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Mikheil Saakashvili and his foreign policy

The president Saakashvili rules over Georgia already for more than eight years however there is an impression that many analysts consider his coming to power as the result of putsch, his board is considered as the accident. There is an ordinary opinion that the moment when the Georgian people will dethrone his dictatorship sooner or later will come and the kind relations of Moscow and Tbilisi will be restored very quickly.

However Mikheil Saakashvili is a figure much more difficult, than it is represented to many people. He isn't the casual adventurer, but very capable politician; he managed to use a set of factors which helped and help him now to keep the power at such external failures, as the lost war for South Ossetia. His former colleagues such as Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, who were not conceding by influence to him, were his rivals and nouveau riches as Badri Patarkatsishvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili, each of whom has huge possibilities for transformation of the monetary capitals into political influence. And nevertheless Saakashvili coped with the majority of them without special tension.

Saakashvili's many plans as political, since a fast gain of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (on inauguration of 2004 he solemnly promised that will carry out the following such ceremony in Sukhumi) and economic (the most grandiose project – construction of super city Lazika on the Black Sea coast) are very difficult to realize or it is simply impossible. The opposition in Georgia is very active, it conducts the fight against the regime with big scope, however over and over loses again. There is the reason.

The matter is that Mikheil Saakashvili, by the highest standards, became the political successor not of Edward Shevardnadze who gave the chance to him to promote and come to the corridors of power, but of Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The people of the senior generation still have in memory the enthusiastic admiration for president Gamsakhurdia of the vast majority of the Georgians in his short board (1990-1991).

Saakashvili doesn't carry out the direct parallels among themselves and the first president of Georgia. However, in fact continues his politics. And it consists in frank opposition of Georgia to Moscow, the Kremlin and emphasized friendship with the West. It would seem there is nothing original: Shevardnadze looked for the union in the West too and got the support from there not to a lesser extent as Saakashvili. However the difference in his time was that the friendship with the West and hostility to Russia were not such demonstrative, as in Saakashvili’s time. Both Gamsakhurdia and Saakashvili threw down a challenge to Russia openly, expressly, without disappearing behind ostentatious friendliness.

Mikheil Saakashvili is aggressive, but it is not so reckless aggression; it is not confrontation searches at the slightest pretext, as it is well seen on an example of Abkhazia. After Saakashvili's coming to power, he developed rough activities for overthrow of the regime of Aslan Abashidze in Adzharia at once: also half a year didn't pass between “revolution of roses” (on November 23, 2003) and the introduction of Saakashvili’s army in Batumi (on May 6, 2004). Thus the main goal was reached almost without violence and without hostilities in any case– one psychological attack was enough.

Aslan Abashidze was popular in Adzharia, had solid resources for defence and many his supporters seriously expected to receive the protection from Turkey. However it became clear that the Turks don't intend to protect Adzharia from the Georgian armies by power way at all and the help of other sort wouldn't rescue Abashidze all the same.

It seemed, after an easy and bloodless gain of Adzharia nobody prevented Mikheil Saakashvili to send the armies against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There were the Russian peacekeeping armies in a zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflict however it didn't stop the Georgian president in August, 2008. Four years earlier many were afraid that Saakashvili will attack one of the republics which have separated from Georgia, but it didn't occur.

Instead the president continued the personnel shifts, filling the government with his people and also developed the fight against crime and liquidated even irregular groups of saboteurs during it who were based at borders of Abkhazia and made continuous raids on its east suburbs, i.e. “Wood brothers” and “White legion”.

Already these Saakashvili's actions demonstrated that despite all attacks against Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite threats and quite often insulting statements in their address, the new Georgian leader quite soberly estimated a situation. Yes, he grasped Adzharia which didn't render resistance and in the summer of 2006 occupied the Kodori Gorge of Abkhazia where the situation was controlled by local Svans since the Georgian-Abkhazian war. But the Georgian president well knew whom to attack and whom to leave alone.

In 2006 he didn't disturb neither the Abkhazian armies, nor the Russian peacekeepers. In fact, the gain of the Kodori Gorge didn't mention nobody's interests and even “rebellious” Svans quickly calmed down and apprehended the arrival of the Georgian groups as something self-evident.

Thus, Saakashvili showed understanding of that fact that he doesn't intend to attack Abkhazia or to South Ossetia without concrete benefits. Even in the autumn – winter of 2004-2005, when the political opposition was in full swing in Abkhazia, he didn't make the slightest attempt to probe the Abkhazian border, neither on a land, nor on the sea. Quiet long time the relations with the Ossetians were just the same.

