SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University.
LUIS LENCQUESAING: Good evening. Welcome. I'm Luis de Lencquesaing, the president of the Cornell International Affairs Review and an undergraduate in the College of Arts and Sciences. Thank you so much for being here tonight. And we're very impressed by the number of you guys that have come out on such a beautiful day with the blue sky and the sun to be in this room and listen about events that are happening half the world away. So thank you very much for being here. We're honored by your presence, and we're sorry that a lot of you are going to have to stand tonight.
Let me briefly introduce the Cornell International Affairs Review to you. We founded this organization last year with the objective of promoting an international, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational perspective on foreign policy. So we believe that bringing together the visions of policymakers, the views of students young and full of idealism, and the approach of scholars and professors can offer tools to better analyze the world in all its complexities and nuances and opens our minds to new possibilities and to new solutions.
So these abstract concepts became concrete accomplishments with the publication in the fall 2007 and in the spring 2008 of our two first issues. The mix of students in those issues from various universities across the world with policymakers like French foreign affairs ministers, with President Skorton, with professors and academics from Cornell and other universities-- this mix, we believe, offers an interesting perspective on world issues.
Another pillar of our action here on this campus is the organization of forums and panel discussions, as we are having today. We have in the past hosted a French banker speaking in the A.D. White House on the challenges of the European financial integration. We have hosted Professor Peter Katzenstein and Professor Hubert Zimmerman last February speaking on global politics-- will regions count in the 21st century? And we are hosting today Professor Kakabadze and Professor Bunce on the crisis in Georgia.
And finally, our organization seeks to forge a network of engaged students that come from various colleges across the university and study engineering as much as government as much as agriculture but that all feel that their citizen duty is to keep informed on what is happening in the broad world outside of Ithaca. And we believe that creating a network like this through social events, through bringing them to academic talks, and speaking after together at the following receptions is an interesting aspect of our Cornell career.
Finally, we hope that our participation in the Cornell academic world can contribute in the Cornell academic life, can contribute to raise the academic vibrancy of our campus. Briefly, I would like to thank the editorial board of the Cornell International Affairs Review for their commitment to our mission and for putting together this panel today. In alphabetical order-- Mitch Alva, Gracielle Cabungcal, Brian Druyan, Sarah Eversman, Dening Kong, Cecilia de Lencquesaing, Francis Pedraza, and Ryan Spagnolo.
I would like to thank the university, and its different departments, and its administrators, in particular President Skorton, Vice Presidents Susan Murphy and Tommy Bruce, and Vice Provost Michele Moody-Adams, for believing in our project and encouraging us to take initiatives. I would like to thank as well the alumni network for giving back to students and helping us accomplish our objective on campus, in particular Cornell trustee Craig Yunker.
And I would like to thank last but not least our faculty advisor, Professor Brann, and our board of advisors, professors Katzenstein, Kramnik, Lee, Tannenwald, van de Walle, Way, and Zimmermann, for accompanying us in our adventure.
Let me now introduce the theme of today's panel. In the context of rising international challenges, such as the economic downturn, the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the nuclear crisis in Iran and North Korea, global warming, the food shortage, the energy crisis, and the reemergence of great powers, in the context of the retreat of the hyperpower, to use Hubert Védrine's word about America, about the United States, this retreat from the international scene implied by the November 4 elections, in the context of an unstable and unclear world order, a war broke out in Europe.
August 8, 2008-- the Olympics start in China. It is a beautiful day in the Caucasus. The Russian tanks enter Georgia, a former republic of the USSR, bringing with them tragedy and despair. In a few days of intense combat, they defeat their tiny neighbor.
And Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president who had the open ambition of joining NATO and the European Union, had ordered an attack on the rebels in the separatist province of South Ossetia to reinstate Georgian territorial integrity. Young, impulsive, sometimes authoritarian, this graduate of Columbia Law School who loves America and speaks French-- which is something I like to underline, being French myself--
--fell into Vladimir Putin's trap, the former president and now prime minister of Russia. And the hawks in the Kremlin used this pretext to reaffirm Russian power, to reinstate their sphere of influence, and to signal to the Americans to get out of their backyard.
Now, it is crucial to understand the implications of this aggression. It is not only something happening very far away. It's not only a problem of what are the Georgians going to do, and what are the Russians going to do, and what type of relations they will have. It is a problem because it questions the dynamics of the international order and how the international order will be structured in the 21st century.
Indeed, the crisis posed the question of the survival of the post-Cold War order. Is this conflict simply a momentary attitude of Russia, a localized accident, a response to some provocation? Or does it signal that Russia seeks to re-emerge on the international stage as a revisionist power, rejecting the established norms, and wishing to reshape its relations with the West, and reconquer its near abroad?
This crisis also illustrates the importance of the energy challenges that we are facing today. And we can see it every day when we fill up our tanks of gas, but we can also see it every day in the State Department, I'm sure, because the strategical importance of the regions that produce the oil has now gone up significantly. And Russia, pumped up by the petrodollars of its immense resources in oil and gas, wants to use these resources for political objectives.
And its presence in Georgia and the Caucasus, which is a main route to bring the oil from the Caspian out to Europe, outside of the Russian sphere, their presence there now means that perhaps they wish to block all of this region and control most of the energy routes that go to Europe from the Eastern world. So there is a dual challenge for the West of keeping a collaboration with Russia and securing its interests and a safe approvisionnement of oil-- the safe approvisionnement of oil.
So what answer in this context for the US administration, what answers should the West, should the European Union give to this crisis? One thing is certain. War still exists. And war still exists even in Europe.
Now, is this the beginning of a new Cold War? Are we in 1914? Are we in 1878, when tensions between Russia and Turkey nearly brought the world to war but instead led to the Berlin Conference and the establishment of a stable world order? We're at the crossroads, and these next weeks are going to be very important. As we can see, this morning, the Russians are sending their strategic bombers to Venezuela and these type of provocations.
So we will explore these questions with Valerie Bunce, the Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government at Cornell, and Irakli Kakabadze, a well-known Georgian political figure, author, and visiting scholar at the Government Department of Cornell. The Cornell International Affairs Review is honored to have them here tonight. Thank you very much and join me in welcoming Professor Bunts and Irakli Kakabadze.
VALERIE BUNCE: Typically, he left nothing for us to say.
