MESSENGER ONLINE, Tbilisi Georgia

                      Strategic restraint or assertive containment?


                                                                            By Leni and Dr. Jiri Valenta

 Monday, September 21, 2009

To two visiting Americans from Boca Raton, Florida, developments in international politics in the last 72 hours are so deja vu their heads are spinning. First, Russia has linked potential regional conflicts in the Caucasus and the Black Sea with South America. Hence, the hand clapping of Venezuela and Nicaragua (and perhaps Cuba, Bolivia and Honduras) to Russia’s theft of Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moreover, unlike Yeltsin, who cut off economic ties with Cuba, Putin is not only rebuilding them but discreetly assisting its new proto-Leninist clients, Chavez and Ortega. Deja vu? Remember the Soviet-Cuban alliance? 

In America we had a Monroe Doctrine which formerly limited the sovereignty of America’s hemispheric neighbours. It became obsolete with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and America’s 1977 return of the Panama Canal to Panama. Yes, we have in times past behaved like Russians, according to a doctrine of limited sovereignty in our “Near Abroad”, using indirect intervention in 1973 in Chile and in the late 1980’s in Nicaragua. But we don’t devour countries and no longer create new ones. Contrast this to Russia’s 08/08/08 invasion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moreover, while visiting Gori, 35 km from the South Ossetian administrative border inside undisputed Georgia, we personally spoke to people who had been bombed and spoke of many civilian casualties. 

Thursday, while both superpowers readied to announce the cancellation of U.S. rocket deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia, hours earlier, had concluded an agreement with its two new puppets providing for the permanent stationing of 1,700 soldiers in each region for 49-99 years. In short, the Russians are determined to stay in Georgia. No U.N. resolutions will change the situation. Uprooted Georgians will not return and the OSCE and UN missions will not come back. Georgian guards at the South Ossetian “border”, ordered not to return unfriendly fire, will not see their restraint rewarded. Only the West can save Georgia. 

But it’s not just Georgia. The frictions between Ukrainians and Russians also bring into sharp focus the conflict brewing in the Crimea. The Russian Parliament, as expected, has lately recreated itself as the old Supreme Soviet, a body which snored through meetings as it rubber stamped whatever the supreme leader decreed. The new, expanded Russian law justifies future military interventions - this time not of Leninist regimes but to “protect” Russian citizens and shipping lines wherever they may be! 

Why the new law? The Russians are supposed to give up their Black Sea naval base to the Ukrainians when their lease runs out in 2017. But based on the new law and deja vu, its not hard to predict what Russian intentions are. Is it coincidence that a Russian Admiral is demanding new helicopter carrier ships? The new law also has strategic implications not only for the Ukraine and Georgia, but for Moldavia and the Baltic States, where many Russians live. 

Russia is also facing the starting up of the NABUCCO pipeline bringing oil from Central Asia and Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey to Europe. Thus, she has begun demanding the replacement of Georgia by more malleable Armenia as a transit route. Moreover, the Russians are intensely wooing the centuries-old enemy, Turkey, with deliveries of nuclear reactors. 

Overall, it’s not a pretty picture and surely Obama’s latest rocket “reset” of U.S.- Russian relations is already viewed in Moscow as weakness. Don’t be confused by talk about superior new U.S. technology. There is a quid pro quo. The endless war in Afghanistan and the need for the maintenance of our strategic northern entrance into that country through the Central Asian states was surely part of the deal. So, probably, is some sort of strategic cooperation on Iran. Disturbingly though, Obama’s announcement on the Czech Republic and Poland came at a time when Russia has chopped up Georgia and a Damocles sword hangs over the Ukraine. 

There is no need to appease Russia in the Caucasus and the Black Sea, the regions in which the British for 200 years resisted Russia’s political advances. A return to George Kennan’s assertive doctrine of containment is what is mandatory. This doesn’t mean going to war with Russia. We can still partner with them over strategic arms control, Al Qaeda, and terrorists in Chechnya and Afghanistan. But the time has come to show Russia that the new Putin Doctrine is the Humpty Dumpty Doctrine and trying to put its empire together again would just be another disaster for Russia. 

Dr. Jiri Valenta is a longstanding member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. Leni Valenta is the CEO of JVLV, Inc. They can be reached at JVLV.net


                                            MESSENGER ONLINE, Tbilisi Georgia


                                                 WHY IS STALIN STILL "ALIVE"?

By   Leni Friedman Valenta

                                                                              November 16, 2009

                                                          (A year before the Stalin statue was removed)


“Is it true,” I asked the cab driver, that a quarter of the former Soviet people still  admire Stalin?“  

“Yes,“ he said. “Stalin won the war. He was a strong leader.”  Unasked, he added, “Many people feel things were better under the USSR although there’s no going back now.” I said nothing.  On the way to Gori last August my husband and I ooked forward to further enlightenments at the Stalin Museum in the dictator's birthplace. 

