Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s ‘Surreal’ Geography Threatens the World, Georgian Writer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – In the past, “every country had its own map, each of which was more or less different,” a Georgian writer says, but with Marco Polo and Google, most came to accept a similar map of the world, one in which borders are clear and fixed.  But Russians remain an exception.

            According to Solomon Ternaleli, “Russians continue to be attracted to the surreal hen it comes to geography and maps.  They want to have only those maps which satisfy their egos regardless of reality (

            The international community “recognizes Georgia in established borders, but the Russian recognize Abkhazzia and South Osetia as independent countries. The world considers the Gagau and Transdniestrian regions part of Moldova, but Moscow says these two placesareeither already independent or must become such.”

            And now Crimea: According to the international community, Ternaleli says, it is part of Ukraine. But Russia first occupied it and declared it independent only a day later to absorb it into the Russian Federation, “smoothly and proudly,” using “the time-tested method” of handing out Russian Federation passports.

            In this way, Vladimir Putin, “the master of political surrealism,” inserts explosives under particular countries and the international community, a modern form of “Trojan horses” that can be used with “devastating effects,” because they work so well that “there is no need for any modification,” at least so far.

            Moscow provokes local conflicts, pushes its opponents to open fire first, and then presents itself to the world as a savior,” the Georgian writer continues. 

            Unfortunately there are no easy or rapid ways to deal with this latest “eruption of post-imperial nostalgia,” especially since the West has to face up to what it did in the former Yugoslavia and Ukraine to deal with its failure to counter Viktor Yanukovich’s actions and then removing him “with good cause but questionable procedures” overnight.

                Many Western leaders seem to believe or at least hope that sanctions will lead Russia to back down on Crimea, Terneli says, but Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 proved that “it is extremely inefficient and dangerous to use half-sanctions against the Russians.  They will only become more determined” to press ahead.

            A sanctions regime can work, “even against tanks and jets,” he insists, but only if it is “timely, strong, efficient, coherent and coordinated! Otherwise, it’s better not to use the word ‘sanctions,’” especially if officials are saying as many of them now are, “’let’s impose sanctions but make them nice!’”

            Such officials and everyone else should remember Pastor Niemoller’s observation and update it in response to Putin’s actions: First they took Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and I did not speak out — Because I was not Georgian. Then they took Crimea, and I did not speak out — Because I was not Ukrainian. Then they took Transdnestria, and I did not speak out — Because I was not Moldovan ... Then they came to us – and there was no one left to speak for us…”

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