I highly recommend “Nikita Khrushchev Goes to Hollywood” from the Smithsonian Magazine. Khrushchev, always the showman, charmed, bantered with American capitalists, and even took in the filming of Can-Can during his tour of America in 1959. When the Soviet premier went to Hollywood, hundreds of stars appealed for tickets to attend a luncheon with him. He met such Hollywood legends as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, and Charleston Heston.
The event apparently had several memorable moments. When Heston leaned over to Soviet novelist Mikhail Sholokhtov and said “I have read excerpts from your works.” The novelist replied, “Thank you. When we get some of your films, I shall not fail to watch some excerpts from them.” When businessman Spyros Skouras used his immigrant rags-to-riches story to educate Khrushchev about capitalism, the communist retorted:
He turned to Skouras—”my dear brother Greek”—and said he was impressed by his capitalist rags-to-riches story. But then he topped it with a communist rags-to-riches story. “I started working as soon as I learned how to walk,” he said. “I herded cows for the capitalists. That was before I was 15. After that, I worked in a factory for a German. Then I worked in a French-owned mine.” He paused and smiled. “Today, I am the premier of the great Soviet state.”
The banter between the two continued with no discernible winner.
However, the one thing Nikita and his wife Nina didn’t get to do was visit Disneyland. At one point during the luncheon, Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker told Henry Cabot Lodge, US Ambassador to the UN and Khrushchev’s personal tour guide, “I want you, as a representative of the president, to know that I will not be responsible for Chairman Khrushchev’s safety if we go to Disneyland.” “Very well, Chief,” Ledge replied. “If you will not be responsible for his safety, we do not go, and we will do something else.”
Word steadily got back to the Khrushchevs. Both were terribly disappointed. So much so that Khrushchev devoted part of his 45 minute speech to the subject:
“Just now, I was told that I could not go to Disneyland,” he announced. “I asked, ‘Why not? What is it? Do you have rocket-launching pads there?’ ”
The audience laughed.
“Just listen,” he said. “Just listen to what I was told: ‘We—which means the American authorities—cannot guarantee your security there.’ ”
He raised his hands in a vaudevillian shrug. That got another laugh.
“What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there? Have gangsters taken hold of the place? Your policemen are so tough they can lift a bull by the horns. Surely they can restore order if there are any gangsters around. I say, ‘I would very much like to see Disneyland.’ They say, ‘We cannot guarantee your security.’ Then what must I do, commit suicide?”
Khrushchev was starting to look more angry than amused. His fist punched the air above his red face.
“That’s the situation I find myself in,” he said. “For me, such a situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”
The audience was baffled. Were they really watching the 65-year-old dictator of the world’s largest country throw a temper tantrum because he couldn’t go to Disneyland?
Sitting in the audience, Nina Khrushchev told David Niven that she really was disappointed that she couldn’t see Disneyland. Hearing that, Sinatra, who was sitting next to Mrs. Khrushchev, leaned over and whispered in Niven’s ear.
“Screw the cops!” Sinatra said. “Tell the old broad that you and I will take ’em down there this afternoon.”
Khrushchev never did get to go to Disneyland. Instead, according to William Taubman, his hosts killed time by, in the words of the premier, “driving aimlessly around the Los Angeles suburbs for two hours” in a closed armored Cadillac. Even Lodge agreed that “the interminable afternoon dragged on.”
You Might also like
By Sean — 8 years ago
Are your backyard barbecues breeding Bolsheviks? Deep cover agents posing as a two car garage, 2.3 kid, suburban, all-American family? Mysterious sultry, salon dyed Slavic redheads friending you on Facebook? Foreigners who dazzle with superb hydrangea pruning skills? Watch out America, the Russians are coming, and one of them might look just like you.
