Georgia and many countries close to the United States are caught between two fires, serving as a proverbial no man’s land between the competing interests of the United States and the Russian Federation. Such regions, and buffer zones, make me think of the famous World War II movie Casablanca, where an exiled American and former freedom fighter, Rick, runs the most popular nightclub in town.
His bar is the meeting place for spies and all kinds of shady characters. The same can be said of Georgia and many other backwaters. It is such places where competing interests meet and act as if they are the best of friends, but in reality are ready at any time to stab each other in the back. The list includes countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Jordan and Lebanon, and the list goes on and on.
State of Flux
It is hoped that in the end Donald Trump will prove to be the equivalent of the loyal but still corrupt Frenchman by killing the Nazi Major Strasser—what is left of the former favourite child parties, such as the National Party in Georgia (UNM) and the Turkish Justice and Development Party, or Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP).
There are many Nazi Majors in these countries, including those involved with a certain Admiral David Shimp. Shimp is allegedly Professor of Government and Public Policy at Caucasus University. The man slated to be the next dean of Caucasus University, Dmitri Shashkin, is a former head of the local Republican Institute, prisons minister during the “broomstick torture” era which finally led to Saaakashvili’s downfall and one of John McCain’s minions.
Admiral Shimp is also president of Anderson Consulting, a security firm which many in the intelligence community claim is a CIA front company. He and his company, and various people in the former US State Department, provided the Command & Control for the failed attempt to reseat Saakashvili as the figurehead of Georgia via a coup. He also has a direct connection with various Georgian ports and arms shipments, and thus to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
It is doubtful if Saakashvili will ever be successful in regaining power, but the potential for destablisation of the country remains high. Too many former and present members of the UNM are still hanging around in the government and key ministries, the courts and even regional and local government. The current government of Georgia should have made provisions to purge those placed by the former government instead of adopting a policy of cohabitation.
The present government is still infected with a disease which will make the Georgian people suffer for many years to come. Many former ministers deserted Georgia like rats when the Georgian Dream first came to power: Zurab Adeishvili, Murtaz Zodelava, Bacho Akhalaia, Data Akhalaia, Megis Kardava and Dmitri Shashkin, to name but a few. But many more are still working within the system, trying to destroy the country from within, in the footsteps of the former Communists decisively rejected by the electorate when Georgia first regained its independence in 1991.
Some of the luckier felons had diplomatic and foreign passports, which helped them avoid the long arm of the law. Gigi Ugulava was released from jail on the request US Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as he is needed to help cover up their connections with illegal deals in Georgia, including the plot a few years ago to overthrow the Georgian government. These Senators were or are involved in international arms trafficking, and Jeffrey Silverman, Bureau Chief for Veterans Today, has even provided documentation on various such illegal deals to the Georgian prosecutor’s office.
Hope dies last
The election of the Georgian Dream only brought short lived hope to Georgia. What they promised, cleansing Georgia of its thieves in power, was impossible to achieve. Now the Georgian Dream has become like the United National Movement, although less deadly.
Most Georgians hoped for an end to the terror of the previous government, as they lived under constant fear of having their property stolen from them, or being arrested and sentenced on fake charges. These practices made money for the government, as the arrested and convicted were held as hostages and could only get out of trouble by paying up. This was called “plea bargaining,” at the time, but was in reality a kidnapping racket—pay up or you would go to jail.
The UNM was a mafia organisation, top down in design. People have greater political and economic freedom now, but there are still few opportunities to use it as the model of government is still too centralised and top down.
Only by participatory democracy can this be changed. But politicians in Georgia are far from the people and problems they claim to be representing. They are not there for public service but to make good for themselves, e.g., “to make hay whilst the sun shines.”
The Georgian Dream Party would have done considerably better, and fulfilled more of their promises, if they had not also being battling against the anti-state tactics of the UNM and their foreign partners, for whom regime change and revolution are a way of life. But they now have as secure a grip on power as they are going to get. There is only so long they can keep blaming the UNM for everything wrong with Georgia, as if the anti-state forces are still in charge, why should anyone listen to the Georgian Dream to begin with?
Members of both the former and current Georgian governments adapt readily to any changing political wind, especially if they have a financial interest. Georgia is a small country, and its best minds have left or died off. There is not much in terms of “human resources” to choose from when it comes to filling key positions. You can be overqualified and highly professional in Georgia and never get appointed to a high position, or even find a normal job, as nobody wants educated and skilled people. That is the cultural reality: all depends on who you are related to, and if your politics are right, i.e., tribes and bribes.
