As a first step to overcomung my funk, it’s worth looking at the good news coming out of the country of Georgia. The Economist reports: Almost all post-Soviet states are failing, but some fail more than others. That rule helps in understanding the success this week of Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgia’s youthful president, in reasserting control ...
As a first step to overcomung my funk, it's worth looking at the good news coming out of the country of Georgia. The Economist reports:
As a first step to overcomung my funk, it’s worth looking at the good news coming out of the country of Georgia. The Economist reports:
Almost all post-Soviet states are failing, but some fail more than others. That rule helps in understanding the success this week of Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgia’s youthful president, in reasserting control over the breakaway region of Ajaria. In the days of his predecessor, Edward Shevardnadze, this comic-opera statelet in Georgia’s south-west corner functioned a bit less badly than the rest of the country: it was a fief of its diminutive leader, Aslan Abashidze, who enjoyed cosy relations with local Russian generals and a share of the spoils from cross-border trade in oil and other commodities. Compared with the chaos in the rest of Georgia, Ajaria was a haven of normality; streets were swept and opposition barely existed. But things are different under Mr Saakashvili, who forced Mr Abashidze to flee the country on Wednesday May 5th—calling him a “mini-Saddam Hussein”—and then flew to Batumi, Ajaria’s capital, to savour victory. The new Georgian leader has brought fresh dynamism, plus a thumping popular mandate, to the task of making his country more of a proper state. Mr Shevardnadze was swept from power six months ago in a peaceful uprising that became known as Georgia’s “rose revolution”. The 37-year-old Mr Saakashvili won the election that followed by a landslide and took office in January. Since then, he has managed to collect more taxes, raise the pay of customs officers, pay pensions and arrest some very rich people. The way these folk have been hauled in and induced to pay large sums of money to the Georgian treasury might not always satisfy Mr Saakashvili’s erstwhile law professors at New York’s Columbia University. But it has started to look as though Georgia is the real state—and Ajaria the failed one. That is how Mr Saakashvili was able to raise the pressure on Mr Abashidze to step down and seek haven in Russia. “The time for babbling is over,” the president said, as he ordered his army—whose abilities American advisers have struggled to improve—to stage exercises on the statelet’s boundary. “We will never again allow the appropriation of any part of Georgia by bandits, narcotics dealers and local feudal lords.” For all his subsequent defiance, Mr Abashidze’s power melted away. His coastguard—one seaworthy ship—sailed to Poti. The commander of an army brigade based in Batumi declared his loyalty to Mr Abashidze, only to find most subordinates going the other way. Thousands demonstrated in support of Mr Saakashvili in Batumi (he claims to have 90% support in the region). Finally, late on Wednesday, a former Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, who had helped to ease out Mr Shevardnadze last November, performed the same trick with Mr Abashidze. A jubilant Mr Saakashvili told the people of Batumi “you are heroes”. He added that “Georgia will be united”. It may also become a bit less poor as a result of Mr Abashidze’s departure. Having introduced presidential rule in Ajaria, Mr Saakashvili can now get his hands on its port, which handles 200,000 barrels of oil per day, and a busy customs post on the border with Turkey. These could provide much-needed foreign exchange for the central government’s depleted coffers.
Glenn Reynolds links to The Argus, who has a passel of useful links and information, including the U.S. role in assisting Saakashvili.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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