World Politics

Georgia—A New Front for US Aggression

By John McAnulty

Anyone observing the Western media coverage of the Georgian conflict will have very quickly lost any illusions that they retained about living in a society with a free press.

Initially objective reports of the destruction of the city of Tskhinvali, the capital of breakaway South Ossetia, by Georgian forces and the massacre of the inhabitants were quickly replaced by wall to wall reporting of “plucky little Georgia,” a jewel of western democracy, invaded by the Russian bear. We heard no more about the leveling of the city of Tskhinvali, of Russian reports of thousands killed, of U.S. involvement in training and arming a Georgian special forces brigade that led the onslaught.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is in fact a Western stooge running a far-right dictatorship. As recently as last November opposition demonstrations in Tbilisi demanded democratic reforms. The demonstrations were the subject of heavy state repression and opposition media were raided and forced off the air. Saakashvili declared a state of emergency, suspending democratic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly. He then called snap elections, held under conditions of political intimidation and repression. Leaders of opposition groups were hounded and arrested, facing trumped-up charges. Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed doubts about the credibility of the election.

Hypocrisy abounds. The U.S., the invaders of Iraq, declared that no country can take it upon itself to invade another. The atrocity of the bombing of an apartment block, apparently a bomb that went wide of a military target with no other evidence of a Russian policy of attacks on civilians, is ramped up to the atrocity of the century by those who leveled the Iraqi city of Fallujah and armed the Israeli army for the rape of Lebanon. We were all in danger from Russian imperialism, declared the world’s foremost imperialist power. The issue now is the territorial integrity of Georgia; assert the Western powers, having given Russia the green light with their own policy of overthrowing Serbia’s claim of territorial integrity in favor of building a client state in Kosovo. (No-one, not even the Irish, suggest for a moment that Ireland should have territorial integrity).

Of course, the Russians are hypocrites also. Putin, the butcher of Chechnya, whose name is a byword for the repression of national minorities in Russia, weeps tears for the Ossetians. The Russian defense of this minority should not blind us to the fact that the Russians aim to use military force to repress Georgia and that this Great Russian chauvinism stretches back centuries.

But the battle of hypocrisy is not the whole story. What view should socialists take? What is the interest of the working class? The answer to that should be relatively straightforward. The major aggression here is the imperialist aggression of George Bush and the U.S.A. We should defend Russia against that aggression without for a moment supporting the Putin regime or the Russian dream of becoming an imperial power itself.

That is reasonably straightforward because it has a long history in the Marxist movement. Marxists defend countries against imperialist attack. That defense is unconditional. It is not a moral judgment and does not depend on the character of the regime. It is simply recognition that the greatest threat to the workers movement comes from imperialism and that we seek imperialist defeat in these adventures. It is on those grounds that Marxists opposed the invasion of Iraq, the rape of Lebanon and the threats against Iran.

In 2003 Georgia alarmed Washington by making deals with Russian gas and electrical companies. The U.S. backed the U.S.-educated lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili, a rabid anti-communist and reactionary, in a “Rose Revolution.” The U.S. announced $166 million in immediate aid for the new regime as well as a three-year, $500 million aid package to promote “economic reforms.” This was only part of a steady stream of U.S. dollars to a country of just 4.6 million people. According to one study, Georgia is the second highest recipient of U.S. aid per capita in the world. Meanwhile, the European Union and the World Bank pledged another $1 billion in assistance to Saakashvili’s government. The aid, according to Kakha Bendukidze, the Russia-based industrial oligarch turned Georgian economy minister, meant that the Georgian state would privatize “everything that can be sold, except its conscience.”

Washington moved to create in Georgia a path for oil and gas pipelines that could pass Russia on the north and Iran on the south. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline was completed, providing a means to get oil from Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea across Georgia to Turkey. The U.S. economic and political projects had to be secured militarily. The U.S. and Israel moved in to train and equip the Georgian army and proposed Georgia for membership of NATO. The end results of U.S. moves in Georgia and the Caucasus is to encircle Russia, dominate it militarily and secure control of oil and gas reserves and raw materials in the region.

To some extent the Russian response has been a major setback for the U.S. The army that they trained and equipped used indiscriminate force to take Tskhinvali. They held it for three hours and were routed in 20 days. Yet again the Americans find that there is a great difference between being the dominant military power on the planet and having to actually occupy and hold ground. That should not disguise the fact that the U.S. is enormously dominant politically, militarily and economically. It was able to advance the military threat to Russia through stationing further missiles in Poland and is organizing a world wide program of sanctions while rolling forward NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine—a direct and immediate military threat involving the possibility of nuclear war.

The target of U.S. aggression is the working class. The aim is that energy and mineral resources in the region will be controlled by the U.S., the working class in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Russia will be impoverished and a string of right-wing client regimes will rule in the name of the U.S. Russian military power in no way counters that as Russia has the same aims in rivalry with the U.S., while at the same time co-operating with the U.S. and Europe in a whole series of economic and military agreements. Russian occupation of Georgia proper can only bolster right-wing Georgian nationalism and help foster the division of the working class.

There is one immediate conclusion in the West. The current anti-war movement is not sufficient for the tasks ahead. It was not sufficient to build a class opposition to the war in Iraq. It was even less able to deal with the threats against Iran. Weak-kneed pacifism can only leave it dancing on the sidelines when we need to vigorously campaign for the defeat of American imperialism.

—Socialist Democracy, August 25, 2008