We have a very entertaining situation in Georgia right now, with sackings and resignations in the government and a firestorm of recriminations concerning these. Such instability, even if temporary, would appear to make Georgia a less reliable partner than yesterday. Nevertheless, the US is upgrading the strategic importance of Georgia.
All the signs point to another attempt at regime change – which the US also engineered to end the governments of Zviad Gansakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikheil Saakashvili, despite the fact the latter two were also put there by the US to begin with. As in the first case, this will mean the removal of a democratically elected and relatively popular government. If the US keeps on doing this in Georgia – an ally, not an opponent, of the US – no country is safe.
It is against this backdrop that Saakashvili and what is left of the United National Movement are meeting on 15th November. The former ruling party is trying to make an against-all-odds-come-back, and it is expected that much money will be spent bussing protestors in from the regions in another Potemkin-style mass protest, specially staged for the Western media, feeding into the CNN effect.
Georgia has seen all this before – and can also see in these events a ready explanation for why the same Western governments which know all about the track record of Saakashvili and his gang are doing everything they can to prevent them being brought to justice.
What has happened
Georgia’s Defence Ministry has long been known for its untransparent conduct. It has been widely reported that successive defence ministers have made a fortune from contract kick-backs, and this forms part of the charges now laid and Davit Kezerashvili, the junkie appointed to the post by Saakashvili who was subsequently arrested on the basis on a red Interpol warrant. However, still not extradicted to Georgia from France, for some unknown reason to face the charges.
On October 28 several members of the current Defence Ministry and armed forces were arrested for allegedly misspending public funds by conducting a sham tender involving IT. For most Georgians this is not a very surprising charge, as the dodgy deals involving weapons the Georgian Army never saw are well documented. Sooner or later someone in the ministry was going to be arrested by a government which respected law and order, and the only issue is why we have had to wait until 2014 to see such arrests. Nothing has been proven at this stage, of course.
However the government has put itself in a collision course with a particularly slimy opponent. The Defence Minister on whose watch these offences are alleged top have taken place is Irakli Alasania, best known as Georgia Ambassador to the United Nations during Saakashvili’s tenure and America’s choice.
Unlike most members of the present Georgian government Alasania was a prominent supporter of the previous one until he saw it had no future. Indeed, he feels this service should have given him greater rewards than it did. He frequently prefaces public comments with the words “I am only the Defence Minister” before going on to pass judgment on matters outside his responsibility, whether or not his comments are in line with government policy.
Alasania spoke out in support of his staff, saying that the arrests were “politically motivated” and on “attack on Georgia’s “Euro-Atlantic choice”. Consequently he was sacked himself, and a number of other ministers have left the government with him, some of whom have now gone into the opposition, which is led, purely through force of numbers, by Saakashvili and his United National Movement.
Alasania’s response to his sacking was to immediately align himself with the criminal regimes of the past. “A new stage in the life of Georgia has begun, the stage at which we must defend those values for which Georgia has fought for the last 20 years,” he was quoted as saying. The government he has served until now was elected precisely because the previous two had not acted in accordance with those European values Georgians themselves profess. It is very strange to see one of its members claiming that previous governments have been fighting for those values.
As might be expected Alasania attacked the Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Gharibashvili. “Today I saw not a prime minister, but a prosecutor accusing entirely innocent people. For me it was unexpected that, following our discussions, the prime minister would make such a statement; it was as [if this] was an entirely political statement.” Until his sacking Alasania was a member of a government internationally recognised to have cleaned up the notoriously corrupt Georgian courts. But rather than appealing to those courts, which no longer automatically jail anyone prosecuted by the government, he stated “everything that is happening is in the interests of our enemy, of Russia. This is not just a blow to the Ministry of Defence; this is a blow to our integration into NATO.”
The exact details of the charges against the accused have not been revealed as the case is classified as secret. This is often the case with defence-related issues in Western countries, and such an action is in line with the Georgian Constitution. However there have already been warnings about the Alasania Defence Ministry which might now be taken seriously.
Dr. Vakhtang Maisaia, a military analyst and former U.S. defence fellow, has written several articles in The Georgian Times which stated, seemingly outrageously, that Alasania was plotting a military coup against Gharibashvili with the tacit support of the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, whose role no longer makes him head of the government. He has drawn comparisons with the situation in Chile during the last years of Salvador Allende’s rule, saying that the same “2+1 scenario” – military and presidency versus prime minister – had emerged in Georgia.
