Georgian politics

Planning Offensives

Davit Batashvili

The title of the third chapter of Sun Tzu's The Art of War can be translated from the original Chinese as either "Attack by Stratagem" or "Planning Offensives." The main idea of the chapter is that the greatest success in any effort to impose control over a state would be that attained without resorting to the use of military force. According to Sun Tzu, this can be achieved by thwarting a country's plans and intentions and by isolating it from the rest of world through disengaging it from its allies. By any understanding, this is a way more beneficial and less expensive method than pursing open actions involving the military.

Processes now underway in Georgia offer a perfect example of the strategy of Sun Tzu. Imposing control on Georgia in this or that form remains one of Russia's strategic aims. To this end, Georgia's ties with the West is the most significant factor standing in the way of Russia achieving this aim. It was this factor that made the Russian military machine stop in the Georgia-Russia war of August 2008, and this has continued to play the same role to date. Russia's main aim is thus to sever the ties Georgia has with the West. For this to happen, three objectives must be achieved:

  1. Instilling anti-Western attitudes in Georgia;
  2. Weakening and marginalizing those Georgian political forces with ties to the West;
  3. Impeding the democratic process and forming an image of Georgia as an undemocratic country in the eyes of Western political elites.

The first objective can be achieved through propaganda. Thus far, the public consensus existing in Georgia is, all in all, pro-Western. The aim of such propaganda is thus to undermine that consensus and change public opinion in such a way as to render a pro-Western orientation as an unnecessary precondition for any political force seeking success.

Such propaganda is put into operation in three specific forms of discourse. A reactionary form of discourse dominates the largest segment of society. The messages typifying that discourse are, for example, that there are perverts, gays, non-Orthodox Christians, and Masons in the West; they try to degrade us; they want to control us with satanic electronic chips and destroy our spirituality. The second form of discourse is Marxist in nature. It describes Western countries as nests of appalling capitalism and imperialism. It is worth noting that Russia itself uses both of these forms of discourse to maintain aggressive attitudes amongst its population towards the West.

The third form of discourse is, in contrast to the two previous approaches, not masked by any specific ideology. It can be regarded as common pro-Russian discourse. The messages this discourse sends are that we will never be admitted into NATO and the European Union; that the West is in no respect better than Russia; that we can regain our territories only if we bind ourselves to Russia and the like. A short while ago, holding such a pro-Russian attitude was viewed as a deviation from the norms of morality and common sense. Today, however, this perception is being transformed into a norm, into a rule for the Georgian political space. Figures orientated towards this include Nino Burjanadze, the former parliamentary speaker turned leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia Party, and Kakha Kukava, the leader of the Conservative Party of Georgia. The most outstanding example of such an individual, however, is Valeri Khaburdzania, the former security minister of Shevardnadze's government who now lives in Moscow and is busy legitimizing pro-Russianism in Georgia in the most deliberate and consistent way.

As regards the strategy for weakening Western-oriented Georgian political forces, one part of the strategy can be seen in whipping up aggression towards such forces inside the Georgian Dream coalition. First and foremost, this is true with regard to members of the Republican Party, who are targets of an ongoing negative campaign especially orientated towards the reactionary form of discourse.

More important, however, is the open aggression directed against the political force that has the strongest ties with the West: the United National Movement (UNM). This aggression pursues two aims: to weaken, demoralize and marginalize this force as much as possible, and, on the other hand, to derail the democratic process itself, thus delivering the heaviest possible blow to Georgia's integration into the Western structures and to its relations with the West in general.

This aggression has taken two forms – repressions and violence. Thus far, the repressive actions undertaken by the government have been more or less restricted in nature, but representatives of all three forms of discourse have demanded that repressive actions be undertaken against the entire UNM. "Bring the regime to justice" (as means of "having served political justice") is something that is repeated like a mantra – be it by Nino Burjanadze; the Marxists; Kakha Kukava; businessman Levan Vasadze, who amassed his wealth in Russia; Tengiz Kitovani, a Defense Minister in Shevardnadze's government who greatly contributed to the Georgian Civil War in the early 1990s to oust President Zviad Gamsakhurdia; or Nana Kakabadze, the chair of the non-governmental organization Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights, who orchestrates aggressive anti-UNM rallies with the involvement of those people the current government released from prison under the status of "political prisoners" after the October parliamentary elections. It is interesting how these people, who seem to starkly differ from one another, have managed to formulate messages identical in content. In any case, their aim is to popularize the idea of repressions against the UNM among Georgian society. If, at the end of the day, the government enhances the scale of repressions, it will be virtually impossible to maintain normal relations with the West – especially if talks about the arrest of President Mikheil Saakashvili intensify after the presidential elections this October.

As regards violence, this is expressed in the physical assault of politicians and supporters of the UNM by various groups. At the same time, the propagation of violence continues in the public domain, including on the Internet. If, as a result of these targeted efforts, assaults become more frequent and wider in scale, the situation may soon become unruly, overstepping democratic boundaries. As a result, all of the above mentioned conditions necessary to damage our ties with the West will have been met.

Apart from weakening pro-Western forces and cultivating an undemocratic image of Georgia, political aggression will bring about a third result – general political destabilization. Inciting hatred in society produces this threat, which is further enhanced by problems in such spheres as security and the economy. In terms of security, it is obvious that Georgia's "immunity" against the Russian intelligence services has decreased under the new government. As for the economy, this is clearly in stagnation, which will increase unemployment and make it more difficult to fulfill the budget liabilities. This, in turn, will worsen the lives of many people.

The result of all this will be a combination of threats that create a very risky situation for Georgia: diplomatic isolation; a population unhappy about economic problems; political instability maintained by violence and inciting hatred; and a Russian spy network acting freely because of shortcomings in the security sphere. Such a situation would be ideal for Russia, enabling processes in Georgia to be swayed in the direction they deem desirable. For example, a new "charismatic" leader might be offered to Georgian society, one who will persuade people that only he or she can install order in the country, give people jobs, defend their spirituality and, in short, save the country. In addition to such a charismatic person, a solution will also be offered – saying "no" to integration into the "perverted" West that dragged us into such a disastrous situation and instead moving closer towards Russia. The slogans accompanying this process will, of course, not be pro-Russian as much as they will be nationalistic, but that will not change the essence of the situation. The refusal of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity will be veiled in pseudo-patriotic rhetoric. Most importantly, all that will happen at the hands of Georgian citizens themselves.

As of today, the realization of these threats is not in any way inevitable. However, the risk of them materializing is absolutely real. Therefore, the Georgian government is obliged to:

- Refrain from taking such actions that will lead Georgia towards diplomatic isolation;

- Stop encouraging hatred and physical violence in the political arena and punish those who commit such violence;

- Watch its actions and rhetoric in order to enable Georgia to attract investments once again and to permit the economy to recover its growth;

- Prevent the deterioration of the situation in the country, regardless of those spies released under the status of "political prisoners" and persons like Kitovani freely moving across Georgia.
If the Georgian government fails to do that and the situation further deteriorates in all these spheres, a crisis will be inevitable. This crisis will jeopardize the positions of the majority of those engaged in politics today, no matter whether they are in the ruling party or the opposition, as well as the entire population of Georgia.


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