There isn’t much to be said about the busted Russian spy ring at this point. We all know the story of 11 secret agents planted by the “Moscow Center” to dig up information about nukes, policy, and backroom rumors in Washington. We all have fawned, or read about the fawning over the PG-13 pics of “Anna Chapman,” the femme fatale of this real life Naked Gun movie (if the Chapman obsession wasn’t pathetic enough, now the Marines are now using her to warn sailors about “the use of good-looking women to lower a man’s defenses.” Oh, brother.) We’ve also have seen how Moscow has laughed all of this off, and though it has questioned it’s timing, hasn’t retaliated in its usual way by expelling American diplomats. We also know that this scandal will probably not effect any future burger lunches between Obama and Medvedev. We pretty much know, unless FBI documents reveal otherwise, that Moscow’s “illegals” weren’t very good spies at all. Finally, we also were informed that Christopher Metsos flew the coop in Cyprus and Juan Lazaro would sell out his kids before violating his “loyalty to the Service.”
Not by a long shot.
Besides all the manufactured drama of this spy ring, which James Meek over at LRB Blog rightly calls “a kind of performance art” fit for an HBO series, what has intrigued me about all of this is how the spies were “a typical, child-obsessed American family.” Indeed, as Meek notes, the deep cover Russian spies are a real life analogy to the suburban mafiosi in the Sopranos, the drug lords cum legit businessmen in The Wire, or the faux-humanoid aliens of V. They attended block parties and barbecues, showed up at PTA meetings and picnics, babysat the neighborhood kids, joined social networking sites, and had pretty ordinary jobs.
According to the FBI complaint to the court, becoming just like us was the Russian spies’ primary mission:
The FBI’s investigation has revealed that a network of illegals is now living and operating in the United States in the service of one primary, long-term goal: to become sufficiently “Americanized” such that they can gather information about the United States for Russia, and can successfully recruit sources who are in, or are able to infiltrate, United States policy-making circles.
It appears that they were good at the first part–becoming sufficiently Americanized–but bad at the second–infiltrating US policy-making circles. Win some, lose some.
For me this dose of spymania says more about America than it does about the ineptness of Russian espionage. What several of the “illegals” proved was how vapid and boring American suburban life really is. All “illegals” like the Murphys had to do was pounce around in polo shirts, swig a couple of Diet Cokes, parent a couple of blond children, drive a Beemer, and don a pearly white smile fit for a real estate agent. They were so good at it that they were able to do it without being married, though some spy to spy booty call was not out of the question. For spy turned tabloid sensation Anna Chapman, posing as an ambitious twenty-something ready and able to hang out in the NY party scene was easy. All she had to do was pour some five-and-dime red dye on her head and hit the clubs. According to one former lover in Britain, Chapman knew how to work it.
Shocked Charlie Hutchinson, 31, said after seeing Anna Chapman’s picture in The Sun: “While we had sex she was talking and moaning in Russian. It lasted for 2½ hours and was so sexy. She was incredible.
The bespectacled law student told how the temptress – arrested by the FBI – was on a night out in Southampton when she jumped into his cab as he headed back to the university’s halls of residence.
He had earlier got talking to her as he boozed with chums at a student pub – called the White House.
Charlie, who is still studying in Southampton three years on, said: “Both of us were drunk. When we got into my room she began doing a striptease while I sat on the bed.
“She has a stunning figure – and had no underwear on. She really knew what she was doing.”
A week later they met up again for a romantic meal at an Italian restaurant – followed by more romps. He said: “She was wild in bed – a 14 out of ten. She knows positions I had never imagined.”
Hubba. Hubba. But hey Chapman’s ability to go into deep cover was in her genes. It has been revealed that her father was a KGB officer. A certain VVP perhaps?
After reading several stories about how ordinary these “spies” lives were (okay, maybe Chapman’s wasn’t too vanilla), I can imagine that all their training to capture “American realism” was to watch Hollywood movies. The LA Times suggested as much with: “If their cover jobs were ordinary, their secret lives had a humdrum side that sometimes seems more like Woody Allen than John LeCarre.”