But in November, 2007, it was possible to the Georgian opposition to get out the number of the protesting people on the streets. According to some information, twice more people were hospitalized at their dispersal than during the meeting dispersal on Rustaveli Avenue on April 9, 1989. It should spoil Mikheil Saakashvili's image who was perceived by the Georgians first of all as the patriot of the country until then.

All his attacks to Russia were perceived with pleasure by that part of the Georgians who dreamed about it since the time of Zviad Gamsakhurdia – of Georgia as to the most important ally of the USA in the region. They saw the new Georgia as NATO stronghold in Forward Asia, as the major fortress intended for undermining of the Russian hegemony in the Caucasus. Saakashvili revived these traditions and gained confidence by that. However many dissatisfied remained and they became a combustible material for opposition performances.

For this reason, Mikheil Saakashvili firstly (in January, 2008) held the early presidential election, having provided the power for five years forward and then decided to make the war against South Ossetia (in August, 2008). Only the public war could give to the Georgian nation the feeling of unity and put out the rebellious moods. Many consider that the Georgian president was not aware of the attack consequences on Tskhinvali. However Moscow, on the eve of war, abundantly clearly showed that is ready to protect the Ossetians and Abkhazians.

Saakashvili knew what he did, but hoped for the help from the West. He really received the help – the ships of NATO entered into the Black Sea. However the West couldn't stop the approach of the Russian armies. The firm position of Turkey which insisted on a conclusion of NATO vessels from passages according to a letter of the contract of 1936 and non-standard diplomacy of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy who helped to sign the contract arranging all parties helped also. The success of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin was doubtless. However, Saakashvili managed to find the benefit for himself in this situation too.

The idea of war of 2008 as about unequal (and also heroic) fight with huge and powerful Russia became a big consolation for the Georgians. This propaganda concept appeared such attractive to the Georgian population that it wasn't required even to be advertized especially: it responded to the moods of the Georgians in 2008. That is why in 2009-2011 when the world financial crisis stopped and even turned back the revival of the Georgian economy of which Saakashvili especially was proud, the president of Georgia felt confidently again and put out all performances of opposition without effort which never reached such scope as in November, 2007.

And meanwhile, Saakashvili achieved a number of successes during his presidency, which it would be unreasonable to deny. The draconian measures against corruption disaccustomed (let temporarily) to give bribes to policemen. The crime, of course, is not finished completely, but the decisive steps are made in this direction – and it is already much in comparison with criminal anarchy and chaos which set in after the Georgian-Abkhazian war in the 90th.

The social stratification is still great however the economic decline is overcome. Let the economy of Georgia keeps in many respects thanks to the American grants, but the same it is possible to say about many states of the world, Georgia is not the unique dependent country in this sense. Tbilisi isn’t afraid of dependence from the West (it is Zviad Gamsakhurdia's main political slogan which embodied Saakashvili) and even confrontations with the Muslim world because of the union with NATO.

Today Mikheil Saakashvili quite often causes the sympathy of the potential enemies. Even there are many people in the North Caucasus who are sincerely admiring his personality and his regime. On the one hand, such moods are dangerous to Russia, on the other – is it necessary to Moscow to be afraid of these facts? It is clear to all that the Georgian regime is authoritative and nationalist; but there is no guarantee that the new Georgian president, whoever become, will pursue the policy of democratization and it is already clear that it will disagree on recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and it excludes the possibility of restoration of the Georgian-Russian relations in full volume and returns Georgia to the CIS.

The force of Saakashvili is in his honesty: it is hostile to Moscow, but doesn't hide it; he would wish to turn Abkhazia and South Ossetia into the Georgian provinces and to lift a destabilization wave in the North Caucasus, having directed it against Russia – but he is absolutely frank in these intentions.

Who is more dangerous to Russia – the open enemy or the false friend? In any case, today Russia has possibility to pursue the policy of protection of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, without reckoning with discontent of Tbilisi. If Saakashvili would be dethroned or will leave himself – the political situation can become complicated. And will his leaving relieve the southern regions of Russia from subversive activities of the South (let even mean the diversions of political character) is not known while, but it is doubtful.

Viewed : 1446   Commented: 2

Author: Spartak Zhidkov

Publication date : 30 May 2012 17:15

Source: The world and we

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