But we will soldier on. We will try to come up with something. What Irakli and I have decided to do is to divide our comments since we want them to be relatively brief since we assume there are going to be many questions. I will be looking, in effect, backwards, trying to look at the causes of the conflict. And Irakli will be looking forward in a somewhat optimistic way, I think, about some potential for resolving the conflict.
So let me begin by just saying and posing a straightforward question. And that is, why did war break out in August 2008 between Georgia and Russia with the primary focus of that conflict on the secessionist region in the northern part of Georgia that abuts Russia, South Ossetia, but also extending to Georgia proper as well as involving Russian troops in another secessionist region, that is, Abkhazia?
There's a simple answer to this question, and that is that this is a frozen conflict. And by frozen conflicts, we mean conflicts where there were hostilities between a central state and a secessionist region. The conflict stopped through various peacekeeping measures, but the issue on the table was never resolved, that is, the secessionist region is neither in the state nor is it able to establish either independence or join another state. So it's in limbo.
These kinds of conflicts always have the potential of reigniting, as we saw in the case, for example, of Kosovo with respect to Serbia, as we may see, I'm afraid, very soon in Nagorno-Karabakh, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. And we may also see something of this going on as well in several other frozen conflicts in the former communist world, such as in Transdniester in Moldova as well as in Crimea, a supposedly "solved" frozen conflict in Ukraine.
These conflicts always have an opportunity to, in effect, reignite it any time, especially when they become internationalized, that is to say, when they are no longer purely-- although they usually weren't even in many cases-- purely a struggle between a central state and a region that wants to leave the state. However, I think a more detailed answer would have to focus on two stages in what happened.
The first stage can be summarized as the question, why did the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, decide to use military force against the capital of South Ossetia and thereby try to bring that secessionist region back into the Georgian state? This was the event that set off a chain reaction.
There are many reasons, but they certainly cannot be reduced to a depiction or a storyline that says, here we have a struggle of a democratic leader trying to reintegrate his state. It simply isn't that simple. And I think, as Luis was hinting at, a sometimes authoritarian leader as well. Maybe "often" is perhaps a better word for Saakashvili.
So why did he do this? And I think there are a number of explanations. I'm going to start with some obvious ones, and then I'm going to get into some more complicated ones, in a sense. First of all, Saakashvili, since he came to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003, has dedicated himself to the project of reintegrating the Georgian state.
Now, one of the problems, I think, that he has faced is that his first move in this regard was the easiest case, that is, Adjara. And it was relatively easy given the sentiments of the people who resided within that region and the rather terrible character of the guy who was running the place as a personal fiefdom, Abashidze. It was relatively easy to bring Adjara back into Georgia.
I think he mistakenly thought that it was going to be easy to do the same for the other two secessionist regions, that is, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But he had dedicated himself to this idea, and he had made it a major platform in both of his presidential campaigns. Moreover, he had-- of course, we know there's quite a gap between what someone says during the campaign and what someone practices after. And if certain people win the election, we hope that's true.
But at any rate-- with that aside to American politics briefly-- when he came to power, Saakashvili immediately drew a parallel between himself and Kemal Ataturk. And he used that analogy many times. He's used it many times. And one of the implications of that analogy and the way he discussed it is that he was going to pull Georgia kicking and screaming into the West, into democracy, into liberalism, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, into NATO, into the European Union, and the like, and the other institutions that serve as a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for being part of the West.
So he dedicated himself to reintegration of Georgia. He had very little to show for that, in fact. Adjara happened like that. [SNAPS FINGERS] And then there were these constant struggles thereafter with the other two secessionist regions. He was also frustrated by the peace process that had been structured in these frozen conflicts that have been frozen since the early 1990s, in part because they involved Russian troops, which he thought-- correctly-- was somewhat like the fox guarding the chicken coop.
And so he was also trying to and he had made a number of arguments on the international stage about trying to reframe the peace process in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and he'd failed to do so. It was very sticky. The original structure of that peace process was very, very sticky and was successful at peace but was not successful at resolving the issues on the table in terms of territorial sovereignty.
Now, also, Saakashvili has tied himself very close to George W. Bush and, for that matter, Dick Cheney, as you might have imagined given how much they go there. And in certain points in Bush's term, Georgia was the only place he could go on this planet where he was assured a very, very positive welcome. And so with Bush coming to the end of the term, there was some pressure for him to act.
Another issue is that he was-- another point that I think is very critical is that if you review the administration of Saakashvili, he is a person who makes extraordinarily rash decisions with very little and very narrow consultation before he acts very quickly. This is also part of the Ataturk model that he so appreciates.
At the same time, it's clear that Saakashvili probably overestimated the willingness and the ability of the West to back him up and counter the Russians. Now, I am frankly less convinced by this, and I want to present another explanation that perhaps is too influenced by my expertise on the Balkans. And that is looking at the example of Kosovo, one of the problems that the Serbian leadership had after their revolution in 2000, when they finally defeated Milosevic, was the problem of trying to reintegrate the Serbian state, which also faced problems, of course, in Montenegro as well as in Kosovo.
The problem for the Serbian leadership, in my view, was that they knew Kosovo was gone. The question was how to package that situation in a way that would sell well domestically. And so for Tadic, who is a liberal and who was just re-elected by the skin of his teeth in Serbia, the issue was that if the West took away Kosovo, that was much better than Serbia losing Kosovo.
And so one of the things that I would suggest as a possible hypothesis-- I really don't know if this is the case-- but my guess is that Saakashvili knew that Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia were gone insofar as the territorial integrity of the Georgian state was concerned. And the issue was to what degree, in effect, he would not be held responsible for what was consolidating on the ground, that is to say, regions that were in virtually no way except through various underground trafficking procedures integrated to the Georgian state.
So these were some of the issues, I think. These were some of the reasons behind why Saakashvili took the action he did. It still, aside from all these reasons, is a remarkably risky venture that he made. And there's no question about that.
So then we turn to the case of the Russians. Why did the Russians use force and occupy Georgia? I think here there's several different reasons that are critical. One is that we don't have time to get into the backdrop of the continuing dance that went on between Saakashvili and Putin for two years before this conflict actually broke out.
