Iosef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known as, or Uncle Joe as Churchill called him, must be turning in his grave at the recent turn of events in his native Georgia. The situation is full of ironies.
Stalin was born in the town of Gori, which for the past few days has been overrun by Russian troops, Cossacks, Chechens as well as Ossetians. The man who started all this is none other than the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who barely 10 days back bombarded the capital of South Ossetia in an attempt to bring the secessionist province of Georgia back to the fold.
The only problem was that Russian peacekeepers were present in Southern Ossetia and apparently they were there with the consent of the previous government of Georgia headed by Edward Shevardnadze. It appears that the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia do not want to be part of Georgia and the Russians had been encouraging them to secede by issuing them Russian passports, so that for all practical purposes the territories were not under the control of Tbilisi.
The president of Georgia, for reasons best known to him, decided to take the bull by the horns by launching his ill-fated attack against South Ossetia. Had he anticipated the inevitability of Russia's muscular reaction, he might have had second thoughts. Georgia’s perceived strength, that is its close ties to the United States, and the prospect of Georgia being accepted by NATO in the near future blinded him to the realities of geopolitics, which were far better understood by his fellow Georgian the late Dzhugashvili.
The United States is in no position to help Georgia through direct military intervention, though undoubtedly it will be refurbishing Georgia’s battered Armed Forces and providing its people with humanitarian relief and economic assistance, otherwise it is quite possible that the present regime will be overthrown.
Russia's robust response may be explained by a number of factors, including the Western powers' decision to recognize Kosovo after it declared its independence and Georgia’s declared intention of joining NATO. Russia is disregarding the present ceasefire to which it had agreed under the auspices of the French President by letting its troops have free rein in Georgia.
According to latest reports, the Russian Army has been destroying bridges, scuttling Georgian warships, and blowing up the Georgian military installations.
The question arises, what could the United States have done to prevent the catastrophe that has befallen the people of Georgia? Firstly, President Bush ought to have read his protégé’s mind and realized that Saakashvili is headstrong (some of his critics call him hyper), and that he might do something really stupid, like inadvertently tangling with Russia.
Secondly, President Bush ought to have delayed the signing of the missile defense agreement with Poland at this time. The move has obviously incensed the Russians, who oppose it vigorously, and one can speculate that the continued Russian occupation of Georgia, in contravention of the ceasefire and troop withdrawal agreement they have signed the Georgia may be related to the missile defence deal with Poland.
Unable to provide immediate practical help of the beleaguered Georgians, President Bush has been quite vocal in warning the Russians that their aggressive policies in Georgia could have serious consequences for the state of relations with the United States. Perhaps Russia has calculated that at this stage, the United States needs Russia more than Russia needs the United States, particularly in the light of Iran’s perceived nuclear ambitions.
To sum up, Dzhugashvili (Stalin), although a Georgian, would not have sympathized with Saakashvili in the least, because his fellow Georgian belongs to the opposite end of the ideological spectrum and he does not understand the realities of power. Stalin, it will be recalled, was responsible more than any other man of transforming the Soviet Union into a Superpower. In short, Vladimir Putin has much more in common with Stalin than Saakashvili.