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ROSENBERG  How Far Will The New Russian Czar Go?
by Joel Rosenberg
[novelist] 10/5/06

A serious international crisis is brewing on Russia's southern border with Georgia, one that some Western analysts fear could lead to Russian military action against the fledgling democracy.

Tensions between the two countries have been running high since the 2003 "Rose Revolution" brought passionate pro-democracy leaders to power in Georgia eager to join NATO and remove all Russian military bases from Georgian soil. But the situation worsened dramatically last week when Georgia arrested four Russian military officers accused of spying.

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Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of THE LAST JIHAD (2002), THE LAST DAYS (2003), and THE EZEKIEL OPTION (2005), with more than one million copies in print. He previously served as a senior advisor to several U.S. and Israeli leaders, including Steve Forbes, Rush Limbaugh, former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky, and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has been interviewed on more than 300 radio and TV shows, including ABC's "Nightline," CBN's 700 Club, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, the Michael Reagan Show, the Rush Limbaugh Show and the Sean Hannity Show.. Website - [go to Rosenberg Index]

The Ezekiel Option

The Last Days

The Last Jihad


Russian President Vladimir Putin was furious. He immediately ordered a blockade of Georgia, cutting off all air, rail and road transportation and all postal deliveries between the two countries. He threatened to prevent Georgians working in Russia from wiring money back to relatives and has ordered Russian police to be rounding up and interrogating Georgian workers to see if their visas are legal and whether they are engaged in any "illegal activities." (Last year, an estimated $350 million was sent by Georgians in Russia back home, though some say the annual transfers may actually top $1 billion.) At the same time, Putin ordered the Russian Navy step up maneuvers in the Black Sea -- directly off the coast off Georgia -- actions that Georgian officials are calling hostile and provocative.

Georgia released the accused Russian officers yesterday, but Putin has adamantly refused to de-escalate the growing tensions, despite requests by the Bush administration and the European Union to do so immediately. Indeed, one top Russian official said today that even more economic sanctions could be imposed on Georgia soon, and Putin himself this morning warned the democrats in Tiblisi in no uncertain terms.

"I don't advise anyone to speak to Russia with the language of provocation and blackmail," Putin said bluntly. "I say this in reference to Georgia."

Putin has previously accused Georgia's leadership of engaging in "state terrorism" and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has linked Georgia's actions to influence from the United States and NATO, reports Agence France Presse.

Some context: On December 22, 2005, Vladimir Putin spoke to the Russian Security Council to outline a strategy to make Moscow an "energy superpower." Exactly one month later, two explosions ripped through pipelines carrying Russian oil to the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. The blasts effectively cut off Georgia's main supply of energy amidst a brutally cold winter. The Kremlin called the sabotage acts of terrorism, but Georgian President President Mikheil Saakashvili, top Georgian officials, and even a number of Western analysts were hardly convinced. They accused Russian intelligence of triggering the explosions to send Georgia a chilling message: don't join NATO, don't insist that Russia give up its military bases in Georgia, don't keep criticizing Putin as he re-centralizes power and rebuilds the Russian military, don't oppose Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization, stop calling for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to “internationalize” peacekeeping operations in the troubled southern Russian regions Abkhazia and Ossetia, and stop promoting pro-democracy movements throughout the former Soviet Union. (Russia had also just threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, and quadrupled the price.)

The pipelines were eventually fixed, and oil began flowing again, but tensions were never defused. "Russian-Georgian relations have deteriorated to the point that some Kremlin officials are seriously weighing a military operation, which they hope will hand Georgia a military defeat and topple President Saakashivili," wrote Heritage Foundation Russia expert Dr. Ariel Cohen in March. Cohen quoted one veteran Russian foreign policy as saying, "It’s springtime -- a time to start a war with Georgia." Cohen noted that Kremlin political strategist Gleb Pavlovsky actually called for Saakashvili to be assassinated, and that Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party issued a statement in February statement saying the call for assassination should be seen as a warning to the Georgian leader. “Saakashvili is out of control, and needs to be brought to heel,” said one Kremlin insider, quoted by Cohen. “If Georgians keep quiet and behave, we may even tolerate their joining NATO, but if they are loud, we’ll take measures.”

Has that moment now come? Putin's latest actions are certainly further evidence that he is remaking himself into a modern Russian Czar, intent on restoring the glory of Mother Russia. He doesn't want democracy to spread through the former Soviet Union. Nor does he want to give up military bases in Georgia, Central Asia or elsewhere. To the contrary, as I detail in Epicenter, Putin is trying to build new economic and military alliances with authoritarian post-Soviet regimes (in Belarus and Kazakhstan, for example) and with radical Islamic terrorist regimes such as Iran and Syria. Moreover, Putin is perfectly happy to impose economic sanctions on a democracy like Georgia to keep it from joining the West, yet he admantly refuses to impose such sanctions on the fascist regime in Iran that is directly threatening the West.

How far with Czar Putin go? Will he actually use military force? This remains to be seen. But let's be clear: while I personally don't believe the Bush administration is in a "state of denial" about the difficulties we face in Iraq, the phrase does seem to apply to the administration's assessment of Mr. Putin. The hard cold truth is this: the Russian leader is not a friend of the United States or the West. Nor is he a partner for peace in the Middle East. Under Putin's leadership, Russia has joined the "Axis of Evil." He is arming our worst enemies. He is threatening new democracies. He needs to be confronted firmly and decisively, and soon. CRO


copyright 2006 - Joel Rosenberg



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