Georgia: the dawn of Eurasia, where everything is changing

, by Ernesto Gallo, Giovanni Biava, Translated by Martina Spriano

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Georgia: the dawn of Eurasia, where everything is changing

Georgia is a small country, very proud of its traditions. It often had to stand up against powerful and ambitious neighbours. Throughout the centuries it has been disputed by Turks, Persians, Russians, while Mikheil Saak’ashvili, the aggressive hero of the Rose revolution (2003), put it into the US hands.

Today things are changing though: last Monday’s elections have been won by a new party called “Georgian Dream”, which is led by the pro-Russian eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Therefore, Russians are again on track.

Saak’ashvili graduated at the Columbia Law School and has powerful friends on the other shore of the Atlantic. He presented himself with straight forward and pro-western political programmes. Except for some achievements, he has gone through dangerous fields. The attempt to get Tbilisi into NATO and the military attack against South Ossetia (August 2008) led to the loss of Abkhazia and of South Ossetia itself, and to the definitive break-up of its relation with Moscow. The worsening of domestic problems also contributed to the defeat of his party, the United National Movement, and to the rise of forces close to Moscow.

The new strongman, Ivanishvili, has accumulated a huge private fortune: more than 6.5 billion dollars – almost half of the Georgian GDP –, the majority of which came from business made in Moscow during the Nineties. His grotesque compound over Tbilisi includes waterfalls, zoo, botanic gardens, and perhaps it hosts a certain number of protected species. However, Ivanishvili is not a mad man; he has already declared that he will visit Washington soon, where he has built a certain support over the years. Nevertheless, he is aware that his reference point is Moscow; reckless actions, as the ones made by his predecessor, could cost him dearly. Waiting for official results, from Moscow Medvedev has already declared to be willing to open a new dialogue with Georgia.

The European Union was also concerned by this situation, because Saak’ashvili’s Georgia asked to enter into the EU. But the EU remained a witness of the battle between pro-Western forces and Moscow’s friends: it contented itself with a role of guarantor of the election’s regularity. This was a reassuring for Georgia, but Brussels didn’t take any position in the affair, as usual. A pity, but also a political mistake, because Georgians looked at the EU as the alternative between the US intrusiveness and the Russian grip.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is gaining sympathies and consensus, much more than the international public opinion expected. And much more than Europe. On the one hand, some anti-US interests are at stake; on the other, Russia has more to offer – especially in terms of gas and oil – and it pursued a dexterous and intelligent diplomatic strategy, also thanks to an expert professional like the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov.

In the Middle East, Putin arrested the “Arab Spring” with the help of China. In the Pacific area, Moscow has come closer to Tokyo, and the Itochu group will contribute, together with Gazprom, to the realization of the South Stream, which involves also Italy and ENI. In the Barents Sea, where there could be huge oil reserves, Russia and Norway cooperate, leaving the US behind Putin might even be the first Russian leader to visit Pakistan, which has already been visited by Lavrov ; and all this lets envisage a great overall strategy on energy and on the transport of resources from the oilfields to the ocean.

As a framework to all this, Putin suggested the idea of a Eurasian Union, a vast politically and economically integrated area, that goes from the Polish border to Korea. Does he dream to be a new Gengiz Khan? Does he want to recreate the Soviet Union? None of the two. The target is economic and political, at the heart of which lie the energy resources, that these countries could properly extract and process. There are also the natural and agricultural resources and a well-rooted scientific and technological tradition. Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have already launched a unified market (January 2012).

Let’s not forget that Kazakhstan, a country wider than the whole Western Europe, and protective of its independence from Moscow, has recently strengthened its links with the latter, instead of the USA, as otherwise everybody expected. The Kazak Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, just to mention an important company, has a yearly turnover of around $ 8 billion , its headquarters are based in London and it runs business in four continents, especially in Africa. Do our European leaders think to deal with nomadic tribes from the steppe? Or maybe they just foresee to follow the American superpower?

Meanwhile, the USA remain silent. The election campaign has momentarily suspended many international issues, from the Syrian crisis to the European mess. From January on the political setting might be different. Even more so if Mitt Romney will win the elections. His rising in the polls and his TV success show that a part of Americans still aggressively lies on the right side.

Republicans would be merciless with Iran, China or the declining European economies. Already now it seems that the phantasmagorical ‘space shield’ may be built in southeast Asia and not in Europe any more, as especially Poland would like to. Whoever will win in Washington, Europe must get used to be more autonomous, and ready to fight for this.

It will not be easy. The EU is still prisoner of the financial markets and of its delays with the Spanish problem. Between 2012 and 2014 Madrid will need more than € 150 billion to refinance. Will the requested € 60 billion be enough for the banks? Or will the Iberian peninsula fall into a vicious circle similar to the Greek one? And what if Italy will be the next one...followed then by Germany?

These pains are in deep contrast with the rising of the Eurasian Union, which is moving its first steps following the European model. With a fairly evident difference though: in ‘Eurasia’ nobody talks about democratic institutions, at least not until now. The comparison is interesting, because some European countries, which feel betrayed by Brussels, are looking with renewed interest towards Moscow. There is Orban’s Hungary, which is within a hair’s breadth of Italy and Germany; there is Cyprus, that hosts some Russian oligarchs, and asked for a € 5 billion help to Moscow; there are Bulgaria, Romania and in particular Greece, which has historical economic and cultural links with Moscow.

After all, the Georgian case highlights that Putin’s Eurasia is gaining ground, while the American hubris and the European absence are losing it. Disappointed by Saak’ashvili’s ‘American dream’ and forgotten by the EU, Georgians are turning towards the pragmatic pro-Russian Ivanishvili. Europe could embody a democratic alternative. In the arena of emerging geopolitical powers, those who do not have power are nothing.

European ruling class does not take care of it, and risks to drag with generations of citizens and workers, and the very quality of our democracy.

1. The authors thank Vanna Pisa for the valuable research work 2. The article was initially published on Giovine Europa Now - Linkiesta (URL:

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