Or check out the itemized expense report from Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley to the “Moscow Center”:
Got from Ctr. 64500 dollars, income 13940, interest 76. Expenses: rent 8500, utilities 142, tel. 160, car lease 2180, insurance 432, gas 820, education 3600, payments in Fr. 1000, medical 139, lawyers fees 700, meals and gifts 1230, mailboxes, computer supplies 460, business (cover) 4900, trip to meeting 1125.
If you asked me, it sounds like Heathfield and Foley got themselves sucked into American middle class suburban hell.
Now that they’ve been busted, the spies can now join the pantheon of other “dark forces” who’ve managed to burrow into American suburban life. Middle class whitey is already wrecked with anxiety over the death of the American dream, the collapse of suburban schooling, sexual predators, illegal immigrants, serial killers, and terrorists. Now they have to worry about spies too? And ones that look, act, and consume like them! I sense someone reaching for their Xanax.
Just because infiltrating into American life may be easy, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous. Not dangerous for those unsuspecting suburbanites, but for the infiltrators themselves. Barbecues and Beemers are tempting and the ‘burbs can be seductive. “Americanization” is luring to many despite, or perhaps, because of its vapidness. This is probably why the “Moscow Center” grew suspicious when the Murphy’s wanted to buy a house in Montclair, New Jersey. The Murphy’s wrote to the Center after being rebuffed:
In order to preserve positive working relationship, we would not further contest your desire to own this house. We are under an impression that C. views our ownership of the house as a deviation from the original purpose of our mission here. We’d like to assure you that we do remember what it is. From our perspective, purchase of the house was solely a natural progression of our prolonged stay here. It was a convenient way to solve the housing issue, plus to ‘do as the Romans do’ in a society that values home ownership.
According to the LA Times, the Murphys had already embraced middle class entitlement. One one them later “whined” that their handlers in Moscow “don’t understand what we go through over here.” They won’t let me own a house just like my neighbors! Whaaa!
The lesson in all this is that whitey needs to be more vigilant. Apparently living in Obama Nation has caused them to slip. Tsk. Tsk. Wake up white people! We not just taking about your children’s purity anymore. It’s not just the perverts and brown people you need to look out for. The ones that look, act and do as you do are the most dangerous. We’re talking about the protecting America from the evil Russians. Remember Communism? The Cold War? Reds in the State Department? Do you really want to be responsible for the Russianization of America? I didn’t think so. To borrow an often quoted line from the great philosopher Donald Rumsfield:
“There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
It is the “unknown unknowns” that we need to watch out for. For they could be living unbeknownnst right next door to you.Post Views: 754
By Sean — 10 years ago
As the sun begins to set on Putin’s Presidency and his direct personal sway over Russia’s future is still undetermined, there is one legacy we can count on. A new “-ism” called Putinism.
With the help of LexisNexis, I’ve been trying to track down the first appearance of this supposed ideology attached to the person of Vladimir Putin. A search of Major US and foreign publications, wire services, and TV and radio transcripts reveals a rather serpentine history to Putinism’s literary life.
According to my search, “Putinism” was born in early 2000. The first mention of the word came a mere six days after Vladimir Putin was named acting President of Russia. It was coined by an unlikely figure, Richard Gwyn, in an unlikely publication, the Toronto Star. I say unlikely because while Gwyn is considered “one of Canada’s best-known and most highly-regarded political commentators,” he is no Kremlinologist nor is he even a frequent commentator on Russian affairs. Still, this didn’t stop him from writing in “The World Needs a Strong Russian State” that Putinism means “a state that is strong and yet also is, more or less, democratic” (1/5/00). For Gwyn, Putin’s tenure in the FSB was more a blessing than a curse, a job that prepared him with the skill and will to meet the challenge the “cabal of billionaires” posed to his supposed “hatred of corruption.” In fact, for Gwyn, Putinism is not only predicated on a strong Russian state, which by the way he then claimed Russia and the world needed, its “distinctive hallmark . . . may turn out to be the rooting out of corruption and criminality.” Andrei Pointkovsky, however, saw Putinism as just the opposite. For him, Putin was more the protector of corruption rather than its scourge. He was destined to be mere pawn of the Yeltsin oligarchs. Borrowing Lenin’s famous statement about imperialism, Pointkovsky called Putinism “the highest stage of robber capitalism.” Both views seem to still hold water in 2007. However, whether Putin is a rooter or protector of corruption depends much on who’s playing the robber. Even more, Gwyn’s labeling of Putin’s government as “more or less” democratic would now be considered political heresy among the Anglophone chattering classes.