But the fact is that this was a classic example of escalating tensions between the two, sometimes, in effect, taking on rather trivial forms, such as the Russian decision to place an embargo on all Georgian wines, which was tragic for the Russians. But on the other hand--
--there were series of actions that they all took, that the Russians took to signal as did the Georgians that they were on opposite sides. And this is where the issue of the Cold War as well as the issue of the internationalization of this conflict really comes into play, because the second reason-- and I think the most important reason why the Russians did what they did-- is because they're very angry at the West and the United States in particular.
What they have experienced, what they have seen is the expansion of NATO. What does NATO exist for? NATO, obviously, originally was a security organization in order to defend the West against the Soviet Union.
But NATO has expanded to next door to Russia. Also Georgia, and Azerbaijan as well, and other countries in the post-Soviet space are members of the new European Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union. If you spend any time in Tbilisi, you see the European Union everywhere.
And at the same time, they had suffered a number of what they perceived to be not just defeats in their zone of influence but also threats to the sovereignty and their view of the Russian state. Here I think it's important to step back and say that a turning point in this was that there was a whole wave-- don't get me started on this, because it's what I work on-- but there was a whole wave of electoral revolutions that took place in the post-communist world. And these elections were critical because they occurred in what are called competitive authoritarian regimes, that is, authoritarian regimes that still allow some kind of competition.
What happened is that the dictators got defeated. And this led to the defeat of Milosevic in Serbia in 2000. But the process started in East Central Europe in the Balkans, and then it moved to the post-Soviet space. And at that point, the Russians got extremely nervous because these were not just domestic efforts to unseat dictators.
They were transnational coalitions assisted by the United States in particular dedicated to establishing democracy but, from the Russian perspective, dedicated to getting rid of their allies, to bringing people who were not their allies to power, because after all, what happened after these electoral revolutions-- Saakashvili comes to power in Georgia and allies with the United States. Yushchenko comes to power in Ukraine in 2004 and begins talking with the European Union about joining the EU, about joining NATO and the like.
So from the Russian perspective, these elections showed that the United States in particular was willing and able to intervene in the Russian zone of influence and that it was extraordinarily threatening not just that there was this democracy promotion apparatus that was surrounding, in effect, Russia-- and also operating within Russia, which Putin has cut back on substantially while he was president, the last four years in particular.
But what was also disturbing is that it was changing alliances such that Georgia was in the pocket of the United States. This is the way the Russians have characterized it. Ukraine was moving towards the United States, and moreover, the same thing was true actually of Voronin in Moldova, who was, in fact, the head of the Communist Party, who was also moving towards the West. And there were other examples that I can give.
The missile defense system decisions in staging these and stationing these in both the Czech Republic and in Poland-- one can come up with any number of examples. The point is that there was an issue here for the Russians-- very much for the Russian leadership-- of the substantial threats imposed by countries like Georgia. Moreover, Georgia is in the Caucasus. The Caucasus is an area of great instability within the Russian Federation, a big problem in terms of trying to stabilize the Russian boundaries itself.
And then there was Kosovo, which, of course, the American recognition of Kosovo was, to put it mildly, very unpopular in Russia. It set a precedent that I'm afraid we're going to have to live with for a very long time. And it angered the Russians greatly.
And they responded to all these things, in effect, by wanting to and committing themselves to reestablishing more control over what they call the "near abroad," that is, the former republics on their borders that once made up the Soviet Union. And indeed, they've tightened their alliances very much with all of the Central Asian states. They've tightened their alliances with Belarus in particular and some other states within the post-Soviet space.
Now, related to this is another issue-- and I'll close with this-- in terms of influencing Russian decision-making. And that is that in his recent discussion of laying out the principles behind Russian foreign policy, the new Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, listed a whole series of principles, but respect for national sovereignty was not one of them.
One can argue that the Russians have been moving towards a very interesting and self-serving definition of sovereignty, which is what I would call regional sovereignty. It's not just about the Russian state. It's about the post-Soviet space, that is, the region as a whole and Russia's right to defend that area against Western threats.
So what we have is anger. Saakashvili provided opportunity. And we also have enormous capability. In addition to that, we have a final thing. It's very clear-- I think everyone knows from reading the newspaper-- that one of Putin's goals is to re-establish Russian power in the international system.
And as John Mearsheimer wrote in a book some years ago-- and I think the point was sometimes lost in the reviews of the book-- all great powers build their power on regional basis. That's what they do. That is stage one of the process.
And so, in effect, the crisis in Georgia, I would argue, is a situation in which two authoritarian leaders-- although Saakashvili is democratically elected, although he faces, until this crisis, less and less popular support, although now you have a rally around the flag phenomenon similar to what we've seen in the United States when American presidents engage in military actions abroad-- but what you have is two presidents that, in effect, needed each other and had the goals and the conflicting interests such that it led to a military conflict. Thank you.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Hello, and excuse me if I get very nervous, because it's a big audience here. And it's very difficult to add a lot of words to a very knowledgeable presentation that Valerie just gave. And Luis, I hope that you will become a French president, like Sarkozy right now is running around there. And certainly, you look much better than Sarkozy. But--
--in a way that how you can make this work really. France is becoming very important, I think. And according to what I'm going to talk about, even with EU, its role is going to be strengthening.
Well, I'll tell you a little bit about the background of myself, and our president, Misha, as they call him, as everyone calls him, and of the conflict a little bit. But I will be talking more about the future, because Valerie made a very good case. I completely agree with her analysis, and it's very comprehensive.
Well, I should tell you that I have participated in Rose Revolution. And I still think that we have done a great job. It was a nonviolent event. And I am a professional hippie with conflict resolution being my degree. So I do believe only in nonviolent ways of resolving conflicts.
And during the Rose Revolution, which I think was really a very good event, Georgians managed to have social transformation from a pretty corrupt power of Shevardnadze to a different power. Now, here comes another question too. What kind of power we really, really transferred after the events of November 2003?
Well, I was very close friends with lots of people who are in contemporary government, especially with the deceased prime minister Zurab Zhvania. We have been friends since he formed the Green Party of Georgia. He's been a very, very progressive person. Unfortunately, he died in very unexplained circumstances in February 2005.
But he was the one who always backed the peace zones and peace solutions together with the Minister of Conflict Resolution, which we had until very recently, until about two years ago, when Mr. Saakashvili called it Reintegration Ministry, which really was a very dumb decision-- another one of his.
