vis Russia. It is not admirable that Russia is smothering Georgia, and it is deplorable that two Orthodox peoples are at odds with one another, but it was always folly for the Georgian ant to bite the Russian bear. The ant was never going to win, and there is nothing admirable or heroic in calling down ruin on your people.
For his part, Saakashvili had best be careful around his “friend” John McCain, who likewise supported Shevardnadze against the Russians. This was not because he cared a whit about Shevardnadze, whose overthrow at the hands of the Stalin-loving Saakashvili (this dictator rallied his supporters at the statue of Dzugashvili during the “democratic” Rose Revolution) brought no comment from him, but because pro-NATO Georgian politicians are simply useful tools to advance hegemonist goals in the Caucasus and nothing more. In spite of Saakashvili’s repeated belligerent statements with respect to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and in spite of his provocative actions that precipitated the latest crisis (in which, I must agree, Putin has overreacted and played directly into the hands of the Russophobes in Washington, who are piling on lately), the good establishment lackeys continue to tell us that Saakashvili is an important supporter of U.S. interests rather than an embarrassing liability. You can take it to the bank that if Richard Holbrooke believes supporting Saakashvili is the necessary course of action that the wise, patriotic and moral thing to do is the exact opposite of what he recommends.
The fruits of pre-emption and regime change are beginning to ripen. Now other great powers are taking advantage of our relative weakness to settle scores with small countries which their governments would like to dominate. Where Russia at least has some claim to legitimate interests in its near-abroad, Washington has claimed the right to intervene almost anywhere. Let us not be shocked or scandalised when Moscow acts to punish a neighbour after our government has chastised regimes on the other side of the world. It is most regrettable and awful that the people of Georgia (and Armenia) are being made to suffer for the delusions of Saakashvili and the rage of Putin, and if Washington had any credibility as a neutral power in all of this it might call Russia on its arbitrary and excessive treatment. Since Saakashvili is transparently Washington’s man and everyone paying attention knows this, there is essentially nothing that we or the Europeans can say that will do anything but confirm the Kremlin in its hard-line policy. Such is the loss of our moral authority that goes with attempting to create hegemony across vast swathes of Asia. Such is the backlash against the mad hegemonist design to encircle and “contain” Russia. Like so many nations before them, the Georgians have been led on by American and European promises of support and then left stranded, because in the final analysis Washington and Brussels know that Georgia is not worth enough to them to cause a significant rift in relations with Moscow. Like so many other peoples before them, the Georgians have been led astray and betrayed by their own “reformist” leadership that does not have the welfare of the Georgian people in mind. Putin is being exceedingly cruel, but the Georgians must see that their own government has been exceedingly stupid in bringing this disaster upon their country.