ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, Apr.17

This Friday ROAR presents perspectivesfor a ‘velvet revolution’ in Georgia and for the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, a report on the fate of Sunni security forces in Iraq and a view on the ‘European Home’ from the outside.

Valery Vyzhutovich writes in ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA that the ‘velvet revolution,’ going on in Georgia today in many senses looks like a twin of the previous one in 2003. The street protesters demand the same: the resignation of the president, a radical renovation of government, and an early election. The method is the same too: a permanent street protest with speeches. The only difference is that in 2003 Mikhail Saakashvili was the leader of the opposition, while in 2009 he is the target.

The commentator writes that despite their desire to topple Saakashvili and contrary to reports by some Russian TV media correspondents, says the author, the leaders of the opposition set the same goals and share the same values with the incumbent president: at the moment there is not a single pro-Russian politician in Georgia, and most probably there isn’t going to be a single one in the near future. The problem with Saakashvili is that he dragged the country into a war that could not be won, pursued ruinous policies, and made his nation an international laughing stock.

The writer notes that in the past 16 years there hasn’t been a regular constitutional transfer of state power in Georgia. Ordinary citizens keep getting disappointed and losing faith in the leaders they had worshiped at the beginning. Today, he continues, more and more people start sharing the opinion of Georgian Traditionalists formulated by their leader Akaky Asatiani: “We should be done with revolutions. I don’t want the people to have to choose between scoundrels and madmen. I want them to elect normal persons to leadership positions.”

In KOMMERSANT Boris Makarenko of the Center of Political Technology writes about the Nagorny Karabakh problem. He says, by the end of this first decade of the XXI Century, the fate of the majority of the world’s unrecognized states has been sealed, if not solved. At least of Kosovo, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia it can be said that there’s no chance of them rejoining the nations they used to be part of, while the Trans-Dniestr conflict stays unresolved, but not hopeless either.

The Nagorny Karabakh problem, says the academic, is the most complicated of such conflicts and also the oldest. However, there is one very important positive factor there: the total absence of an ‘external power’ with the agenda of helping one side against the other. Both the West (meaning Europe and the US) and Russia maintain friendly relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The Nagorny Karabakh problem is a frozen conflict which neither side wants to unfreeze just yet, says Makarenko, so the main task for international mediators for now is to stimulate dialogue between the sides, create the climate of trust and downgrade the confrontation. If Russia, he concludes, plays the role of such a mediator effectively, by simultaneously playing in both fields, the Azerbaijani and Armenian, then everyone will benefit from its success.

In NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA Nikolay Surkov writes that while the new wave of large-scale terrorist attacks casts doubts over the success of the security operations of 2007-08, the conduct of the Iraqi government towards the US-supported Sunni paramilitary units which helped fight Al-Qaeda may cause some of them to turn around and join the armed opposition.

The author says that recently the majority of such Sunni units have been transferred from direct American control to the Iraqi government on the condition of incorporating 20% of the personnel into the government security forces and guaranteeing employment for the rest. However only 4,000 of them were hired as policemen and then the salaries of the others, still serving as troopers, started coming irregularly.

American experts quoted by the paper say that even the efforts of US Generals at explaining to the Iraqi government the importance of keeping the Sunni units happy may turn out to be a waste of time, as the Shi’ite officials are extremely reluctant about finding jobs for the Sunnis. So far, concludes the author, some American-trained Sunni troopers demand pay, while others quietly join Sunni armed opposition, which doesn’t add much to the perspective of security and stability in Iraq.

Timofey Bordachev writes in VREMYA NOVOSTEI that the necessity of building a new architecture of European security is becoming more and more evident. The military clash in Georgia last August has shown that while the US election demonstrated that European security is in the hands of American voters. The system of international security in Europe, says the author, is now too vulnerable to external influence.

Stability and security in Europe must be built by the nations of Europe including Russia, not given by external forces, says Bordachev. In the past decade and a half, Europe and Russia developed a weakness. They became too provincial in their views and occupations. In the EU there are constant arguments about details and limits of unification. There is also expansion into the post-Soviet space which cannot be done without hurting Russia’s interests.

Russia too has been extremely busy with its domestic problems and its post-Soviet neighborhood, including the implementation of necessary countermeasures to European pressure. On the other hand, Russia has also been busy selling oil and gas to Europe as its main and most faithful customer.

Russia, says the writer, owning the second-biggest nuclear arsenal in the world and being part of Asia as well as Europe, cannot stay ‘provincial’ or focused on regional problems for too long, especially when Europe is more and more becoming an arena for struggle of external influences.

The writer says that there is one superpower in Europe (Russia) and two great powers (The UK and France) which could join efforts in the common interest of European security. Europe needs to become a global player equal to the US and China to guarantee its own stability.

The author says that it’s time to stop arguing over the internal style and finish of our ‘common European home’ and take a look at the house from the outside – to evaluate the winds and other threats to the core structure, and strengthen it accordingly.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.