So when the Rose Revolution was done, in about one week, we had a discussion about South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And Zurab Zhvania and Cabinet of Ministers was there. And he invited us, the members of so-called Civil Disobedience Committee. And actually, I'm leaving this stuff about the Rose Revolution, my writing about the Rose Revolution here with Luis. So I guess you can make copies and all of this stuff. It's about how Rose Revolution went and all this.
And we had a dialogue about Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And that's where first we were discussing the project of nonviolence zones there. Of course, there are lots of people who don't believe in nonviolence, unfortunately. We hope the number will diminish and people who will come to the Gandhian perspective will increase. But that's a long way and very hard work. We understand that, especially with the situation today in the world.
So Zurab Zhvania was very positive about the peace agenda. But about two weeks after that, in December of 2004, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, first guy, actually, from the United States, visited Georgia. Mr. Saakashvili, or Misha, if you want to call him, was not a president yet. But everyone knew that he held presidency in his hand.
Even though Nino Burjanadze was officially transitional president, Misha already was almost elected. After revolution, he was the most populist popular guy with the slogans about "I'm going to unite Georgia, and I'm going to fight for you guys" and all this stuff.
And after the conversation with Mr. Rumsfeld, Misha came out very emboldened. And he started talking neoconservative. And my Texan accent doesn't work very well.
It's a Georgian accent. But Misha changed from a guy who was fighting for civil rights and who was really fighting for social justice in the country. [SNAPS FINGERS] One evening, and he changed. And he started to talk about Georgia's strong integration into the NATO. Not European Union, not civilized democratic world as such-- there are great things about the Western society that I feel, myself, part of it and I want to be whole Georgia part of it, which is a great culture and great political culture of democracy and allowing disagreements, all of those things.
No. There was talk about military alliance NATO. And then his rhetoric really switched to saying that we are going to defeat Russia. That was exactly the rhetoric that he started to talk. So him and I were pretty good friends before the revolution. I have seen him after revolution just once.
Before revolution, he's been to my place. If I was in a [INAUDIBLE], I would say with his mistress together, who is my very good friend. And I'm not going to sell this story for $10,000 because I've seen him many times.
But the whole point is he just changed 180 degrees, and he started to talk militaristic all the time. And he then started to arrest some people who disagreed with him on different reasons, like Shalva Ramishvili, who was a TV anchor for TV 202. The investigation of Zurab Zhvania's death did not go anywhere. And then lots of people started to disappear. Lots of people were starting to die. And then we found out those people were killed by police, people who looked like death squads in Latin America.
And then when we started to voice our protest against him already, then lots of us were arrested also. I was in prison for about four times in 2006 before I was basically forced to leave. But I'm not the main point here. The main point here is that unfortunately Georgia from 2004 became, in a way, ruled by military industrial complex. I wouldn't say that Russia is not ruled by military industrial complex. That will be false.
Well, from 2004, the confrontation between Russia and, I would say, NATO around Georgia started to escalate little by little. And I have done some work about 10 years ago, and I'm leaving this work here too for Susan Eisenhower about the Russian peacekeepers. The Russian peacekeepers were never about peacekeeping. They were about keeping both pieces, and we know all the imperialist pattern of that.
And unfortunately, Russia has not found a way to get out of imperialist and militarist thinking, even today with Mr. Medvedev there. But what I want to say is that Susan Eisenhower's grandfather, [INAUDIBLE]-- Valerie talked so eloquently about Georgian history. And I will talk a little bit about US history with Dwight Eisenhower, who was a Republican president who was an incredible guy who said that the biggest enemy of humanity is a military industrial complex.
Fortunately here, this is a very, very small undercurrent, which you wouldn't see in Washington Post, or New York Times, or other papers. But it plays a very big role, because military industrial complex has made a lot of money in Georgia throughout the last five years. Not just in Georgia-- in Russia too, both of those places.
And what happens is that this new cold war was building up with Saakashvili and Putin feeding each other. One would say, I will defeat you. And we have all these debates about who will defeat whom. I will crush you. And we will crush you. Once, even Misha said such a crazy thing that one Polish battalion is able to defeat whole Russian army--
--and which Putin got really, really, really mad. And he said, no, this is not-- and then Polish ambassador to Moscow, he was, of course, forced to say something. And he said, no, no. I guess president of Georgia joked, because we are not superpower.
That was about 2005. And Misha started to say those insane things. I mean, you've seen him already. I mean, when he appears-- this is a very talented person, I should tell you. I mean, maybe Putin is too. But Misha can talk. He is a PR animal. I mean, he can charm you in a moment, and lots of women fall in love with him and even lots of men lots of times.
No, but the whole point is really where his policy was going all this time. It was the military. They reduced the USAID. The Bush administration has reduced the civil society help. Instead of civil society help, we had military help.
Of course, Mr. Rumsfeld needed these so-called new democracies to support in Iraq because the old democracies, like France, did not. So that was one good reason for my favorite people, neoconservatives, to declare that Georgia and Uzbekistan are new democracies. And then, of course, France is not a democracy because it was against the Iraqi war.
But the whole point-- I do think here the situation we have with the neoconservatives in America and neoconservatives in Russia, both want to go back to the '80s, the 1980's. There's detente, where realpolitik was there and both military industrial complexes were making a lot of money scaring each population, each other. And there was a lot of money made by all these companies.
In Russia, it's even more lucrative, believe me, because it's in the hands of state. So Mr. Putin gets about 100% of military sales, not just to Venezuela but to all these illegitimate sales to the world. But they tend not to talk about it. This is taboo. Since Mr. Eisenhower talks about it, they will say, you are crazy if you talk about these military sales. Well, last I heard, they're making more money than drugs and prostitution together. But they don't talk about it.
So this whole conflict between neoconservatives in Russia and in the United States, I don't think it's a Georgian-Russian war because this is conflict between the United States and Russia. It manifested in Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Started with both sides feeding each other off, which is really interesting.
And Mr. Putin was the one who really openly supported Mr. Bush in his elections in 2004, if you remember this. There are in the press he and Chinese leader were the only two world leaders who supported Bush against John Kerry. But that's beside the point.
Now I want to move towards a more optimistic vision that certainly doesn't belong just to me, but I really share it. And I belong to a school of thought that is called nonviolence. I do think that people like Gandhi, and Václav Havel, and Nelson Mandela were really the greatest politicians, not the ones who went to the wars but ones who did not go to the wars, because not going to the wars really requires much more courage than going to the wars.