It would only take a few weeks after Gwyn’s piece for Putinism to begin its transformation into a system Western liberals and conservatives alike would love to hate. And what a better person to recast the light of Putinism into darkness than a conservative mandarin like William Safire. In a column titled, “Putinism Looms,” the conservative ideologue prophesied in Putin the emergence of “the cooler of repression and autocratic rule.” And for a unabashed free marketeer like Safire this not only spelled doom for Russia’s fledgling democracy, but would also usher in “an uncompetitive, economically weakened Russia.” Only a “Yavlinsky Era” could “marry a literate work force to a free-market system under law” and make Russia a competitive world power. In Safire’s mind, “Putinism” would only become “surly stagnation” (1/31/00). Looking back, Safire’s prophesy of economic doom has proved utterly false.
Still, “Putinism” itself began to catch on after leaving Safire’s pen. Even the British began to show a fancy toward it, thereby adding to its evolution. In April, the London Times warned Tony Blair of Putinism’s “low-intensity brand of Russian nationalism that seems reasonably inclusive unless you happen to be male, Chechen and of fighting age” (4/15/00). In May, the Guardian would be the first British paper to mention Putinism in conjunction with the S-word, Stalinism . The Guardian didn’t come up with the Stalinist connection on its own. The idea that Putinism was “nothing short of modernized Stalinism” was posited by “a band of former Soviet dissidents.” These unnamed “dissidents” were “widely dismissed as hysterical prophets of doom.” Nevertheless, the Guardian felt that their warnings were sane enough have “an uneasy new resonance” (5/29/00).
By summer, the Christian Science Monitor’s Fred Weir had adopted “Putinism” in his piece “Putin’s Recipe for a Strong Russia.” Weir never explicitly uses the term himself but quotes it from then vice president of the Parliamentary Foundation, Andrei Zakharov. And like Safire, Weir via Zakharov saw Putinism as the supposed contradiction between “autocratic measures” and fruitful “economic growth.” “This,” said Zakharov, “is the central paradox of Putinism.” Weir didn’t disagree, and like Safire, he was proved wrong too (7/13/00).
Perhaps the initial connecting of Putinism with Russian economic stagnation is what caused the term to fall virtually out of use until 2003. In fact, the last mention of it until then was in late 2001, when the NY Times’ Thomas Friedman reversed Putinism’s economic meaning entirely. Friedman saw Putin as the garden where the fruits of capital were being plucked from the free market trees. He congratulated Putinism role in cultivating Moscow’s “exploding middle class,” showered comparisons between Putin and Deng Xiaoping, and cited “young capitalists coming of age” as proof that the Russians could “actually do this capitalist thing.” Friedman saw Putinism as such a positive, he urged his readers to “keep rootin’ for Putin”(12/23/01).
Then suddenly and without warning the press went silent after Friedman’s adulation. Was the endorsement of the self-proclaimed guru of globalization enough to calm the emerging paranoia of America’s political class? Perhaps. But if I would place my a bet, the disappearance of Putinism was a delayed response to George Bush’s now infamous, “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” The establishment press got the signal and any talk of Putin as -ism wasn’t uttered for over a year.