In the case of Shashkin, many in Georgia know his history, and the connections of those who support him from outside, his links with US defence contractors, book publishers and the US-funded Republican Institute. These are things which Georgian intelligence, anti-corruption watchdogs, the media and the NGO community should be investigating. He is not working for Georgia but takes his orders from outside, from the planners of US policy in countries occupied with soft power by the United States.
Georgia is now stuck with a failed educational model inherited from Shashkin, the great destroyer of future generations. Dmitri Shashkin was assigned to destroy education in Georgia, and is still working on it by making money selling low level British textbooks which could not even be sold in Commonwealth countries.
Shashkin’s former students from Caucasus University were not impressed with his claimed knowledge. They understood that he had no real qualifications, and have said publicly that taxi drivers are better educated. In order to take over a country you need to do three things: take control of the media, dumb down education to keep the new generations from developing critical thinking skills and then destroy the culture, including the main religion.
To overcome such deterioration, policy makers, parents and real educational specialists need to design a Georgian model of education based on Georgian cultural and religious values. Georgia was the most educated republic of the former Soviet Union, but is now becoming one of the least educated. Just look at the books they are using in school now and you will understand that this is not by accident.
The Georgian Church needs to be involved in any educational reform, but it is also under attack by the likes of Shashkin, who was also, amongst his many jobs, the former Minister of Education. It is not a coincidence that one of the first things Shashkin and the UNM did was attack Georgian culture and religious values.
When Shashkin first changed the textbooks for Georgian pupil “Dedaena” of Iakob Gogebashvili, a historic book, was taken out of education. School children were thus separated from their core language traditions, and the general level of education started going down. Now the vast majority of Georgian university students are clueless, and very few can think on a high level. They have been turned off getting a proper education, one that can provide them a living in the future. This was certainly by design.
About visa -free…. well!
One of the supposed achievements of the present Georgian government is obtaining visa free access to various wealthier countries for its desperate and disgruntled citizens. Technically Georgians have visa free access to Israel, for example. But most get sent right back on arrival. The short term happiness of visa liberalisation for Europe will soon collapse; visitors will simply show up at the airport and get turned back. Georgians will soon realise that they can never be accepted as so-called Europeans.
Already Georgians, even some of Georgian Jews who have immigrated to Israel, have been given the reputation of petty thieves, simply because they are Georgian. If European countries let them migrate and travel freely, they will have to either let them in and then deport them, having criminalised them, or not let them in to show how tough they are, and they first have to criminalise them to get away with this.
Unfortunately many innocent people will suffer in this process, those who really want to see the world… travel, study and be able to visit family. Visa free travel is a beguiling dream, but the more it works for a few, the more those left behind will ultimately resent it, and the government which promised it.
Where does the US go from here?
Trump does not really have any refined policy towards Georgia so far, and perhaps that is the best policy. However Trump’s enemies (and he has lots of them), including many former US Ambassadors to Georgia, will try to portray him as idolising Putin’s policies, at the expense of neighbouring countries, especially Georgia and Ukraine.
That means ultimately alienating Georgians, who want the US to give them some real support over its two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If that happens, dirty tricks may become more difficult to do, and it was the Deep State rather than Trump which made Georgia the regional dirty tricks base, so when everyone turns on everyone there can only be a race to the bottom.
Much of whatever policy Trump does adopt will be based on how Georgia acts in terms of the efforts by Kiev to ramp up the war in east Ukraine and act the lily white innocent. Georgia’s covert involvement in the killings during the Maidan Square demonstrations in Kiev is not going to go down well when Putin and Trump compare their information and shared interests. Indeed, Trump could even cut Georgia adrift to attack the deep state and save himself, at least from that particular set of enemies.
It is difficult to explain what goes on in Georgia to Western audiences. It sounds like something they only see at the cinema, in films like Casablanca. That is how a lot of people have got away with a lot of things, and why we have all been told for a long time that “conspiracy theories”, i.e. any connection between anybody and anything, are not to be trusted.
Georgia cannot function as a country because too many others won’t allow it to. Within living memory it was the communists who would never let people do things for themselves, and the West which offered an alternative. Now it is the West which does these things, and only gets away with it because there is no alternative but hoping that one day it might respect its own values.
But places like Georgia and Turkey are far away from the US. They are safe places to dump the worst of the worst; these are the same ones who can be relied upon to do the worst things in exchange for protection. Only if the US changes can anything change for the better in these countries, and although Trump promised change, and really was from a different world, he lacks the basic building block – principle – he would need to counter all the things he himself keeps complaining about.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.