Well, for Georgia, we have, with the help of former US ambassador to the UN disarmament talks, John McDonald-- and I'm very proud to have been working with him for the last six years at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy. I was chief of his South Caucasus Bureau. We proposed the idea of peace zones.
We were working with the State Department, Matt [INAUDIBLE]. We were working with Georgian government. We tried to communicate with the Russians even but didn't succeed, unfortunately. The Russians still have a problem with the word "peace." But I think that it will start working.
And then we worked with Abkhaz and South Ossetians, who were actually very, very enthusiastic about this concept. Now, I'm leaving some copies of this here. I won't take too much of your time. But I just want to underline how it is. It is not a concept that basically relies upon a force. It's a concept of demilitarized zone but not just demilitarized zone as we have between South and North Korea. This is not it.
It's a violence-free zone. And the violence-free zone is enforced either by UN or international organization. There are no military alliances involved. Right now, the whole point-- in the Caucasus right now, whether or not we want to say this is Georgian-Russian or South Ossetian-Georgian, this is a conflict between NATO and Russia. I mean, we need to face this fact. And this is a new reality. Unfortunately, my country became a first experimental role on that place because of our president's actions.
But what we see as a solution-- and it's not late right now. I hope it's not late. And Mr. Sarkozy and European Union, I think, can do a lot for that, to have a non-military zone. And actually, we are leaving this with you, and you can just multiply. I'm not going to talk a lot about this. This is implementable mechanism.
Mr. Óscar Arias, a very good example, president of Costa Rica, has done a wonderful job with demilitarizing his own country. And he is not in a better zone. Another example is Peru-Ecuador, their border dispute from 1996 and '98. We have a very good solution to that problem. And it was actually advocated by Dr. Johan Galtung, whom we are trying to invite here by the spring of next year about the peace zones. He's the founder of the Oslo Peace institute.
And there are a number of other peace zones, in Philippines and other places. And UN has the structure that deals with these zones. So this is existing structure as well as militaries. So right now, the idea is to have peace zones in Abkhazia, South Ossetia under the patronage of the European Union.
It's the philosopher's name, Bernard Levin, great guy, actually. I read his article. I think Mr. Sarkozy's mediation right now, why is it good? Because it's in between. It's not completely Russia or United States. It's more neutral.
I do believe it's much better for the national interest for United States not to go overstretched. And I feel like a patriot of this country too because this country had me in a very troubled times, and I love this country. And I think this is the greatest country in the world-- still, with all the neoconservatives. It's country of Bob Dylan and lots of other great people.
And I certainly hope that peaceful guys will win the election. You can assume they are. But the whole point is basically that peace zone is very good for the national interests of the United States because by peace zones will enable the Western energy routes to be there. The oil that comes from Azerbaijan could go there, and pass through Europe, and be sold to United States and other places.
So BP would not lose their $10 billion investment in Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan. And it will be also possible to transport the Turkmen and other oil to find alternate routes to Europe too, because Europe now is also interested in alternate routes.
But Russia will be more secure because Russians have this idea. And right now I feel very bitter about Russians. You can understand. My relatives are there, and my wife is right now. They're investigating all these horrors committed by Russians. And there are lots of people killed, murdered, raped. And Russians need to, as Misha said, get the hell out of there.
But on the other hand, we just need to consider that they're not going to withdraw like this, because they think NATO is going to come and take their place. So this is a zero sum game. Russians are not going to lose that game. The whole point is to have a win-win solution.
So NATO is not a response to there. Response is European Union. It's overseeing, coming in, and America and Russia both have good relationship with Georgia and both get out of it best they can. And I think energy project on the one hand and military security for Russia is the other one, considering those realpolitik implications.
Now, I do think that for today's world, one point in which I agree with neoconservatives-- there is only one point-- is that the old world order cannot really stand there. We cannot have this divided world. And Mr. Kissinger and all these other guys, I think their theory, maybe it was good in 1970s when they made this pact with China and Soviet Union. But now there is no Soviet Union, and there's different China.
The imperialism needs to go down, and that's where I start to differ with neoconservatives is that the national Darwinism needs to give away to more equal relationship and more equal United Nations Security Councils and et cetera, et cetera. And that is possible with the collective work for peace with the new mechanisms.
And mechanisms like Russian military or NATO are old, I do think. And right now, I think France and European Union are in a unique position. They can create in the Caucasus together with the United States, and Russia, and China-- they can create a new mechanism of a peace zone that could work. And if that works in Georgia, then I can promise you it will work anywhere else. Georgians are very crazy people.
So that's what I wanted to say.
MITCHELL ALVA: Thanks so much for those truly enlightening remarks. We have a little time for questions. So if you want to raise your hands, I'll be happy to call on you. Two things-- first of all, please stay brief because I'm sure there'll be plenty of questions, and also speak loudly and clearly so the microphones can pick it up. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much for your comments. There was something that--
VALERIE BUNCE: Can you stand up? That would be really helpful.
AUDIENCE: Oh. Thank you very much for your comments. There was something that both of you touched on, but I'd like to hear more about. Actually, in the months leading up to the invasion of Georgia, there were two big news stories that came across in the financial news. One is the problems the mining corporation had in Russia.
Unlike the case with Khodorkovsky, it seems like the CEO of that company was not trying to get political, but they were having some problems with the authorities there. And then also, the problems with BP, where one of their executives basically had to almost flee the country because of pressure. So can you tell us what exactly is happening within Russia, whether this war is, in part, motivated by domestic interests, consolidating economic and political power within Russia, and what that might mean as far as the ability to find someone who is both in power and rationally motivated to negotiate with in Russia?
VALERIE BUNCE: Wow. I'll start. Shall I start?
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Sure.
VALERIE BUNCE: There are, of course, important economic interests here, because, in fact, Georgia represents and through the BTC pipeline and other actions alternative energy sources. And the Europeans are very eager to come up with more diversification of energy products.
That said, I think there are economic factors. And certainly one of the most striking aspects of the Putin years has been the consolidation of economic resources in the hands of the government in combination with friends of the government or direct ownership. Russia began the transition with a very favorable situation in terms of private ownership of energy assets. That's gone.
