ROAR: Georgia still fighting “imaginary enemies”

The Georgian leadership has staged a military parade and unveiled a monument to soldiers fighting Russia, but the opposition and observers have seen these actions as political theater.

As Georgia celebrated its Day of Independence on May 26, President Mikhail Saakashvili once again spoke about the Russian threat. The presidential address was followed by a military parade on Tbilisi’s central avenue, which involved more than 4,000 troops and military equipment and aircraft.

Saakashvili also attended the opening ceremony of a new memorial in Tbilisi, dedicated to those who had fallen in the battle for the country’s unity and territorial integrity. However, it was specifically to those who died “fighting Russia,” the media say.

Unveiling the memorial, Saakashvili spoke about Georgian cadets fighting Russia’s Red Army in 1921 and compared soldiers fighting Russia during the August 2008 events to these cadets.

Saakashvili attended the events dressed in camouflage, but earlier he said in an interview that his country was ready to develop relations with “modernized” Russia in the future.

But the parade was staged to show that Tbilisi is ready to resist any external threat, the media notes. Saakashvili said that foreign forces would not rule the country. Then servicemen dressed in new uniform marched on Tbilisi’s main avenue, followed by military vehicles, Vesti.ru TV channel noted.

Saakashvili arrived for the opening ceremony of the memorial “with a courageous face and dressed in camouflage,” the channel said. However, most people in Georgia have been “in perplexity” over the idea of this monument, and the opposition stressed it was unclear who needed this monument, it added.

“This is the monument for Saakashvili rather than those heroes who have fallen for Georgia’s freedom,” the channel quoted Gia Tsagareishvili, deputy of the country’s parliament. “Nobody was asked how it should have been done or if it should have been done at all.”

Recently, a monument in Kutaisi to Georgians fighting during the Second World War “was blown up on Saakashvili’s order,” Vesti said. “Then the authorities explained the reason for it by the lack of money, but they have found funds for a new monument.”

The new memorial does not mention the 300,000 Georgians who died during the Second World War, the channel said. Recent events, including the erection of this memorial, could become a culmination in manipulating the conscience of the Georgian people,” Mikhail Khabutia, President of the Union of Georgians in Russia, told the channel.

“Speaking during the parade, Saakashvili said that Georgia’s independence is being threatened again,” the channel noted. “However, the Georgian president constantly repeats this statement. The external enemy, even imaginary, is helpful in building inner politics.”

“Saakashvili is wearing a uniform again,” Vremya Novostey daily said. The president has stated that an “external enemy” is trying to find supporters in Georgia, hinting at former parliament’s speaker Nino Burjanadze who attended the military parade in Moscow on May 9.

Opposition forces boycotted the Georgia’s military parade. They tried to disrupt the government’s events with rallies, but then changed their plans. “The opposition respect Georgia’s army, but do not respect its commander-in-chief Mikhail Saakashvili,” the paper quoted candidate for Tbilisi’s mayor Zviad Dzidziguri as saying. “Saakashvili had no moral right to stage a parade,” he added.

Servicemen who took part in the parade were proudly wearing a new uniform similar to that of NATO’s soldiers in Afghanistan,” the paper said.

The parade should have demonstrated that Georgia still buys new military equipment, Kommersant daily said. However, the parade and a new monument in Georgia may lead to new problems in Russian-Georgian relations, the paper added.

“Saakashvili described independence as an ‘all-Caucasian dream’ and actually accused Russia of preparing for a new aggression and occupation of the whole of Georgia.” the paper noted. At the same time, Moscow itself will treat the latest actions of the Georgian leadership as anti-Russian, it added.

Sergey Borisov
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review