Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mart Laar on Georgia and Russia

The Estonian member of parliament, writing in the Financial Times, sees echoes of the 1930s in Russia's ongoing annexation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia:
According to Mr Putin's "instruction", Russia will open "representations" in the two territories to protect the interests of Russian citizens there and to foster co-operation. Russia will claim that it has many citizens to protect in the two Georgian territories, after it illegally distributed its passports to anyone remaining after the civil wars and ethnic cleansing of the 1990s.

"Those who cannot learn from history," said George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, "are doomed to repeat it." In 1937, Hitler agitated for the rights of the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia; in 1938, he annexed Sudetenland into the Reich, purging it of non-Germans. In Abkhazia, most Georgians, Armenians, Estonians, Greeks and Russians - perhaps 500,000 in all - are already gone. Russia recognises Georgia's international boundaries, but its actions belie its words.

Russia's "representations" will be less than official consulates, although consular services will be offered from offices in neighbouring bits of Russia. "Representation" is a euphemism to soothe western fears that Moscow may recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in tit-for-tat retaliation for western recognition of Kosovo. However, in Moscow's insidious gambit, the "representations" will be among the final steps toward annexation of the two Georgian territories.
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