And that consolidation of power and consolidation of economic resources is part of Putin's plan. And when you mention Khodorkovsky, one of the issues that happened there is that he was playing politics. And the deal was, I'll leave you alone if you go along with the Kremlin. But if you don't, I may kill you, or I'll put you in jail. But I especially do not want major players, the millionaires and billionaires, to participate in politics, especially to challenge Putin's power.
So I don't want to go as far down the road as maybe you want me to go in terms of saying this is all about reestablishment of economic interests and of a petrol state, in effect. But I will say that part and parcel of Putin's argument, in my view, is that I'm going to consolidate the Russian state. I'm going to consolidate economic resources within the Russian state, and I want to use that as a springboard for international influence. And it turns out that Georgia was just sitting there, ready for that kind of opportunity to be played out. Do you want to--
I basically agree with you.
MITCHELL ALVA: Professor Case.
AUDIENCE: What are the chance of-- I mean, both of you paint the conflict in such terms that it seems as though Russia is a winner in the end, that it gets something out of it. And I'm wondering what are the chances that this could backfire, in terms of, let's say, separatist movements within--
VALERIE BUNCE: This is the question you always want someone. Thank you, Holly.
AUDIENCE: (LAUGHING) I know.
VALERIE BUNCE: [LAUGHS] This is a planted question. Holly and I talked beforehand about this. I think that the danger of reacting in the very short term to these events is going to miss this precise point of how this is going to play out. For example, Ukraine is now with the West. And the Ukraine was really the most important electoral shift to the Russians. They thought they bought that election, and it turns out they didn't. And they have shoved, in effect, Ukraine over to the West.
Interesting as well that alliances that Russia has forged with China through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, where Venezuela is an observer of it, but Chávez, Putin, the Chinese leadership, and leaders of many of the Central Asian states, which are original members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, they just had a meeting. And only Kazakhstan, as far as I know, has said, oh, that's great Russia. You go. You go there.
The rest are going, oh my god. This is a dangerous ally to have. If it's Russia today, it will be Kyrgyzstan tomorrow, et cetera. And, what will the Russians be doing in Xinjiang next? Et cetera.
So I think that the danger for Russian interests-- and I've seen this happen over and over again-- Putin overplays his hand and, I think, lets loose very counter behaviors to what he wanted. He tried this when the Belurusian leader, Lukashenko-- a real charmer if there ever was one-- was starting to flirt a little with the West, although very indirectly. And Putin started raising the energy prices like crazy. And that led to a series of counter-reactions. So the problem is that Russia, if I might say so-- Russian strategy lacks a certain kind of subtlety.
And subtlety allows exit strategies, allows softening, allows attention to specific kinds of conditions. And so I think that's one issue. The second issue, there was an article in The Times today. [INAUDIBLE] can say more about this. But in the battle of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there were multiple secessionist regions within the Russian Federation, as you know, and one of them was Tatarstan.
Now, the leader of Tatarstan, Shaimiev, just played it brilliantly and managed to establish substantial autonomy without getting bombed back to the Stone Age, like Chechnya. But now this opens up a whole series of questions for secessionist regions. Voronin, as I said, and Moldova, and the Transdniester crisis-- I think Voronin is rushing to the West.
And so I think that the Russian strategy of showing its international power its disregard for state sovereignty while at the same time claiming that that is the most important international norm and not democracy and human rights-- I mean, that's been part of the Putin argument all along as well as other authoritarian leaders, including Chávez and et cetera. I think it's going to blow up in their face. And I think if we're holding this discussion six months from now, we might have a very different understanding of the gains and losses of Georgia, Russia, and the West in this process.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Can I actually-- I also completely agree with Valerie. I just want to add a little bit of information, Holly, for your question. Recently, we had developments in Ingushetia. It's already started. Russia has about 88 autonomous republics. And everyone knows that Russia is an empire. Even Russians never ever said that they are not an empire.
Instead, basically [RUSSIAN]. [RUSSIAN] is one of the main ideas. Of course not my favorite Russians, like Tolstoy, but the governments and the military personnel. They're wonderful people. Russians are wonderful people.
But the imperialistic idea has been there. Now, that's not just Russian problem. I just want to say that lots of others, including my own Georgians, people like Misha, have that problem too. It's just I do think that Russians-- I agree with Valerie. This is going to backfire very bad, because Tatarstan, they don't consider themselves Russians. And they are waiting. They are waiting until they're going to explode.
I heard and the Georgian press was reporting on these conversations between Medvedev and Sarkozy. And there was a moment when Medvedev got out to talk to Putin. And the situation was that then Mr. Lavrov came in, and he said, look, Mr. Sarkozy, maybe we recognize these guys in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And Sarkozy said, no, please call your president. And so Medvedev returned from the consultation with Mr. Putin, who is really the boss.
And Sarkozy said, Mr. Medvedev, if you want this to go on like this, I'm leaving the table. There is not going to be no deal. You are going to be completely isolated from Europe. And then we're going to think about recognizing Chechnya, because Chechnya's government is outside Russia. They killed almost all of them, but there are a couple of them still alive.
And one of them, Mr. Zakayev is in-- that's what you want to call a genocide, what happened in Chechnya. And unfortunately, there is not much talk about it. Mr. Zakayev is still in London living. So he is the authority.
So I want to praise Mr. Sarkozy on that. And then Medvedev got a little scared. So he said, no, no, no, we're going to reconsider this. And we are just the ones and maybe Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the second country. Daniel Ortega came out and supported. He wants to open up embassies in Tskhinvali and what's this place.
But basically, Russians are sitting on a big bomb. In Siberia, I have lots of Russian friends who are not Russians ethnically. Now, I am sure Georgia is going to recognize all the republics of Russia right after that. And if I was the Georgian government, I would recognize all the autonomous republics in Russia and establish a relationship, because Russian aggression, regardless of how idiotic Misha might be-- and I think he's idiot also.
But it's not for imperialism to define the borders of the world. The 21st century should be without that, because it's not going to win. Things are going to decentralize. This is the tendency for 21st century, I think.
And Chinese also did not back him. Medvedev went to Chinese president, and he said, I need your backing. And this guy said, no.
I am stronger than you right now. And I have Tibet. And I'm not going to do it. And Russia is going to suffer from this very much, because Chinese also can take over whole eastern part of Russia too. There is no unpunished sin-- I believe in that-- neither for Georgians nor Russians nor anyone else. So I don't think that will go like this not just because they have killed, raped, and murdered lots of people these last days but because of the imperial thought.
