One reader recently wrote to me, “I would really love more articles on Nazi collaborators and Saakashvili.” Well there is plenty of material. Even though Saakashvili is now leaving Ukraine, his appointment there is the first place, and the manner of his leaving, tell us a great deal about what he has been doing in that country, and for whom.
Saakashvili efforts to “reform” Ukraine in the wake of the Poroshenko’s election were expected to ruffle some feathers, as every reform process does. But as the Washington Post describes, his efforts in Odessa have met particularly stiff resistance. He is accusing local elites, and especially Odessa Mayor Gennady Trukhanov, of thwarting him, which we are supposed to accept unchallenged because Trukhanov is a member of the party once led by Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president twice forced to flee following massive US-sponsored protests.
Odessa is indeed known for its organised crime as well as its exquisite theatres and museums. But so was Saakashvili’s Georgia. If you actually wanted to root out corruption Saakashvili is the last person you would appoint to the role. If you want to use corruption as an excuse to do what you like however – even when you created that corruption to begin with – appointing him is a much more sensible idea.
The fascists in Ukraine are doing their usual thing – erecting a stalking horse to take power for themselves. Saakashvili has little choice but to be that just to stay alive. The only question is whether he is working for the Ukrainian neofascists directly, having changed sides, or as part of a US-neofascist alliance, as he has been until now. The evidence suggests that he might actually be doing both – each side its hedging its bets by having him there, waiting for him to make an even bigger fool of himself than he already has.
The oldest excuse
Not only did Saakashvili turn Georgia into the regional CIA dirty tricks capital, he turned a vast web of petty corruption in which everyone was beholden to Shevardnadze into a large-scale corruption operation, which brought greater benefits to fewer people, controlled by him and his uncle. The US was perfectly happy with this until Saakashvili’s knowledge of their joint crimes threatened its interests. Thus he was not allowed to breach the Georgian Constitution by running for a third term, or steal the parliamentary elections of 2012 to stay in power by proxy.
But just at this point the US was busy overthrowing the democratically-elected president of Ukraine. It openly recruited neofascist supporters of notorious wartime leader Stepan Bandera to achieve this, and then brought them into government, despite the long memories many Ukrainians have of atrocities committed by Bandera’s henchmen. All this made Ukraine a more reliable CIA dirty tricks base than a Georgia struggling to rid itself of Misha’s legacy. Not surprisingly therefore Saakashvili and some prominent supporters, many former members of his government, were imported to Ukraine to run the same operation, despite not being Ukrainian citizens or even speaking the language in many cases.
Saakashvili was hoping to use his appointment as Governor of Odessa, the major port slated to replace Batumi as the arms and drug-smuggling conduit, to launch a comeback in Georgia. Street protests in his favour led nowhere, as even the few people who took part weren’t really interested, and a coup attempt was foiled. His only hope was to stay in Ukraine, but now he has even fallen out of favour there. This means the handlers who put him there don’t need him anymore, as he can no longer embarrass them with what he knows. They also know about his links with oil smuggling from Turkey, stolen oil at that.
So what does Saakashvili do to try and give himself one last shot of credibility? Present himself as he did in Georgia – a noble fighter against corruption who is a victim of entrenched criminality. Georgians know better, and have been telling Ukrainians so ever since he pitched up there. But he is still having the cheek to say that bad people have resisted his cleanup operations, when the only reason he was brought to Ukraine was to put his existing criminal network at the service of a friendlier government, which was incapable of acting this way openly through its usual enforcers, the neofascists.
Few will take any notice of Misha the Tie-Chewing Maniac. Ukraine and Georgia are competing to see who can jail him first. But putting him on trial would mean bringing gory details out in the open, and giving Saakashvili a last day of glory. At present he is even being allowed to write opinion pieces for the International New York Times calling everyone but himself corrupt. Therefore these claims come with official sanction.
All fascist states have been founded in the same way – by claiming that the political process is corrupt, society is corrupt, and only an incorruptible leader can solve things by overturning all the mechanisms which safeguard the public. All fascist states have also ended the same way – overthrown because they are morally bankrupt and more corrupt than anything which preceded them. But by then they have served their purpose. Regimes go but their sponsors remain. You can kick a Stroessner out of Paraguay but you can’t kick the US out of the pipelines and the power stations and the banks and the aid agencies.
Saakashvili is being set up as a new generation fascist dictator. He has no country yet, but he doesn’t need one. As his history has shown since he was first transferred back to Georgia to work for the Military Council, he can be sent wherever democracy or another installed leader are proving inconvenient. Such behaviour has never been official US policy, but that simply demonstrates that it is those who support anti-democratic forces, rather than accountable ones, who are behind these stunts.
The final frontier
The obvious purpose Saakashvili serves right now is to try and maintain the existing bad relations between the US and Russia, at least until Trump takes over and Obama vacates the Whitehouse. The order bad relations issue has long been a source of tension between the US Administration and various government and military agencies which are supposed to be supporting it, but actually answer to a different set of paymasters with another agenda.
