Politics

In Colonial Dependence

Gia Japaridze
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Since 1 October 2012, the Georgian government has been undertaking efforts to accustom us to many things, aggressively selling its lies as reality. The government, which lacks basic education, and its leader, who has a PhD in economics, speak to naïve citizens about the European Union while trying to palm off their choice of the Eurasian Union. The financial force that came to power under the name of the Georgian Dream says one thing but does another.

They deliberately fight against symbols of statehood – a military parade on 26 May in observance of Georgian Independence Day, has been declared a shameful and excessively pompous event that is unnecessary; the independence of Georgia has turned into a subject of derision; spies of a hostile state have been released from prison under the status of political prisoners; brazen activity of a fifth column and collaborationists has been encouraged; villains sporting the Ribbon of St. George – the highest military decoration of Imperial Russia and the most recognized and respected symbol of military valor in modern Russia – have spread across the country like vermin.

Since 1 October 2012, under a well-packaged and worked-out scenario, we have rapidly and methodically arrived at a point whereby the Georgian state has been intentionally or unintentionally harmed; where statements from the Defense Minister about the installation of NATO's air defense capabilities in Georgia have become the subject of scathing criticism from the government and the parliamentary majority; where the Interior Minister, a man distinguished by his limited intellect, questions Georgia's need for NATO; where the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality describes the almost daily practice of the Russian military abducting indigent Georgians picking herbs along the occupation line as a provocation from the Georgian side and persistently tries to blame Georgia for the Russian aggression of August 2008; where the Foreign Affairs Minister attributes incompetent statements concerning foreign policy to slips of the tongue; where former staff members, so-called instructors of the Central Committee of the Communist Party justify the occupational line being moved deeper into Georgian-controlled territory, and the installation of barbed wire fences along that line, in terms of security measures for the already completed Winter Olympic Games; where the multilateral Geneva format of negotiations with Russia has been masterly undervalued and replaced by a bilateral format of meetings in Limassol and Prague; where the demands of Russia are being satisfied in exchange for increased trade in herbs and wine.

These and many other facts damaging to Georgia in the long term lay on the surface: the occupation of Georgia's sovereign territories, the seizure of lands and the abduction of people can all be seen with the naked eye. In addition to these issues, Russia also laid a hidden economic and trade trap for Georgia. This was called "the restoration of trade and economic ties between Georgia and Russia" and we voluntarily walked into it after 1 October 2012.

After Putin's attempts to fully occupy Georgia and install a proxy government through military intervention fell through in August 2008, the Kremlin changed its tactics and injected a disproportionately large "supply of money" into the political field of Georgia. This money caused an "inflation of reasoning" among Georgia's population and, as a result, society made their choice by voting in favor of the implausible promises of the Georgian Dream. Recent sociological surveys, the total lack of reaction from citizens towards a climate of eavesdropping and spying, and the sheer indifference towards nepotism and corruption which have emerged in the conditions created by the current government – makes it clear that the choice of 1 October 2012 was conditioned not by a sense of injustice that had accumulated among people regarding the unacceptability of "elite corruption," eavesdropping and fear, but by a hope that their pockets would also benefit from Ivanishvili's seven billion dollars. Russia's calculations proved correct and it was thus able to move on to the next stage of its plan: hooking Georgia though trade and subjugating it economically.

With the execution of this well-packaged plan, Georgia is being returned to its colonial dependence on Russia. Deliberately discrediting the reforms undertaken during the nine years of the previous government and suspending infrastructural transformation is part of that plan. The aim of the government's camouflaged economic policy is to gradually make Georgia dependent on the Russian market.

Let me start from the relatively remote past. When the Russian Empire occupied Georgia for almost two centuries our economy was tailored to the needs of Russia. That meant that the only sectors of the economy that developed were those that matched the interests of Moscow. For two centuries it was firmly instilled in the minds of Georgian people that Georgia is an agricultural country; that it must have a large number of peasants; that a "strong village" ensures the strength of the country; and that it must have large factories up and running. Over those two centuries this fiction was transformed into an axiom in the minds of the Georgian people. Even today one rarely hears questions such as: Perhaps we are not a country of agriculture or heavy industry? Perhaps we would be better at producing compact disks or crossbows? Perhaps our comparative advantage lies in breeding venomous snakes?

The colonial economic system was beneficial for Russia. During Tsarist Russia, wealth created in Georgia was accumulated in the form of capital in the center of the Empire; later, the goods produced, even those of a low quality, were absorbed by the Soviet Union's market.

The infrastructure of Georgia was also arranged in such a way as to suit the needs of Moscow. Roads, bridges, seaports, tunnels, hydropower plants were all built to meet the interests of the Soviet Empire, without taking into account the requirements of Georgia itself.

After the break up of the Soviet Union, Georgia inherited a disproportionately high share of its population employed in agriculture and large industrial centers in which factories had stopped functioning because the empire they had been built for had also stopped functioning. As a result, we got unemployment, a workforce with Soviet-level qualifications, and an outflow of the population from the country. We also inherited an inflexible, artificially bloated and corrupt apparatus of state administration.