MITCHELL ALVA: Yes.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned that Ukraine is--
VALERIE BUNCE: Can you stand up please?
AUDIENCE: Oh, sorry. You mentioned that Ukraine is now more aligned with the Western world. What do you think Ukraine's prospects for joining NATO-- what role do you think they'll play right now in this whole crisis that's going on in the region?
VALERIE BUNCE: Yeah. Well, I'll just say about Ukraine what is interesting to me is that the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO as well as the EU just went up considerably. That if the EU and NATO can't respond in certain kinds of ways to this crisis, and there are problems with their ability to respond, the fact is that Ukraine has-- and they're in constant contact now with Polish leadership, with Balta, et cetera, et cetera, because the other cost of this process is that it sounds too much like the past.
It sounds too much like Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, et cetera. And that has gotten all the periphery running around.
Now, in the case of Central Asia, they have fewer options in terms of balancing against Russia. But for those countries that are much closer to the West, that already have partnerships with NATO, that are already part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, et cetera, it's a different question. So I think that. I mean, it's going to take a while, obviously. But I think it shifted Ukrainian politics in a decisive direction as well as making these international institutions of the West more receptive to expanding ties and preparing the groundwork for joining.
MITCHELL ALVA: Any of our friends in the back or off to the side would like to ask a question? All right. Yes, back there.
AUDIENCE: Actually, I guess I have a few counterarguments about recent times, about situation in Ukraine, for example, because-- so right after this crisis, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko sided with the Regions Party, which is pro-Russian, and left the pro-Western coalition more isolated. So there is a crisis going on. And so maybe all the political parties there are now considering their options and maybe people can also view that the West has compromised itself because it has not supported Georgia.
And another example is Moldova, where Russia has signaled that the Transdniester conflict can be resolved. And there are now going to be meetings between Igor Smirnov and Voronin, the president of Moldova, and it seems on the terms that Moldova will not join NATO. And in this way, Russia is showing, so look, if you don't join NATO, you will get your conflicts resolved, and you will be fine. If you want to join NATO, you align with the US, you can be punished.
VALERIE BUNCE: Mm-hmm. No, no, no. I mean, I'm glad you remind us that Ukrainian politics in particular is very, very complicated. But I would still argue-- I mean, despite all this-- that one of the things Yushchenko's had to face-- and this is a classic problem with transitions to democracy everywhere, that you somehow at some point have to make some kind of bridging move towards the losers. If you don't do that, the thing will collapse.
One of the striking things about Georgian politics which has always made me pessimistic is that that never happens. Each wave, whether it's Gamsakhurdia, or it's Shevardnadze, or it's Saakashvili, there never is this process of at any given point reaching out to form large-scale coalitions. And so what some people see as the mess of Ukrainian politics and the failure of Yushchenko to deliver on the promises of the Orange Revolution, I see as very smart democratic politics, actually.
And so I would take-- borrowing from Holly here, five years down the road, what will Ukraine look like? And I think it's going to look like a very successful transition. It depends, of course-- I mean, there are some issues brewing in the Crimea. They're going to be a problem.
There are going to be problems in terms of-- and I haven't seen any polls from Ukraine-- maybe you have-- about how the Donbass region reacts to what's happened, because that's the critical point, because they can tip either way. They're not solidly in the Russian camp, I think, although they've often sided, as you said, with the Party of the Regions and the like. That's what characterizes the Russian camp.
So over the long haul, I think that the Russians' actions may have exposed the limits of what NATO and the West can do. But by the same token, they've scared the daylights out of all kinds of players in the former Soviet Union.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Yeah, I want to add to it a little bit. Basically, I completely agree that in the short term, it could be looked at as a Russian expansion and maybe-- Valerie was talking. It absolutely is right that it might be a short-term of gains. But really what will backfire will be the will of those people themselves, and that gets always underestimated.
Who won the Cold War? That question goes there. I think Cold War was won by those enslaved peoples who just broke the chains, first of all. And I was there to see those things. And the Russians were killing us, and we were fighting. Some were nonviolent. Most of that fight was nonviolent under the leadership of people like Václav Havel.
Now, of course, Ronald Reagan's words that this is "evil empire" were helping, was an inspiration. But we knew very well that Ronald Reagan was not going to throw the bomb at Russians because of Russians were killing us or even George Bush, Sr. Now, that's what's going to happen. I'm not saying that NATO is going to expand. I think NATO as a structure also hit its highest point. I don't think it can go anywhere from here.
But there will be some other alliances created that eventually are going to take imperialism down. And if Russia decides not to be interested, which I certainly still hope, then Russia can be part of those future of the world alliances, which will include more small countries then and maybe different kind of understanding of nuclear power and other stuff.
So that's the point. It's that I agree with Valerie. It's going to backfire regardless of how Ukrainian elections. It might be Yanukovych and Tymoshenko winning, but that doesn't mean that Russian imperialism is popular there. It's extremely unpopular. And in Dagestan, Tatarstan, within Russia, we have large territories that might explode any time. So that's why it is dangerous.
MITCHELL ALVA: We'll have time for a couple more questions. Yeah.
AUDIENCE: I was just wondering-- I was reading--
VALERIE BUNCE: Tim, why don't you stand up?
AUDIENCE: OK. I was reading a lot in the newspapers and stuff that they were saying that the US and Europe didn't have much to move. I think I heard that Russia owns a lot of the debt from Freddie and Fannie Mac and that Europe can't do anything because they'll freeze in the winter if they try. And so--
--I was just wondering if you thought-- the consensus seemed to be that the West and the US should try to avoid economic interest. But I was wondering if you thought that was true? Or do you think it's good to stay integrated with Russia as a backdoor means of continuing conversation or not? Just what your feelings are about maybe their stranglehold and whether or not it's a good or a bad thing.
VALERIE BUNCE: Well, I don't know these details at all. So I'll just speak in a very vague level in order to pretend that I do know the details, OK?
But the key issue to me in thinking about the Russian economy is that it is an extraordinarily fragile economic growth pattern. I mean, if you take away the energy price dividend-- it's amazing to me the Russian economy can grow so little given the energy dividend. And it has all the typical structural characteristics-- we talked about it in class-- of a petrostate.
