Putin Playing a Global Game … and Georgia

Anne Applebaum, a Washington Post columnist, has released an article entitled “Putin’s Power Plays” discussing the dramatic events happening in Syria and some aspects of their correlation with Ukraine.

The journalist cites it is always tempting, when writing about the Russian president, to lapse into geopolitical waffle. “Though the Cold War ended a quarter century ago, we are still accustomed to thinking of Vladimir Putin as a global actor, a representative of eternal Russian interests, the inheritor of czarism/Lenin/Stalin, a man who inhabits a Kissingerian world of state actors who compete against other state actors for control over territory, all of them playing a gigantic game of Risk,” she states.

Applebaum assesses Russia’s broad appearance on the international stage through the Syrian events an “amazingly well-timed decision” prior to the 2015 UN General Assembly session. According to the Washington Post, sending hundreds of Russian soldiers, 28 fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and artillery has been variously described as a bid to re-enter the modern Great Game of the Middle East “to extend Russian influence to the Mediterranean and to shore up the Iranian government as well as to displace the United States as a regional leader.”

The publication reviews some of the aspects of Putin’s political landscape in Russia saying “during the first 10 years he was president, Putin’s claim to legitimacy went, in effect, like this: I may not be a democrat, but I give you stability, a rise in economic growth, and pensions paid on time.” On the contrary, Applebaum believes, in an era of falling oil prices and economic sanctions and rampant corruption, Putin should change the scenario and tell Russians who get demonstrably poorer overtime, that “I may not be a democrat and the economy may be sinking, but Russia is regaining its place in the world — and, besides, the alternative to authoritarianism is not democracy but chaos.”

It seems that Putin’s appearance at the UN for the first time in a decade including his long interview with Charlie Rose (American TV channel CBS and PBS), might contribute to some possible switching of the U.S. and European focus to the Syrian events rather than on Ukraine, where Russia is waging a hybrid warfare against the sovereign state.

At the same time, like other international opinion makers, Applebaum believes Putin, having watched what happened in East Germany in 1989 from his KGB office in Dresden, including the fate of the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadaffi in 2011, clearly worries about it quite often. “To stave off this fate, his state-controlled television rumbles on constantly about the fecklessness of Europe and the corruption of America,” says Applebaum.

Analysis by Georgia Today’s Zviad Adzinbaia:

In these diplomatic shootouts in New York throughout the 70th anniversary of the UN, Georgia - one-fifth of whose entire territory is occupied by Putin’s Russia - was only subtly mentioned by Prime Minister Garibashvili in his official speech at the UN. On the contrary, Ukraine’s president Poroshenko widely utilized the international stage to address the world and alarm them about Ukraine’s humanitarian disaster, which would have some multiplying effect on the rest of the old continent. From this standpoint, it is lucid enough to observe that the official tone regarding Russia is no longer a principal but appeasing.

In fact, the Georgian president, holding a number of high-level meetings in Washington DC and New York this week, shares the notion that Georgia has almost disappeared from US political radars. What is happening? What kind of pragmatic politics is Georgia in vital need of right now?

It is widely believed that Georgia has a significant window of opportunity for ‘fishing in troubled waters’ as the country historically failed to do back in 1801 when she joined the Russian Empire. Along with Ukraine and the highly complicated international politics, the Georgian government should be as proactive as never before in raising the issue of Russia’s continued violation of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Will it have a palpable aftermath? This is a strategic moment for Georgia as Russia is unable to engage its troops against Georgia along with Syria and Ukraine and, for Georgia, it is of crucial importance to buy time and considerably advance its stance in terms of de-occupation and NATO integration.

Zviad Adzinbaia

01 October 2015 19:59