What Velvet Revolutions Cover

"Every comparison is erroneous." This maxim fully applies to the definition of the change of the political regime in Georgia as "a velvet revolution," which some observers are using by analogy with the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe. But political schemes based on some historical experience sometimes become a farce when applied to a different country at a different time.

The conditions of the recent tremors in Georgia differ from the conditions that provoked the split of the former Czechoslovakia. The term "velvet " can hardly be applied to the developments in Tbilisi, which Georgian politicians hastened to describe as revolutionary.

Unlike Czechoslovakia, Georgia is located on a strategic crossroads between Europe and the oil-producing countries of Asia and its former leadership planned to draw maximum benefits from this. But Shevardnadze's attempts to convert Georgia's geographic location into economic achievements failed. Moreover, the diplomacy of blanket bowing to Washington has damaged other areas of Georgia's foreign policy. This is why the resignation of Shevardnadze produced a collective sigh of relief and night festivities, with joyful singing and dancing in the streets.

But celebrations always end and the contours of old problems reappear when the bright lights of fireworks die away. The Georgian economy is lying in ruins and the country is suffering from the chronic disease of separatism. At least two of its territories want independence from the unstable Tbilisi regime and are prepared to fight for their choice with arms in hand. But even despite this, the passionate resolve of Georgian politicians to deal overnight with the problems which the ex-president could not settle in years is not a good action plan; in fact, it can only aggravate problems.

This is when allusions to "a velvet revolution" will become completely ridiculous and Georgia will be compared not to Czechoslovakia but to Yugoslavia. The democratic replacement of Yugoslav leader Milosevic with Kostunica in 2000 only fanned separatist sentiments in Montenegro and the West could do nothing other than comply with the will of Montenegrin President Djukanovic. Besides, the Abkhazian and South Ossetian leaders very seriously intend to formalise the de facto independence of their republics.

The victorious opposition in Georgia does not include all the country's political forces. The politicians who had been expelled from it or fled from persecution have been excluded from the political process. In the past ten years, over 300,000 Georgians have left for Russia. The absolute majority of Georgian politicians welcome the resignation of Shevardnadze but they also visibly doubt that the policy suggested by the victorious opposition will succeed. And democratic reforms can be effective and irreversible only when the entire range of political opinions is taken into consideration.

Washington's wish to assist the political process in Georgia obviously has to be applauded. But the trust credit of the USA as the advocate and missionary of democratic values is dwindling with each foreign policy failure of Washington. In particular, not a single UN Security Council resolution has been carried out in Yugoslavia. In Afghanistan US control does not spread beyond the territory of military settlements. And post-Saddam Iraq has virtually become the weakest link in the Islamic world. Hence, Russia is not sure the US attempts to provide individual assistance for the formation of the authorities in Georgia will be effective.

Russia wishes success to the new Georgian leadership more than any other country. We want Georgia to quickly overcome the problems of the post-Soviet period, control its territory firmly and reliably, preclude the operation of all kinds of criminal and terrorist groups, and win the prestige of a reliable economic partner. Georgia is our neighbour in the Caucasus and we are prepared to use all instruments to help her attain these goals.

But this can be done only with broad and sincere international support devoid of any egoistic and mercenary interests of political sponsors. We must know that delusions about the "velvety" nature of Caucasian policy, neglect for the political realities in the Caucasus and mistakes can eventually bring about the disintegration of the Georgian state and a new fratricidal conflict.

Dmitry ROGOZIN, chairman of the State Duma international affairs committee

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Author`s name Petr Ermilin