Perhaps having seen enough, William Safire finally broke the silence in late 2003. Days before he penned “The Russian Reversion” for the NY Times, United Russia swept the Duma elections, winning 223 seats. The “Yavlinksy Era” never dawned, and the liberals’ thumping in the polls didn’t inspire hope of their return. The Russian love for authoritarianism seemed in the air. The time was ripe to reintroduce Putinism. And this time Safire said nothing of its economic pretensions. Instead, Putinism was set alongside another word, the siloviki. “Russia’s short-lived experiment with democracy is all but dead,” Safire declared. Putinism was now “repressive rule through money and media control” (12/10/03).
As he seemed to do in 2000, Safire’s 2003 revision of Putinism set its future tone. Putinism’s similitude to the siloviki has since garnered the most consensus. It is even the definition that dominates Putinism’s Wikipedia entry. Four days after Safire’s rehabilitation, the Washington Post followed suit with a hysterical editorial by George Will titled, “Democracy Under Siege.” Will seemed intent on not being outdone by Safire in regard to editorial hyperbole. For him, Putinism was nothing short of
“uprooting the shallow seedlings of democracy across Russia’s 11 time zones. Putinism is becoming a toxic brew of nationalism directed against neighboring nations, and populist envy, backed by assaults of state power, directed against private wealth. Putinism is a national socialism without the demonic element of its pioneer who, 70 years ago this year, used plebiscitary democracy to acquire the power to extinguish German democracy. There probably are not enough Jews remaining in Russia to make anti-Semitism a useful component of Putinism. But do not bet on that either” (12/14/03).
To put it plainly, Putinism was simply Nazism in a Russian key. Russia’s economic dynamism made warnings of a communist comeback ring hollow. So Will reached deeper into his bag of historical villains of “Freedom” and pulled out Hitler. And thank god so many Jews left anti-Semitic Russia because if you listened to Will, the next Holocaust was right around the corner.
As for Putinism itself, Safire’s and Will’s salvos made the term stick. Of the 160 articles that mentioned Putinism between 2000-2007, 143 were published after 2003. Other pundits turn their ire to Putinism. USA Today columnist Bill Nichols called Putinism “a one-party state” that “smacks of Soviet-style authoritarianism” (3/15/04). Roy Greenslade of the Guardian said that Putinism “happens when Stalinism hooks up with capitalism” (10/19/04). Ah yes, history was nothing more than political clay in the hands of the pundit class.
Moreover, Putinism became a favorite of the American neo-conservative right to hoist upon the Great Bear as its “near abroad” sought to cast off the Russian yoke. George Will cried that “Putinism was on the march” when Putin backed Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich against the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko (WP, 11/30/04). Putinism was connected again with Russia’s “imperialist aspirations” as Russophobes saw “colored revolution” looming in Belarus. The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl even went so far to suggest that Belarus was the weakest link in the Putinist chain. “A toppling of the Lukashenko regime would probably make Putinism unsustainable even in Russia,” he wrote (1/3/05). Whereas Putinism was the enemy of free market capitalism in 2000, the gravedigger of Russian democracy in 2003, by early 2005, Putinism was the antithesis of the great democracy blooming from “colored revolution.”
After Ukraine and Belarus, it appears that Putinism’s meaning finally began to crystallize. It started to tally up more and more “victims” of state repression–Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Garry Kasparov, Aleksander Litvinenko, and Anna Politkovskaya. Virtually unknown and rather unscrupulous Russians were suddenly transformed into the mujahedin of Russian democracy. More and more often Anglophone columnists saw in Putin an echo of Stalinism or a Tsarist redux complete with its own slick image, mechanisms of repression, control, chauvinism, and cult of personality. To suggest otherwise was to either come off as a lunatic, a heretic in the global democratic faith, or a practitioner in the amorality of relativism.