The singular deficiency of this museum is, of course, world renowned -- zero exhibits on the major crimes of history's worst mass murderer.  True, there is Lenin's letter describing Stalin's unfitness to be General Secretary due to his rude, undiplomatic nature.  In the gift shop a female "Red soldier" was selling Stalin T shirts. The tour's finale was Stalin's death mask set like an icon in a solitary circle.

To an American this is shocking.  These days American's only debate whether Hitler or Stalin was worse.  I asked our guide, "Why do so many Georgians revere a bloody dictator?"  "It's mainly the older folks," she said. "The young don't know much about either Stalin or Lenin."  (We also heard this from guides at Stalin's Sochi dacha and Yerevan's military museum).  "Sometimes its necessary for a strong leader to take harsh measures to bring about the best results," she added.

Her comments relfected recent Russian polls which also show that views of Stalin became "far rosier" under Putin.  But her basic view that the "ends justify the means" is Soviet-speak, only furthering the nostalgic myth, seemingly shared by Vladimir Putin, that the dictator's "ends" largely benefitted the empire's people.  They did not!  Neither his terrifying police state with its arrests and torture of ordinary citizens, nor his introduction of a centralized, planned economy, nor the empire' huge allocations to the military-industrial Moloch at the expense of agriculture, helped the Soviet people.  It only starved them.  today's generation has either forgotten or never knew that Mikhail Gorbachev launched economic reforms because by 1985 the USSR, still basically anchored in the Stalinist system, was falling into an economic abyss.  Thereafter, in the maelstrom of transition, Yeltsin's attempted democratic revolution was gradually reversed.

As for Stalin "winning the Great Patriotic War," few would deny the massive contribution of the Soviet people, or Stalin's able stewardship.  However, Stalin, in complicity with Hitler, also helped to start the war by parsing and masticating Poland and the Baltics with the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.  Imagination also blows a fuse attempting to contemplate the new world order, had the Hitler-Stalin alliance remained intact.

Yet many Russians do abhor Stalin -- among them President Dmitri Medvedev.  In a recent video blog of a holiday devoted to victims of repression, he deplored both the ignorance of the young and the efforts of revisionist historians and museums to gloss over Stalins' crimes.  Unfortunately, his welcome tropism towards pluralisitc democracy and economic reform is overshadowed in the uneasy dual power arrangement with Putin.

The Stalin Museum should follow Medvedev's lead by exposing the rivers of blood that Stalin spilled. I have some starter suggestions for new exhibits -- and perhaps some intrepid Georgian history teachers can assign such topics to their students: The forced confessions, show trials and destruction of Stalin's closest colleagues and rivals.  The recreation of serfdom through forced collectivization.  The 18 million people stalin sent to the gulags.  The bombing of the village communes and wholesale starving of the peasant class.  The destruction of the Cossacks.  The deportation of various ethnic groups to Siberia in freezing cattle cars.  The hideous "Doctors' Plot" and planned pogrom of the Jews days before his death.  As a Jew myself, may I suggest new museum T-shirts bearing an X'd out Stalin with the holocaust slogan, "Never forget."

While visiting Gori, we interviewed residents bombed in the 2008 war with Ossetia during the latest eruption of the Russian imperial disease.  Amidst their tales of helicopters, bombs, tanks, deaths, destroyed homes and looted stores, we noted that the enormous statue of Gori's gory dictator was still standing in Stalin Square.  I was reminded that Russia's 1988-91 democratic movement was once largely powered by 'Memorial" an organization devoted to Stalin's victims. Is it possible Mr. Medvedev remembers too?

Georgia Tears Down Stalin Statue in Dictator's Home Town

Fox News; Published June 25, 2010



June 25: A statue of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin is dismantled at his home town of Gori, 50 miles west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, making way for a memorial to the fallen in the Russian-Georgian war of 2008.

Georgia on Friday removed a historic bronze statue of Joseph Stalin from his home town's main square in the dead of night, in a repudiation of the ex-Soviet republic's most infamous son.

Officials said the 20-foot statue would be moved to a local museum and replaced in the city's central square, which was bombed during Georgia's 2008 war with Russia, with a monument to victims of that conflict.

"We have taken the decision to remove the monument of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin from the central square of Gori and to build in its place a memorial to victims of the Soviet dictatorship and to those killed in the 2008 war," Culture Minister Nika Rurua told journalists.

"Stalin was a man who killed millions of innocent people, who killed the best representatives of not only Georgian society but the best people in many countries," he said. "I believe this decision was overdue."

Former Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs-turned former President of independent Georgia, discusses Jiri Valenta's essay, "No More Afghanistans?" It was published in a book the minister organized and also contributed to, entitled  Afghanistan:  One Year Later,Allied Publishers:  New Delhi, 1990. The discussion also concerned the situation in the Caucasus.  Said Shevardnadze, "It was easier to get involved in the Afghan conflict than to get out it." 


Research Paper 5/2008 The Sleep of Reason: The war on Georgia & Russia’s foreign policy – December 2008 The Sleep of Reason: The war on Georgia & Russia’s foreign policy – Yury E. Fedorov.  ​ https://www.amo.cz/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/amocz-RP-2008-5.pdf