Yet another legacy was infrastructure unusable for an independent Georgia – the roads, railways, airports, tunnels, et cetera were all tailored to the needs of the Russian Empire.
In the period from gaining independence until 2004, no attempts were made by successive Georgian governments to liberate the country's economy from its colonial dependence; nor did they implement infrastructure projects needed for the new Georgia. Remaining in a form of colonial dependence to Russia meant settled relations with Moscow – something which played into the hands of Russia and in reality turned Georgia into a failed post-colonial territory.

The reforms and infrastructure projects that were launched in 2004 pursued the goal of freeing Georgia from post-colonial dependence. The various regional energy projects, the Baku-Kars railway, the new transportation corridor, new airports, the highway bypassing Tbilisi and the new seaport at Anaklia all served the aim of escaping the Russian Empire once and for all. As history has shown, freeing the economies of post-Soviet countries from colonial dependence has proven more difficult than causing the closure of Russian military bases in their territories. Furthermore, because Russia sees a threat from ex-colonies striving towards economic independence it is prone to respond with military aggression.

With the reforms and infrastructure projects that were undertaken over the period 2004-2012, the Georgian state managed to free itself from colonial dependence on Russia and a new infrastructure tailored to Georgia's interests was partially created. The previous government of Georgia undertook conscious steps for Georgia to diversify its markets, to engage in global trade and economic exchange, and to decrease the artificial dependence on Russia. The Russia-Georgia war of August 2008 failed to stop that process. However, it stopped after 1 October 2012. If we assume that the current Georgian government are not idiots, then substantiated and reasonable doubts arise that the government is acting deliberately and has intentionally stopped all the above mentioned projects in order to reinstate Georgia's colonial dependence on Russia.

When making absolutely incompetent statements about the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian war, the current government claims that Georgia does not face same threats from Russia as Ukraine because Georgia's trade and economic ties with Russia are not analogous to those of Ukraine. Criticizing such comparisons and those absolutely stupid assessments of the threats emanating from Russia is not the subject of this article. In this particular case, our interest lies in the actions of the incumbent government that conflict with its rhetoric about the EU and push the country towards dangerous economic dependence on Russia.

The bilateral format of meetings between Georgia and Russia and the selective subsidizing of agriculture bore fruit. According to data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia, Georgian exports to Russia have increased significantly in 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. In 2008, Georgian exports to Russia amounted to 29.7 million USD; in 2009, the corresponding indicator stood at 21.1 million USD; in 2010, it was at 34.7 million USD; in 2011, 36.6 million USD; in 2012, 45.8 million USD; and in 2013, 190.2 million USD. In the first quarter of 2014 alone it amounted to 67.5 million USD. The aim has been achieved: the diversification of Georgia's economic sectors has stopped; agriculture has been reinstalled as the key field of the economy; and a subsidized agricultural sector has become vitally dependent on the Russian market. If Russia again closes its market to Georgian products, the above cited statistics will deteriorate and the key economic sector will be cut from its lifeline. The Georgian government will thus do everything possible to avoid such a decision from Moscow. To this end, however, we shall have to fulfill demands of Moscow and say no to national sovereignty. The reinstatement of colonial dependence makes unnecessary both the implementation of new infrastructure projects (these are declared a waste of money and punishable actions) and the development of other sectors of economy; even more, there is no longer any need to take care of our defense – relations with Moscow have been "sorted out," so who should we be defending ourselves against? This makes both the statements of the Interior Minister about NATO and the aggressive attacks against the absolutely correct statements of the Defense Minister crystal clear.

One may ask – what about the government's statements about signing the Association Agreement with the European Union and the comments some ministers have made about the unswerving European course of Georgia? The greatest lies, hypocrisy and danger are hidden in these very statements. There are two possible explanations for them. Firstly, that the high officials of the current regime are incapable of turning away from the conjuncture that they inherited from the previous government and thus continue the rhetoric about the European future of Georgia. Secondly, that neither current nor future trade and economic ties with Georgia are vitally important for Russia so it is likely that Russia does not see Georgia's signing of the Association Agreement with the EU as a problem. The Kremlin knows that this agreement will not choke it. For Russia, Ukraine and Georgia have a different strategic, geopolitical, economic and, most importantly, demographic price.

Many may have developed a feeling of being returned to an era of stagnation, i.e. of Zastoi or Perestroika, of a time when the Soviet Union was in its death throws and communists were bombarding us with lies. Back then too, with the help of instructions from the Lubyanka, the instructors of the communist party tried to convince people that the country was being developed: wheelchair ramps were being arranged, the banks of rivers were being reinforced, pensions were increased, free health care was effective, and the country was thus being built. Zastoi ended with the defeat of the communist dream; Georgia freed itself from the nightmare of colonial dependence on Russia.

Thumbnail photo: გოგი ცაგარელი

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