By February 2007, Putinism as a metonym for neo- or quasi- Stalinism was all but complete. This is best seen in the historical broad strokes Arnold Beichman painted Putinism. Beichman, a research fellow at that bunker of anti-communist holy warriors, the Hoover Institution, wrote in the Washington Times that “Putinism in the 21st century has become as significant a watchword as Stalinism was in the 20th” (2/06/07). And to think George Will sounded like a nutjob. Still, Putin as Stalin is conventional wisdom now. A LexisNexis search shows that Putin and Stalin appear in the same sentence in major English language newspapers 1,237 times. 274 of those were in 2007 alone.
What can be made of this journey of Putinism from a mantra for a strong Russian, anti-corruption state, to a inherent contradiction of the free flow of capital, to a symbol of an anti-democratic, nationalist, and imperialistic system run by a cabal of chekisty, to finally end up nothing more than a postmodernized Stalinism?
There is something deifying yet damning about turning a person into an “-ism.” Many of the “-isms” connected with personalities are often ascribed by both critics or adherents. Never does the person prefacing the “-ism” make the egotistical jump to being an ideological adherent to himself. For better or for worse, this is left to others. For example, Lazar Kaganovich coined “Stalinism” in praise of the vodzh’, though Stalin himself would have simply called himself a disciple of Lenin. Marx denied that he was ever a “Marxist.” Lenin never said he was a Leninist. The same goes for Trotsky and Trotskyism. Joseph Goebbels often spoke of Hitlerism, though it is doubtful that Hitler ever referred to himself as its proponent. Reaganism was coined by Reagan’s critics in the New Republic in 1971. It’s difficult to exactly pin down when Gaullism was first uttered, but since then it has been and continues to be a staple in French politics. I doubt de Gaulle ever referred to himself as a Gaullist. And finally as shown above, Putinism was coined in 2000, but one can’t imagine Putin or any of his lieutenants calling themselves adherents of Putinism. But you never know. Maybe they will someday.
One thing is clear about the origin of Putinism is that at least in the Anglophone world, we can mostly thank American conservatives for its existence. The question, though, is why Putin’s name got an “-ism” attached to it at all. Is it because Putinism really is an ideology? Is it really a means of governance? Or is it merely an empty signifier to neatly wrap every criticism of Putin into a nice package? Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure. What stands for a term of analysis often masks the political positions and assumptions behind its use. And in our mostly post-ideological world, attaching “-ism” to a name proves to be an effective method of damnation. For the ominous “-ism,” especially in the American mind, resurrects the dark terrors of the past and reinscribes them into our understanding of present and, subsequently, the future.Post Views: 546
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Western media is finally discovering the Ossetians. The Washington Post details the destruction of Tskhinvali. The Post‘s Peter Finn writes,
The scale of the destruction is undeniable; some streets summon iconic images of Stalingrad during World War II or Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, which was leveled in two wars between Russian and Chechen separatists.
The Financial Times also gives voice to the anger Ossetian refugees feel toward Saakashvili. My favorite quote in the article comes from an Ossetian woman’s take on the assault on Tskhinvali. “They must have been Nato troops,” she told the Times. “The Georgians don’t know how to shoot.”
The quote by this woman raises another interesting aspect to the coverage of the war. The vast majority of quotes from “average people” are from women. It all makes me wonder if the prevalence of women’s voices is because they are the majority of refugees (all the men have gone to fight), are more apt to talk to reporters, or women have more truth value as victims. Perhaps it’s a strange combination of all three.
The Independent‘s Shaun Walker looks at how the ethnic tensions in the Caucuses are the result of Stalin’s footprint in the region. “Borders between the different entities of the union were changed at will, often with the express intention of fomenting ethnic unrest,” he writes. Actually, he’s wrong. Borders weren’t changed at will nor were they drawn to foment ethnic unrest. The “divide and rule” thesis doesn’t apply anymore in light of archival evidence. Soviet border drawing was a complex process that implemented all the knowledges of modernity: census taking, ethnographic surveys, map making, as well as central and local administrative and political concerns. As Francine Hirsch writes in regard to border drawing in Central Asia in her masterful Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union,
The archival record suggests that the Soviet approach to Central Asia was consistent with its approach to the Belorussian and Ukrainian republics. In all of these cases, Soviet administrators and experts evaluated ethnographic, economic, and administrative criteria, while giving priority to larger all-union concerns. The archival record further suggests that the classic argument about the delimitation, which asserts that Soviet leaders set out to subordinate Central Asia by drawing borders in a way that would intentionally sow discord, misses the mark.