Hillary Clinton’s warmongering and long involvement in all kinds of illegal wars harmed her presidential campaign. She was regularly referred to as Killary on social media, and may not have been able to maintain that stance indefinitely as president. Donald Trump openly stated that he wants to bury the proverbial hatchet with Vladimir Putin for the sake of world peace. Neither candidate suited the military-industrial complex, which gets richer and more powerful compared to other groups the more wars are fought, but needs politicians to justify its actions.
If rulers are corrupt, you don’t need elections to remove them if you wish to do that. You don’t even need courts. It is no coincidence that every time the US wants to intervene against a foreign ruler, such as Saddam or Assad, corruption is one of the charges laid against them. If the others don’t stick, corruption still gives justification for the US removing them and doing whatever it wants. So a self-proclaimed anti-corruption fighter, no matter how ludicrous this claim may be, is the sort of individual to sort them out if they can make the claim so often people stop questioning it.
The disgraced Mikheil Saakashvili would make a fine head of NATO. With that organisation searching for a role for itself, but actually supporting the groups it claims to be fighting such as useful terrorists, focusing on combating “corrupt states” would get it out of a hole. To do that, and still give itself an excuse for war with Russia, it would have to have a leader whose only merit lies in being an anti-corruption crusader with a track record of opposing Russia on behalf of the USA.
If the US continues to insist that Saakashvili’s claims must be accepted at face value, he more than any other living figure would fit this bill. His disgrace in Georgia and Ukraine makes him an even better candidate: to show himself a real leader, he will have to adopt “tough measures”, the sort of measures beloved by fascists everywhere, under the guise of saving rather than harming the human race.
Two wrongs might make a rightist
The neofascists in Ukraine will make a military judgment about their prospects for achieving their goals. If they can do so within the Ukrainian government and its US sponsors, they will remain part of it and use “victims” of Poroshenko and the Russians to reconstitute that government along more amenable lines. Alternatively they will try and bring down the government by tapping into the disappointment all governments eventually engender at some point, even ones people actually voted for who aren’t waging war on their own citizens.
This makes Saakashvili still useful to his US handlers in his self-proclaimed role but much more useful to the neofascists. Misha himself may well ultimately cavil at being used just to threaten Poroshenko. If he wants more, he is going to jump ship, and an increasingly neofascist direction is the only one he can jump in.
NATO generally draws its political leaders from ex-prime ministers and presidents. Putting him there may be a way the US can keep him onside. Saakashvili is vulnerable to such approaches because he lost his Georgian citizenship when he took Ukrainian citizenship to work for its government, and is now being kicked out of Ukraine because he was given that citizenship illegally – by the same people who are now saying this. With other countries not likely to want him unless imposed on them, the only place to keep him useful might well be in an international organisation.
There is as yet no official suggestion that Saakashvili is being lined up for a senior role within NATO. But who ever suggested, or would have thought, that he would be made an instant Ukrainian and become Governor of Odessa? As the same US handlers would be behind any such move, can we rule out this possibility?
What we can’t rule out is the obvious endgame. Wherever this new rehabilitation of Saakashvili leads, he won’t stay there forever. Whether it is the neofascists or the US who ultimately benefit, they are most likely to collude to ensure the same outcome.
Naked with his boots on
Since Saakashvili was spirited out of Georgia it has been suggested that he will meet with some nasty accident because of what he knows about what the US did there under his presidency. He would be much easier to bump off if merely a disgraced fugitive, as many more hands could be blamed. But the attempt to rehabilitate him as a favoured anti-corruption warrior might actually end up condemning rather than saving him.
If Misha is the Knight in Shining Armour amongst all those he opposed in the past, as they are more corrupt—as the story goes. As a senior NATO figure he could return to Tbilisi with diplomatic immunity and thus avoid his impeding arrest. He would however be surrounded by hostile Georgians, and people who blame him for the 2008 Georgia-Russian war and massive IDP flows.
What an interesting headline it would be – “NATO Chief Murdered in Tbilisi”? Who but the Russians, his most implacable historic opponents, would be responsible? What better rallying cry to start the war the new US president says he wants to prevent? What better way for neofascist groups to further their goals through others, using the methods they understand?
Before he fell out with Poroshenko Saakashvili himself pleaded with the US to send Ukraine all the weapons it needed to “kickstart World War III” as he himself put it.
Whilst President of Georgia Misha and certain trusted friends earned small fortunes from corrupt arms deals which saw most of the weapons sold on to terrorists, having been supplied from the US and NATO friendly countries for that purpose. Odessa is ideally suited to be the conduit for such weapons.
So he has already served a particular purpose for many people, and it is inconceivable that he will not continue to do so. Saakashvili has led himself, and the rest of the world, to this point in the hope of some redeeming glory. It would be somehow fitting if, with no other options open, he were obliged by whoever he falls in with to make the ultimate sacrifice—falling on his Sword.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.