Some people just don’t know when they’re beaten. Mikheil Saakashvili has once again tried to grab international attention by crossing into Ukraine from Poland, despite not having a passport or any right to enter the country.
As usual, he has been allowed to get away with this because there is a receptive audience for what he is saying. However Mischa seems incapable of understanding that people only listen because he tells them want they want to hear about their own favourite whipping boys – nobody actually supports Saakashvili himself anymore, despite his ludicrous claims that thousands of supporters and waiting to start uprisings to restore to power in Georgia, Ukraine or anywhere else he chooses to go.
Yes, a crowd of people attacked border guards in Ukraine to get him through the barrier after his train had been stopped because he was on it. Who were these people? If they were supporters of his, why haven’t we seen them before, when he was in Odessa allegedly cleaning up corruption but actually securing its ports for his arms, drug and oil smuggling network?
The only one so far identified is Yulia Tymoshenko. She had an affair with the married Saakashvili, and in return he sent dozens of “election observers” to help her out during her runoff against Yanukovych, who were actually martial artists and state rent-a-thugs with no electoral experience. As these supporters didn’t seem to state any policy position, this would appear to be what has also happened in this case.
Tymoshenko is bound to help anyone who has got the wrong side of Poroshenko because she doesn’t like the current Ukrainian government, and nor do many other people. Any “victim” of that government will be supported no matter who they are, simply to try and bring that government down. Eastern Europe has a long history of supporting any dissident under the sun, even if they would never want them in power, as even Lech Walesa found.
As a high profile victim of the government which let him into Ukraine and gave him instant citizenship in the first place, Saakashvili is the ultimate friend of anyone who doesn’t like that government – which appears to be a majority of Ukrainians. This publicity stunt, which puts him up against Hurricane Irma, is largely an attempt to disguise the fact no one supports him for any positive reasons. But it is also an attempt to get himself back into Georgia any old how, which the current government is falling for, though there is still time for it to see the error of its ways.
All track and all record
People will obviously have different views of any political leader. If Person X doesn’t like him, that will make him look good to Person Y, who knows nothing of Saakashvili but knows he doesn’t like the politics of Person X. Few politicians however have the sort of profile Saakashvili has, and that is where anyone who takes an interest in him needs to start.
Having been a Georgian national, and the President of Georgia, Saakashvili moved to Ukraine, which he had never been a citizen of, and suddenly found himself with a whole new nationality. As President of Georgia, he was entitled to protection from the Georgian State for life, even though he is wanted on a multitude of criminal charges there. The question of his immunity from any charges had not been settled when he fled.
There are many examples of politicians changing their nationality when new states are invented, but few of disgraced politicians adopting the nationality of the country they have fled to. Generally they retain their original nationality on principle, regardless of the dangers.
There are even fewer examples of disgraced politicians immediately entering the politics of their new country and being given jobs in the government. Perhaps the nearest thing to Saakashvili was Joakim Feibelkorn, the German who was the brains behind the arms and drugs smuggling of the Stroessner regime in Paraguay. We all know how a Chancellor of Germany who had done such things would be regarded, but as yet Saakashvili is unable to appreciate the comparison.
Ukraine said it had brought Saakashvili and his gang into the government to help with “reform” – in other words, all previous governments were crooks and he was there to drain the swamp. This ignores the fact that the present government of Georgia was elected on one simple election platform: putting Saakashvili and friends in jail for their many crimes against the state and its people.
Even if you believe Saakashvili is innocent of all charges, it is highly unusual for someone thrown out of one country for criminality to be invited to clean up an ALLIED country, which wants its future to be bound up with Georgia’s – the countries have made joint applications to join NATO and the EU, for example. A hostile country would do this, but not a friend.
All the talk about “Saakashvili the reformer” is very reminiscent of Senator Paul Laxalt’s comments about Ferdinand Marcos just before he was overthrown as President of the Philippines. There was overwhelming evidence of Marcos’ criminality, but as long as Laxalt kept telling the world he was a reformer that was supposed to make everything alright. It is no coincidence that Saakashvili is also presented as a laissez-faire capitalist and “Western educated” by his supporters, again standard US code for “we don’t like the guy but he serves our purposes”.
Now Saakashvili has had his Ukrainian citizenship removed by the same government which gave it to him, on the grounds that he obtained it illegally. Did they not know who he was? If readers can find another example of a man who has been a politician in two separate countries, and then been rendered stateless by both countries due to his alleged crimes, still being treated as a POLITICIAN rather than a crook, I’d be pleased to see it.
The law and the ass
Earlier this year Georgia made a formal request that Saakashvili be extradited from Ukraine to face justice. Previously Ukraine has refused such requests, and it was thought that he fled Ukraine because he was scared that it would stop refusing now he was no longer a Ukrainian citizen. But now he has returned, despite the fact he is not allowed to enter the country and should thus be deported. Or is that actually the idea?
Saakashvili is a lawyer, after all. As he is no longer a Georgian citizen, but is a wanted man, he could not enter Georgia without being arrested and detained. Now he is not a Ukrainian citizen either, he can be deported as an immigration offender, not a criminal suspect, making the extradition request irrelevant. If Poland does not accept him back the only place he could be deported to is Georgia – and Georgian authorities could only commence proceedings against him when he was inside the country, rather than detaining him automatically at the border on the basis of the extradition request.
