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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Yuri Mamchur

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Yuri Mamchur

Last Build Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2006 11:30:12 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

Russia Issues Blockade Against Georgia

Tue, 03 Oct 2006 11:30:12 -0600

Moscow views Georgia as a U.S. client state, but it is still unclear if Washington really authorized the arrests of the officers, or if Saakashvili overplayed his hand in a clumsy attempt to force the withdrawal of Russian military outposts. The Georgian government is known for making sensational allegations - last year they accused Russian agents of planting a grenade to assassinate George W. Bush when the American President visited Georgia. Now it looks like the sanctions machine started by Russia cannot be stopped, and the biggest loser in this conflict is Georgia. It is time to ask: What has Georgia gained from this latest confrontation? Today the Russian Ministry of Transportation cut off all communications with Georgia - via mail, air, trains, roads and the Black Sea. The Russian Embassy in Tbilisi stopped issuing visas on September 29, and has started evacuating all personnel. The Duma is working on a bill to block any financial transactions with Georgia. Given the anti-Georgian mood in Parliament, the bill could easily become law in just a few days. The Georgians have argued that it is impossible to stop financial flows between the two nations, because Russia cannot block transactions sent via international wire services. However, a spokesman for Western Union (one of the largest money wiring services used by Georgian immigrants working in Russia) said that the company will obey the laws of the countries it operates in. Georgia's economic losses have already reached $35-40 million from the Russian embargo on Georgian wine and mineral water. Russia is Georgia's main trading partner and is responsible for 67.4% of the total amount transferred to Georgia annually. Georgia's second largest "contributor" is the USA, but money from the U.S. government and private sector provide only 9.5% of Georgia's cash flow. For the first half of 2006 alone, Georgians received $220 million in wire transfers from Russia. These transfers equal 20% of the Georgian federal budget, which is $2 billion a year, or roughly 5% of the nation's GDP. Like so many economies in the former Soviet Republics, official bank transfers only tell part of the story. Officially another $350 million was brought from Russia to Georgia in cash and deposited in banks. The unofficial estimate of money brought into Georgia every year from Russia is over one billion US dollars. In June 2006, President Putin mentioned an even a higher number during his meeting with President Saakashvili. Putin said that according to different statistics "Georgian citizens who live in Russia send 1.5 to 2 billion US dollars to Georgia per year; this is much more help than from any other country in the world." According to the Russian Federal Migration Service, there are 320,000 Georgians working in Russia, but only 4,500 of them are legal immigrants. Besides the financial and travel blockade, Russians have other ways to influence events in Georgia. According to Gazeta.Ru, the state-owned giant Gazprom is a monopoly importer of natural gas into Georgia. Another Russian company, Itera, owns all the pipelines on Georgian territory. Russians also own a lot of stock in the Georgian energy market. Russian RAO ES owns 75% of Tbilisi based energy company Telasy and 50% of AES-TransEnergy, which exports electricity from Georgia to Turkey. RAO ES also owns parts of Georgian power plants, and its ownership totals to 20% of total electric production and 35% of the energy distribution in Georgia. Georgia's main exports are wine and mineral water, and its main customer has always been Russia. Given the state of Georgian viniculture, however, it is hard to imagine Georgian wine competing with wines from France, Australia, Chile, or for that matter, California and Washington State. Georgia's second largest trade partner - America - has plenty of spring water as well, and the well-known Georgian mineral water "Borjomi" is probably not going to be seen on the shelves of your local Costco or Safeway anytime soon. Wealthy Georgian business leaders residing in Russia have no interest in this con[...]

Putin's License To Kill

Fri, 30 Jun 2006 13:29:50 -0600

In 2002, Ibn Khattab, an Arab veteran of the Afghan war operating in Chechnya, was killed by Russian forces. Khattab, who had been fundraising from the Persian Gulf states for the Chechen jihad, was poisoned by an under-cover Russian agent. In 2004, Zelimhan Yandarbiyev, a Chechen terrorist leader who claimed to be president of the non-existent "republic of Ichkeria" was hunted down by Russian operatives in Doha, Qatar (the same country where the Al-Jazeera satellite news network is based). Yandarbiyev's car was blown up by two under-cover agents who were carrying Russian diplomatic passports. During this operation, Yandarbiyev's twelve year-old son was severely injured. The attack outraged the Qatari government and both "diplomats" were captured and sentenced to death. Later they were extradited back to Moscow, and the Kremlin promised to punish and imprison them. No one knows what has happened to the agents since, but rumor has it that they were secretly decorated for a successful operation. This time Putin has made it very clear: he wants the people on the tape - and their sponsors - dead. Some commentators have claimed that Putin is simply trying to boost his popularity after this tragedy. However, the Interfax news agency reports that Nikolai Patrushev, director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), said that everything will be done to ensure that the killers "do not escape from responsibility." Patrushev added that "this is not some random plan; this is a very clear order from the President which goes along with what we do here." "The President has ordered the special forces to take all necessary measures to find and destroy the criminals who killed Russian diplomats in Iraq," the Kremlin press service said in a brief statement. The terse and direct nature of Putin's words spoken in front of a visiting Muslim dignitary goes along with the Russian tradition of doing things. The president of the Group Alfa Veterans Association, Sergei Goncharov, said that "Russian forces have the knowledge and ability to find and kill the murderers in Iraq". The Alfa Group is an elite anti-terrorist squad that ended the Beslan school massacre in 2004 and the Moscow theater siege in 2002. However, this quasi-private unit has also proven its ability to expertly employ violence in a political crisis. In 1993, with Russia on the verge of civil war, President Boris Yeltsin hired Alfa commandos on a private basis to disperse thousands of heavily armed protesters who were supporting the rebellious Communist Parliament. What the regular army and police units (many had defected to the rebels) couldn't do in several days, a 50-man Alfa team accomplished in 15 minutes, dispersing the mob that had stormed Moscow's most important TV tower. One of the commandos was killed by a rocket propelled grenade fired by rebels inside the tower. After a night of fighting in the streets, Moscow morgues were filled with the bodies of hundreds of the rebels. Thanks to the Alfas, Yeltsin secured his government against a Communist coup, but at a high price. Neither the U.S. nor the U.K. objected to Putin's statement. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow was not available for comment. The official explanation was that U.S. embassy staffs were meeting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a Moscow airport. This spokesman added that Secretary Rice would consider issuing a statement later. The British are pretending that there was no Putin order to send out hit squads at all. The Press-secretary for the new Iraqi government's embassy in Moscow, Dr. Abbas, also said that he had no comment. This operation will be very challenging, because the self-appointed "Shura Council" is not an organization that publicizes its leadership. Hamas politicians and Iranian President Ahmadinejad both promised Putin that they could peacefully resolve the situation, however "The Mujahadeen Shura Council of Iraq" and their "Horror Brigades" couldn't be "reached" in time, and the diplomats were murdered. In its official statement, Russia's Foreign Mi[...]