Doing unto Others: The Price of the Question

Kommersant, Russia
Jan 28 2005

Doing unto Others: The Price of the Question

World Practice

There have been too many coincidences to think that it is accidental.
Mikhail Saakashvili is making the rounds in Strasbourg with new peace
proposals for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and what do you know?, at
the very same time the leaders of the two unrecognized states, Eduard
Kokoity and Sergey Bagapsh, turn up in Moscow and shriek in chorus
that the peace proposals are practically a declaration of war and
hitting him on both fronts at once. The next day, the UN Security
Council discusses Abkhazia on Moscow’s initiative and without any
representation from Georgia. It becomes clear that Russia sees no
reason for the Georgian ambassador to be present at discussions of
the Abkhazian problem. But you have to think that the problem has a
little to do with Georgia too.

Bagapsh, leader of sunny Abkhazia, has declared how happy he is to
have met Kokoity in snowy Moscow and that he intends to `coordinate
actions’ with the presidents of unrecognized Transdniestr Republic
and Nagorny Karabakh. Very touching, of course.

We have already forgotten our righteous anger over the intriguing of
outside forces in Ukraine. And it didn’t stop us from thinking that
our own actions were only for the sake of greater stability in
Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and everywhere else. We know
best, of course, what the former Soviet republics and their citizens
really need. They couldn’t cope without us. We are a great power and
they are our buffer zone and underbelly. The present Russian-Georgian
collision has dispelled any doubts. The linchpin of Moscow’s position
among the former Soviet countries will be Abkhazia, South Ossetia
and, unseen, Transdniestr, Eastern Ukraine and area in similar
circumstances. It sounds scary, but it seems to be what’s happening.
We don’t have any other ways of keeping the West away yet. At least
in those places we still pull some weight. We have our own people. We
lost Aslan Abashidze in Ajaria, but there’s still Kokoity and
Bagapsh/Khadzjimba and Igor Smirnov in Transdniestr. We can give
Arkady Gukasyan in Karabakh a go if need be to. And there’s still
Viktor Yanukovich. He’s not finished yet and is putting gout signals
that he could use a hand – a sure sign of life.

It would seem that it is a no-lose, irrefutable position. But we have
to be morally prepared for to pay the high price of having our own
weapons used against us. They’ll use our experience and know-how.
There are lots more places to do it in. Just the North Caucasus, with
its eternal reputation as a tinderbox, is enough. Then we’ll remember
the old truth that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw

by Sergey Strokan