Mischa doubtless thinks he still has influential friends in Georgia. Unfortunately that is true – so many cronies profited from his regime, and are threatened by the present one, that he will always find shelter somewhere. But again the guy has an inflated opinion of himself, but is incapable of seeing it.
These people never wanted him, but the protection he could give them. Saakashvili was protected by Uncle Sam, in exchange for allowing the US to make Georgia the regional dirty tricks base. If they are not yet in jail – as most are not – it is because Uncle Sam is still protecting them, and they don’t need Mischa to get that protection.
The Georgian government is clearly still being pressured by the US. As pointed out in previous articles in this journal, it was only allowed to sign the EU Association Agreement provided a huge Antonov plane full of arms for terrorists could land at Tbilisi Airport immediately afterwards. The medical experts who disputed the FBI’s conclusion in the Zurab Zhvania murder case are all dying or being silenced one by one. The bioweapons lab near the airport is still described as a scientific institute, and unapproved US drugs are still being tested on the Georgian population despite government denials.
Still the Georgian warlords and racketeers roam around, better off than Mischa, with more to gain from turning him in than protecting him. The smaller fry no longer have to show their loyalty to hope of retiring in lucrative anonymity like so many Shevardnadze-era ministers did, and won’t when the right offer is made.
Playing by his own misrule
Only a few weeks ago Mischa was in Hungary with his family, claiming he would start a new life there. He was still objecting to being kicked out of Ukraine, and promising to return, but the fact his family have been allowed to join him in Hungary means he has been “resettled” by his handlers. He might have been expected to keep complaining about Ukraine and Georgia to make political points, but he wasn’t expected to do more than run his mouth, when it suited the US to allow him to do so.
Trying to get into Ukraine by any means possible – after the train was stopped, he tried the bus, and only then was he conveyed over the border by the violent mob – smacks of going off-message. Again, this is typical Saakashvili, and again this action is driven by his inflated sense of his importance.
The Georgian attempt to retake South Ossetia wasn’t supposed to take place as soon as the Olympics began, like the Soviet invasion of Hungary did in 1956. Both sides had been preparing for war, for their own reasons, for months beforehand and the action in South Ossetia was due to take place later in the year. Says who? A succession of drunken US soldiers, who all gave the same date in Tbilisi’s bars, and former Georgian Defence Ministry officials who have since been removed because of what they know.
If Saakashvili had stuck to the agreed date the US would have supported his action. Instead he jumped the gun and tried to claim the glory for himself. The first act of aggression was sending a truckload of Georgian flags across the border, ready to be run up all the flagpoles in the region, before any bombs were dropped. This truckload was intercepted by the head of the border police, who is the husband of Nino Burjanadze, who was one of Saakashvili’s henchpersons at the time but is now a somewhat repentant opposition leader. He has no reason to lie about this, as he had nothing to gain either then or now from inventing such a story.
Saakashvili used illegal cluster bombs during that conflict. As far as can be ascertained, these were not obtained from official US defence sources but via his spin doctor, Patrick Worms, whose profession has enabled to him to build an enviable network of high level contacts who need someone to explain away their actions, which don’t need promotion if they’re good. Using them was another example of Mischa going off-message because he is too important to listen to anyone, at least in his own head. Now Ukraine is being forced to understand what that really means to all those who have to put up with such a man.
Your fire, our smoke
This stunt will ultimately bring one question into focus. When Mischa lost his Ukrainian citizenship it was assumed he was no longer being protected and Poroshenko was. Both had been installed as US projects, and then been brought together to ensure the continuance of these projects, which are designed to support US terror operations. So if one man is lopped off you would assume that the larger entity, a whole government, was being supported over him.
But whatever Saakashvili has done or is doing, someone is still spiriting him from place to place and preventing him facing justice. Does Poroshenko have the same protection? It could well be that the US has lost faith in him, and is using Mischa’s impulsiveness to bring about his downfall, and possibly retain his own protection.
Mischa has been welcomed back to Ukraine by a number of local politicians, notably the Mayor of Lviv, Andriy Sadovyi. In Ukraine the big political question is whether you believe Poroshenko or those who oppose him are more corrupt. Political competition involves trying to convince the majority of people that your side is cleaner than the other.
We have seen this before. Former Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi precipitated his own downfall by failing to protect one of his own party members who had been caught accepting a bribe, insisting the man had to face punishment because “We Socialists are the most honest party in Italy”. When the disgraced man told what he knew, the whole system came crashing down. This left room for Silvio Berlusconi to come to power with his completely new party, while Craxi fled the country and is seen as the archetype of the corrupt politician. Berlusconi was a friend and defender of Craxi, but that was conveniently forgotten, or covered by his own convenient “bunga bunga” scandal.
Pitching such a prominent figure into the middle of the Ukrainian corruption debate will persuade many that they would be better off telling than accusing. After all, Ukraine is quite used to revolutions and power vacuums by now. The war in Donbass might just stop if a new political model for Ukraine is found in the wake of a collapsing Poroshenko regime.
But if Saakashvili has done this to be part of that model himself – as the US probably hopes – he will soon wish he had stayed in Hungary, where the worst he could face is being deprived of a job because he is a foreigner. Only you are listening to yourself now, Mischa. If you want to regain your old glory, you will soon find you can’t even go out in a blaze of it.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.