Vladimir’s Golden Fish

Alexander (Kaha) Lomaia

"We are again coming to face that ironic dilemma which tortured us throughout the 1990s when the only thing we were trying to guess was whether our government played into the hands of Russia merely because of its total incompetence or because it served Russia conscientiously."

Zaza Bibilashvili's blog "Forgotten Dilemma" published on Tabula's Georgian webpage

He had been holding a fishing rod, standing on an erected deck jutting out over an open lake for two hours but his fishing net was still empty. By any sign the fishing should have been promising. It was a quiet, mid-autumn Sunday morning. The last flocks of cranes were flying in circles over the lake as if bidding farewell before migrating. In anticipation of the nearing frosts, nature was basking in the last sunrays. The ill luck of his "object number" made the head of security fidgety. "Where the hell have all the perches disappeared? Did we not bring them from fishery yesterday and put them into this lake?" the security head thought to himself. "Disappointed, he will vent all his fury upon me... especially with his ailing back that he hurt practicing taekwondo yesterday," he continued to worry. Watching their chief, the security officers hidden in bushes yawned unenthusiastically. "If it continues like this, he will leave us without bonuses this month yet again," they thought.

Energetic gestures from the head of the security service on the other side of the lake roused Vladimir from his dull thoughts. Only now he noticed that the bobber was moving. He pulled the rod with a sharp movement. A fish struggling fiercely against the hook emerged on the surface of the water. He quickly spun the reel of the rod. "Experience and skills count for a lot," he thought complacently as he threw his shoulders back and confidently looked around. The security agents sitting in the bushes sighed with relief. The closer he came to reeling in the fish, the stranger the color of the fish looked. "Am I dreaming or is it really a goldfish?" Just as he had that thought, the fish started talking in a very sweet voice: "Vladimir, put me back into the lake and I will make all your wishes come true, but bear in mind that all your wishes must be about Georgia and I can only work miracles within the span of one year from now." Vladimir's mouth fell open in amazement, but he quickly shut it again as it hurt his botox-injected cheeks and he did not want his guards to see that "object number one" could be struck dumb by anything. With a slight nod he gestured that the head of security should move the security circle farther back. He then went down on his knees, took a good look at the goldfish and started talking to it. The security head, standing on the other shore of the lake, witnessed an awkward scene: down on his knees, "object umber one" was talking to the caught fish for quite a while, he then took the fish off the hook, kissed it tenderly and released it into the water. The goldfish waved its tailfin as a sign of gratitude and disappeared in the lake. Vladimir looked at his Patek Philipp, a gift from his friend Gerhard Schröder, bearing the inscription "North Stream for the wellbeing of our families." The watch showed that the time was noon on 30 September 2012.

Thus far we have only learned about the set of Vladimir's wishes that were calculated over the first six months since that day. We will learn about the wishes for the next six months soon, in the fall. There is no need to remind readers that each and every wish started with a common phrase: "I wish there were such a government in Georgia that..."

Vladimir's first wish:

... will itself denigrate Georgia's success story. It is unbearable having more oil and gas than anyone else in the world, nukes, a million-strong army and still have an economy that grows at a mere 2% while Georgia's growth has not fallen below 7% for the past eight years or so; and my former satellites frequent that country to learn about their so-called reforms! What should I do with my half-witted deputy, Dimitri, who is repeating over and over again that "we should learn a lot from Georgia?" How can I shut up our newspapers and magazines that publish long articles on why "Georgia has succeeded whereas we have not?" In short, I wish for the Georgian government to declare to its people and the entire world, including foreign investors, that those international assessments, rankings, reports, statistics, ratings and awards praising Georgia are all lies. I want their economic growth plummet to zero and then we will see how they attract foreign investors.

Vladimir's second wish:

... will impede, or better stop altogether, the construction of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway line. Why, during my reign, should an alternative emerge to our Trans – Siberian Railway, which has been the only rail communication between China and Europe for the last 110 years? And especially thanks to! No way, I cannot allow the Azeris and Georgians to do that. Let's first try to impede that construction from the Georgian side and, if we prove successful, we will then try to do the same from the Azeri side.

Vladimir's third wish:

... will release our spies from prison, not as pardoned criminals but as honorable "political prisoners." That will completely rehabilitate my tarnished professional dignity. Our guys had been working quietly and efficiently for years, they had built a very good network of friends and acquaintances in Eduard's government, among political circles as well as the intelligentsia. Then, all of a sudden, they were arrested, even more so, caught red handed! Their mere release is not enough, they deserve the status of "political prisoners" for all the torture sustained in Georgia's dungeons. If, in addition to those "political prisoners," several thousand inmates are released too then the crime level will increase by at least 20%. Then, we will see how "safe" (as it was hailed) the former "Tiflis province" is. Did I say "former"? I should have said "future". Hah!

Vladimir's fourth wish:

... will change the Law on Occupation and unconditionally agree to the reopening of the Abkhazia railway. What could be better than that? Trespassing the Georgian border from Azerbaijan will still be a criminal offense whereas trespassing the Abkhazian and South Ossetian sections of the Georgian border from Russia will be punishable by only a fine. Let Misha then shout - "Occupation, Occupation!" – as much as he wants. If the Abkhazia railway is reopened without demanding that Russian military forces be withdrawn and the displaced persons returned, who will then believe that those are occupied territories? Thereafter, it will help better maintain our military base in Gyumri, Armenia.

Vladimir's fifth wish:

... will admit that it trained international terrorists to send them to Russia. That will be a very elegant move indeed! For almost 15 years now I have fruitlessly tried to prove to the entire world that the problems in the North Caucasus in reality stem from Georgia. I have tried everything – I have spent millions of dollars on lobbying firms, sacrificed thousands of my soldiers, let alone tens of thousands of civilians in the Caucasus. Yet, politically motivated violence claims more than 700 lives annually in the North Caucasus. The solution I have come up with is so simple: the insurgents have been trained by the Georgians and then sent to us. How many birds will this statement enable me to kill with one stone? Difficult to count.

Vladimir's sixth wish:

... will admit – and even you, my dear goldfish, will be unable to fulfill this wish, but still, give it a try, please – that it Georgia herself that started the war on her own territory in August 2008! I feel so relieved saying that. You can hardly imagine how many problems this affection will take off my hands and what prospects it will open up for me! The stigma of being an occupying force will disappear (traditionally, outstanding representatives of the Georgian intelligentsia will assist us with this) and I will tackle the frozen issue of the international recognition of those two territories once and for all. Ah, the mere thought of that takes my breath away! Now my next wish...

As said above, we have yet to learn about Vladimir's other wishes. I promise to tell you everything once I have learnt about them in the fall. Until then, I entrust the task of judging whether the goldfish has been able to fulfill Vladimir's wishes to you, my dear readers.

Going back to the dilemma raised in the epigraph, whether our government plays into the hands of the enemy merely because of its total incompetence or because it serves Russia conscientiously, I want to recall one English proverb: "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."


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