Adrienne Edgar finds a similar process in the formation of Turkmenistan in her Tribal Nation: The Making of Soviet Turkmenistan. Given the consistency in the making of Soviet national republics, one can assume that the process in Transcaucasia was no different. I suggest that Walker familiarize himself with this literature before making reductive assertions about the relationship between Soviet border making and ethnic identities and conflict. More often than not these conflicts tend to be more localized and contingent rather than an outgrowth of some grand scheme from the center.
Ossetian and Abkhazian self-determination is finally creeping into the agenda. The Russians have been emphasizing the breakaway regions right to decide their own fate for years (though they at the same time denied the Chechens theirs). Now the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe has come on board to the idea. Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the OSCE’s secretary general, told reporters that “The fate of South Ossetia must be decided by the people of South Ossetia. They live in very difficult conditions and the context of what has happened is quite complex.”
The only problem is that the Ossetians already have. Twice. The first was in 1992 where the vote was 99% in favor of independence. The second was in November 2006. Again 99% of voters said “yes!” to the question: “Should South Ossetia preserve its present status of a de facto independent state?” Both votes, however, were dismissed as fixed by Russian interlopers and subsequently ignored. Maybe they should have the referendum again. What will be said is the outcome is the same?
Father Vissarion, the head of the Orthodox Church in Abkhazia succinctly defined Abkhazian sepratism to Reuters, “What does separatism mean anyway? It means you want to separate. And who do we want to separate from? From murderers.” “If a man beats his wife,” he continued, “a court will allow her to leave him. People say we are Abkhazian separatists, but this means what? Are we supposed to be Georgians? We have nothing in common with them.”
Russian President Medvedev announced that the Russian military will pull out its forces from Georgia beginning Monday, though there is no indication that they will leave South Ossetia. This will happen only after “the situation in the region stabilizes,” a Russian Defensive Ministry spokesman told Interfax.
Georgia has its own refugee problems. There is an estimated 100,000 displaced people from both Ossetia and Georgia. A lot has been said of the Ossetians. As for the Georgians, it’s clear that the Saakashvili’s government wasn’t even prepared. “This is a very hard situation for which we were absolutely unprepared,” said Besik Tserediani, a deputy in the Georgia’s Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation. “There’s a huge amount of people coming in, and it’s impossible to deal with it.”
The sentiment among Georgians is that the Americans and Europeans were supposed to help them. Now help, in the form of humanitarian aid, is coming after the fact. The Moscow Times reports that humanitarian aid is pouring into Georgia. The International Committee of the Red Cross is demanding safe access to South Ossetian but the Russians have provided no guarantees. As a result “South Ossetia is generally off limits for humanitarian workers at this stage,” says European Union spokesman John Clancy.
Here is Al-Jazeera‘s take on aid to Ossetia:
The Americans have pledged aid to Georgia and Georgia only. Two military aircraft landed in Tbilisi on Wednesday bringing $1.28 million in emergency supplies. These cargo lifts, of course, concern the Russians.
The Russians are engaging in their own partisan humanitarian work. One of Medvedev’s first acts was to order humanitarian aid to South Ossetia. There is no doubt that this has helped getting doctors, nurses and other medical aid there.
With the Americans aiding their proxies in Tbilisi and the Russians aiding theirs in Ossetia, it sadly looks like the new front in the war will take place on the humanitarian front.Post Views: 500