Dr. Maisaia was imprisoned by the previous regime on trumped-up charges, as was the owner of The Georgian Times, Malkhaz Gulashvili. Neither has a reason to try and destabilise the new government, which secured their release from prison. Furthermore, Maisaia knows more about what is going on in the Georgian military than it probably does itself, as he wrote many of the operational manuals it works under.
It is not known whether the charges levelled against the arrested persons are anything to do with a possible military coup. But we do know that Alasania is a favourite son of the U.S. from his time there, and was initially touted as the enforced replacement for Saakashvili before his past dragged him too far down. We also know that his first action following his sacking was to use identical language to Saakashvili, saying that if you went against him you were trying to stop Georgia joining the Euro-Atlantic world, despite his own refusal to embrace the values of that world in his domestic conduct.
Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that Alasania, whose ambition is undisguised, might have been plotting a coup and using his position in Defence to do it. As Defence Minister he more than anyone had frequent contact with the U.S., whose many intergovernmental agreements with Georgia are mainly defence-oriented. Like anyone else in the Georgian government, he couldn’t do anything without U.S. approval if he wanted to. If there is no smoke without fire, we are likely to see more fire than smoke before long.
The acceptable face of Mischism
The present Georgian government is a coalition of several parties which stood as a united front. Alasania is a member of the Free Democrats, a party closely linked with U.S. funding and support. It is the Free Democrat ministers, including his sister-in-law the Foreign Minister, who have resigned from the Georgian Dream coalition, despite the fact the party has no support other than as part of the Georgian Dream.
Alasania has stated that he will stand for President in 2016 in order to get back into politics. He will not be standing for the Georgian Dream, and all elections in Georgia are won by candidates riding on the coat-tails of someone else. The current President and Prime Minister are nonentities with no previous public support, who won by large margins because they were the candidates of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the untainted businessman parachuted in to overthrow Saakashvili.
So whose candidate will Alasania be? Mikheil Saakashvili is still out of jail and still enjoys some support. He will welcome back previous defectors with open arms, as they justify his own conduct. Saakashvili can’t stand for president again because he has served two terms, but a previously “cleansed” candidate represents his own best hope of regaining the power to rob Georgia all over again.
In Baku, Azerbaijan, on or about October 20, Saakashvili held a meeting with some key members of his former government and the “enforcers” who continue to rule certain regions of Georgia. Soon afterward, one of those attending stated that Saakashvili will be back in office within six months.
At the same time, a new string of credit associations has sprung up in Georgia. These haver traditionally been the mechanism used to distribute funding to the U.S.’s chosen sons on an as needed basis. The U.S. is reiterating its “strong concerns about political retribution” in Georgia, with U.S. Department of State spokesperson, Jen Psaki, saying on November 6 that events on the ground in Georgia “pose challenges to that [Euro-Atlantic integration] process.”
The U.S. is still refusing to answer the question of why it keeps complaining about charges being levelled against former Georgian government ministers, concerning crimes undoubtedly committed by somebody, when Clinton was impeached and Nixon forced to resign for far less. It is also failing to explain why it is sponsoring propaganda that the new government is a stooge of the Russians when it inserted that government in the first placed when Saakashvili and his party got too much blood on their hands, which looked remarkably similar to the blood on its own hands.
The problem the present Georgian government was expressed in an article in The Economist entitled “Georgia’s politicians have had to define more clearly what they stand for, not just what they stand against.” It claims that “The Georgian Dream was always likely to break up at some stage, given that its main source of unity was opposition to the previous, United National Movement government.’’
However this same article describes Alasania as “the most popular politician in Georgia” without citing the source of this claim. There don’t seem to be any polls which state this. All this is in line with the story frequently propagated in the mainstream media – that the Georgian Dream does nothing but prosecute its opponents for nothing, and has now even turned on innocent people from within its own ranks.
This is the same U.S.-compliant media which said nothing about the frequent legal and illegal persecution of opponents, and the general public, by the Saakashvili and previous Shevardnadze regimes. The same media which is unable to distinguish between the quality of evidence presented in today’s prosecutions to that presented then, despite all its previous condemnation of the Soviet Union using such methods.
The scene is set for the U.S. to remove the Georgian government, using Alasania as its tool. Saakashvili is still out of jail, and being publicly supported in Europe, because if you push him too hard he will tell everything he knows. It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth, but it is now clear to Georgians that this is also the first casualty of having the U.S. as your protector.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.