It’s not often that I write in support of a particular article or post. In fact, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say it’s pretty rare. Okay, okay, you’re right; I’ve never done it before, at least not in this forum. And if you’d suggested I’d ever write in support of something I read on Open Democracy/Russia, I’d have told you…well, never mind. You probably couldn’t do it, anyway, unless you had a hinge in your spine. And maybe a snorkel.
No, I’ve been pretty consistent in utilizing mockery or disdain as a formula and, as long as I confine myself to analysis of pieces that are manifestly stupid or mendacious, it’s served me very well. However, I find myself endorsing some of the conclusions arrived upon in “Get Real About ‘Enlarging Europe'”, published in Open Democracy. That’s not to say I agree with everything in it, but we’ll get to that.
The authors are impressively credentialed; all former ambassadors to Georgia, as well as to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia. All are academics, and two continue in academic posts. However, that doesn’t count for much, as sometimes the smartest and best-educated individuals say and do the stupidest things.
As suggested in the introduction, the authors favour “arrangements short of full membership” for Eastern European countries, and for Turkey. Most significant to the interests of this blog are Georgia and Ukraine. From the viewpoint of the authors, such arrangements would offer economic and security benefits, and doubtless they would. Something short of full membership might be seen by some, however – such as Georgia’s current president and his ideological backers – as analogous to the difference between civil unions and marriage, and it’s true that the two situations have in common certain limitations in the degree of influence they allow you to exercise under the law.
Right away, unfortunately, we run across something that inspired a spasm of teeth-grinding for me: that bit about President Medvedev “urging a pan-European security treaty that could legitimize the coercion of neighbours.” I suppose it could, but the manner of its wording suggests that was his purpose and intention; sort of like saying, “President Obama announced an improved highway-safety policy that could result in thousands of Americans dying in road accidents”. The anti-Russian bias of the authors is right up front, which is part of the reason for my amazement to find myself in agreement with some of the piece’s sensible conclusions. I suppose Russia could offer no suggestions at all, and pronounce itself satisfied to let things go on as they are. In which case, detractors like these authors would be quick to suggest Russia was a lousy world citizen who contributes nothing to global modernization.
Anyway, I’ll try to get over it; let’s move on.
Okay, eventually we’ll get to the things I agree with, I promise. But first, we run straight into another spike belt of bullshit that forces us to stop. The tortuous wording of “Georgia remains eager to join but lost most of its support after president Mikheil Saakashvili unwisely gave Russia a pretext for its August 2008 invasion” is an exercise in trying to clean the egg off of Georgia’s face that is a little like saying, “because the rake was in an unfamiliar horizontal position, it made me step on it, unwisely giving the handle the reason it was looking for to smash me right in my stupid face”. For what I hope will be the last time – but probably will not – Russia showed no signs of preparing to invade Georgia prior to Saakashvili’s full-scale attack, and sought earnestly through international intermediaries to defuse the situation before it got out of hand. Moreover, for somebody who is supposedly smart as a whip and speaks five languages fluently, Saakashvili made no plans at all for a retaliation. What kind of tool lives under a daily threat of invasion, and makes no self-defense plan? If you’re going to suggest he did make and practice a defense plan, then there’s a guy who needs to stay away from organizing anything involving the military that’s more complicated than a Freedom of the City Parade. Because he’s a military genius like Tiger Woods is a marriage counselor.
I swear, I can’t remember what it was now that made me think I supported this article. Here we go again with Transparency International and their Corruption Perceptions Index road show. I’ll bet if you looked around a little; say, like at the Streetwise Professor, you could find an article that chuckles indulgently at the practice of blunting ugly statistics by saying the country under discussion is “not the worst”. Oh, you crazy russophiles. Well, what would you call this? “Georgia ranks high in ease of doing business (12) and better than others in corruption perceptions (66)…” Yes, Georgia did better than Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso (the poorest country in the world, if memory serves) and Iran, to name a few – there’s a ringing endorsement. Not the worst, you might say. Just as an aside, can you remember how much money has been spent on Iraq, in an ongoing effort to turn it into a prosperous western-leaning democracy? Don’t bother to look it up: $738 Billion, or it was when I checked this interactive site. Where’d it come in on the corruption index? 176. Out of 180. Not the worst, you might say.
Oh, and about Georgia being ranked 12th for ease of doing business? That poll result comes from a survey conducted in Georgia by a Georgian polling company that is (allegedly) controlled by Saakashvili, who once famously predicted the Georgian economy would grow by better than 39% per year over the next 5 years. Companies were (allegedly) polled selectively according to loyalty to the government.
You know something? I’m liking this piece less and less as we go along. Let’s move swiftly to the conclusion, shall we, before I decide I hate it just like the rest of the russophobic rectal efflux that appears on Open Democracy Russia. I still haven’t forgotten that piece where the author offered an in-depth psychoanalysis of Vladimir Putin’s deepest id, based on an article on Mr. Putin that he had read in a newspaper, which was not even written by Putin. They’ll be seeing Rorsach blots in his breakfast cereal next.
The authors suggest the “Association Agreements” they describe in the introduction could include better access to EU markets, improved support for investment and visa-free travel, contingent on serious reforms and border controls meeting Schengen standards. All good stuff, with which I agree. The subject of Ukraine is not discussed in detail, save for a dry “NATO is a divisive issue in Ukraine and it no longer seeks admission.” This is a face-saving way of saying, “In spite of a great deal of perfectly good meddling and stirring up of insurrection, a plurality of Ukrainians don’t want it, and only the liberal agitators keep on talking about it”. Oh, and there’s the gratuitous suggestion that Ukraine will plummet on the Wordwide Freedom index next year, as Yanukovych “rolls back liberties”. I wasn’t aware that was his plan, but I suppose Open Democracy and its stable of authors just somehow “know things”, the way Donald Rumsfeld “knew” where the Weapons of Mass Destruction were hidden in Iraq. Remember? “…In and around Baghdad and Tikrit, and North, South, East and West somewhat”, thereby ruling out only deep space and international waters. Anyway, I must say “rolling back liberties” sounds like a vote-getter: Yanukovych must have decided he doesn’t like running Ukraine, after all.
The lines that rang truest to me in the entire piece were from Konstantin Kosachyov: “…Or is it that Russia in principle isn’t suitable as a NATO member, and even after it resolves all these current problems will you say “no” anyway because that can never be under any circumstances?”
Now that the initial excitement of agreeing with what turns out to be pretty damned little about this piece has passed, it sounds more and more to me like the authors are urging that some kind of agreement be concluded with what they refer to as the “post-Soviet 12″…before Medvedev’s treaty proposal is formally presented, with the possible result of these states falling under increased Russian influence. Half a loaf is better than none, so to speak. In fact, the interest in NATO membership for Georgia especially is principally to stick a thumb in Russia’s eye, and NATO is no more interested in taking responsibility for a few million impoverished Georgians than is Russia. After all, authors like these have spent considerable effort convincing us that Russia wants to invade it. If so, why didn’t they just take it in 2008? Because of resistance by the Georgian army? Ha, ha…stop it.
Okay, here’s the part that I really liked. “The Strategic Concept which NATO will unveil should not just reiterate the bromide of an ‘open door.'”
Yes, cut that out, will you, Mrs. Clinton? And watch out for that rake.