Friday, July 27, 2007

Message to Georgia: Standards Matter

I came across a remarkable analytical essay written by Taras Kuzio for the Kyiv Post this past April (an op-ed of April 18, 2007) This is from someone who is an advocate of NATO expansion eastward and certainly not someone who could be described as trying to accommodate Russian preferences. So his concerns about Georgia are striking.

Kuzio raises a number of concerns about the direction Georgia is moving in. The move to a super-presidential system and the elimination of checks and balances "served to push Georiga away from its declared goal of Euro-Atlantic integration. As a consequence, Georgia's political system is closer to the Eurasian CIS than to Europe." (Back in 2004, when I wrote that "Saakashvili is taking steps which some consider to be Putinesque" that sentiment was roundly criticized.)

But a number of ongoing developments make it harder to ignore the trajectory. Kuzio cites a number of disturbing trends (including the closed trial of supposed "coup plotters"--the Maia Topuria case--and notes, "Democratic regression could also dissuade some NATO members from extending an invitation to Georgia." He concludes:

"Georgia's attempts to appease the Bush administration by offering to increas[e] the number of troops in Iraq to 2000 (a move that would give Georgia the third largest contingent) and to host a base for the new Defense Shield cannot paper over the thrats to democratic reforms that exist. Post-communist states that have joined NAOT and EU all have parliamentary systems, do not marginalize the opposition by unduly high thresholds or arrests ande uphold the rule of law. Georgia is deficient in all three areas."

How will Washington respond? Some might argue that concessions have to be made to the neighborhood Georgia finds itself in and its very strained ties with Russia, not to mention the two frozen conflicts on its territory. But one leading Georgia observer wrote three years ago:

Some in Washington suggest that current undemocratic tendencies in Georgia are merely transitional challenges and that ultimately things will improve because Saakashvili and his allies have good intentions. Unfortunately, we cannot judge intentions – only actions and results. To ensure that the situation does not spiral out of control, Washington should maintain a vigilant eye on Georgia and urge the new leadership to move away from its more authoritarian positions. Giving the government a blank check and waiting for results could have very dangerous consequences. Instead, the best move would be to nurture an environment of civil political discourse and to stop believing that Saakashvili is Georgia’s “only” or “last” chance.

Or is the U.S.-Georgia relationship going to begin to resemble less the ties with a NATO country and more those the U.S. enjoys with Azerbaijan or Pakistan--a security relationship but less and less expectations about making progress on political reform? The U.S. government has the power to unilaterally designate countries "non-NATO allies" but it seems increasingly unlikely that Washington would be able to convince other NATO members to overlook Georgia's democracy deficits. And at a time when the U.S. commitment to "democracy" in the abstract sense versus the desire to have pro-American governments in place continues to be debated, the trajectory of the Rose Revolution becomes increasingly important.

Nick, look at how US flip-flopped on Moldova and answer your own question. Communists were anti-democratic when they were with Moscow, but once they became pro-Western then they called off the revolution. Ditto in Azerbaijan too.
Saakashvili is following the Shevardadze script. In eight years he'll be out in yet another rose revolution.
Anonymous 1:03 is absolutely correct. How can anyone maintain the United States Government cares a bit about the principles of Democracy in Georgia, considering how they are willing to debauch them here? It suffices that teh Georgian government is hostile to Russia. I mean, look at Washington's reaction to voting fraud in the 2004 Ukrainian elections. A 99% level of support for "our guy" in Western Ukraine merely reflected the heartfelt support of the Ukrainian people for Freedom and Democracy, while a 99% level of support for "Russia's guy" in Eastern Ukraine reflected massive, flagrant voting fraud.

Get it straight, Nik!
Nik, reading your earlier 2004 comments on Saakashvili, you actually seemed quite sympathetic to him. Do you just a have a soft spot for authoritarians like him and Putin?
Anonymous 1:03 it is true regarding EU too. They did the same in case of Moldova!
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