And so while Russia may have be able to insert economically here, there, or wherever, the fact is that unlike, for example, the other rising power, China, which has a much more sustainable economic base, I think Russia-- I think this is another reason, frankly, why Putin's moving now, that the Russian economic miracle is very short-term and very fragile.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Actually, I don't think Europe is going to freeze. And I guess you asked Luis about that, how they're going to freeze. But I think that's an exaggerated forecast. The problem for Russian neoconservatives is that they want to return to 1980s without really having real conditions to getting there. Putin and Medvedev don't understand you can't go back to '80s.
Small nations have their rights. They're going to rebel against Russians. And it's going to be a rebellion against imperialism. In 21st century, you have internet. Great American Bill Gates, other corporations, empowered people. That's how revolutions happen.
Even though they say the CIA was the one who supported Rose Revolution, I disagree with that statement. But Gene Sharp, from Albert Einstein Institute, yes. I mean, we translated his manuals. And we were going into American websites on nonviolent struggle.
I was the one who translated Gandhi and all these people. And we showed the film about Gandhi. So when you have the films about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement here, you have films about anti-apartheid movements and all this stuff, it's less and less chance for slavery. And Václav Havel is even alive.
So it's not big chance for imperialism. And I am sure the imperialism-- all kinds of imperialism, not just Russian-- will be finished. How soon? We have to see.
MITCHELL ALVA: Yes.
AUDIENCE: I'm sitting here as an American politics person and wondering how all this is going to play out in the American elections. This story about Rumsfeld saying three-and-a-half, four years of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, McCain cultivating the relationship with Georgia, militarizing Georgia, perhaps encouraging-- I'd like to know how much, if you know-- the Georgians to do what they did, that could look incredibly stupid in one way, because Georgia's in far worse shape now.
It certainly looks like a stupid mistake for Georgia, and the weakness of NATO and the West are revealed. They can just say, oh dear, don't do this, but what can they do? They're not going to mount a force. And the Europeans would be less anxious to do that even than we are.
So I'm curious what the Republican project was in Georgia. What exactly did they get out of it? Unless, in the most cynical rendition, they want the Cold War back. I mean, Republicans did well in the Cold War. And they need a new enemy, that-- this is a little better than maybe the terrorists.
So let's have the Cold War back. But if this thing explodes the way Val seems to think it will, I think that will rebound to McCain's credit. He's the tough guy. And even though he might have done something really stupid if he encouraged Saakashvili to invade South Ossetia, that's dumb.
But I think Obama's paralyzed. He can't point that out and say, gee, you encouraged something, and now we're all worse off, because the name of the game is to look really tough and to do a lot of blustering. So it seems to me this wonderful vision of the nonviolent spheres and so on is just going to fade away from any chance at reality if what Val predicts happens.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Wow.
VALERIE BUNCE: Thank you, Elizabeth. [LAUGHS]
Just a couple-- I mean, there are so many different pieces to what you were saying, and they're all really interesting. But let me just say a couple of things. The American relationship and the Republican relationship with Georgia goes back some ways. And you'll get a big charge out of this, but the person that Bush sent to Georgia to lecture Shevardnadze about cleaning up his electoral act was none other than James Baker, the person who ran the Florida recount.
So there are a lot of truly bizarre linkages there. But I think to understand what the US wants from Georgia, one is that this administration-- and McCain is like this as well-- has a bizarre understanding of international relations. It has to do with personal connections. And that goes back to Shevardnadze, and now it's Misha. And it's like Margaret Thatcher said about Gorbachev. He's a guy you could do business with.
Well, that made it all right. And then everything was just completely clear as a result of that. But I think that, unfortunately-- to be fair to the question, I think one would have to get into the very tangled alliance politics of the entire Caucasus, because part of the issue going on here is that the United States wanted a close, predictable ally in the Caucasus given oil and now especially gas in Azerbaijan, given the fact that Armenia is closely tied with Russia and will always be that way.
And so the real point was, where can we insert ourselves in the Caucasus? And where do we have these kinds of personal connections? The other thing is that Bush was blown away when he came to Tbilisi. And people were cheering. There were no protesters. It was this--
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Only one country-- only one country, Georgia.
VALERIE BUNCE: And they named the highway after him between the airport and Tbilisi. And so they did all this. And so there was a sense that this was a way to [SQUASHING NOISE] to Russia by forging close ties, that this was a person who had-- I mean, Misha has a lot of personal appeal, and he knows how to wrap people around his finger when he needs to, et cetera.
I guess from my perspective, I don't think-- I mean, we have maybe somewhat different versions of this. I certainly wonder about-- I did a lot of interviews for the revolution that occurred in 2003 with a lot of the people. And one of the things that was interesting-- both the Americans who were involved, the Europeans, as well as the Georgians, like Liberty Institute and Georgian Young Lawyers, et cetera.
The thing that was striking about that-- there are two issues that came up there that I think might be relevant to your question. And one is that the US was very uncomfortable. Many people were very uncomfortable with Saakashvili from day one.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Mm-hmm.
VALERIE BUNCE: Second, they thought that the big election-- see, what happened is that it was a parliamentary election in 2003. And it suddenly swept Shevardnadze, the president, out of power. This was an extralegal seizure of power in certain respects. This was not like the other colored revolutions, although the same thing is true of Kyrgyzstan as well in 2005.
So the US was thinking, we will help Georgia run good parliamentary elections in 2003 in preparation for the real election in 2004. And then Saakashvili-- and my impression is that-- actually, [INAUDIBLE] as well, that to everyone's surprise as they were protesting, et cetera, suddenly the guy seizes power. Suddenly the guy's taking over the whole country, et cetera.
So the US has always-- State Department types, AID types, others have always looked at Saakashvili with a certain amount of nervousness. Not so Bush, not so Cheney.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Neocons.
VALERIE BUNCE: Yeah, Yeah. So--
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Wolfowitz-- there was a band in Washington DC, which unfortunately still exists, and in McCain's friendship, you have Randy Scheunemann, who takes about $400,000 for Misha every year. So it's Russian and American neocons competing there that have Misha as their favorite. No one else-- I know lots of people in the State Department and USAID, and it's not American government as such. It's Mr. Cheney, main protagonist of Misha. Rumsfeld was there.
I mean, those two guys just said, this is a new democracy, and they were giving him a lot of money. I don't know if illegally too, but legally, an incredible amount of money for arms. Of course, they were not really thinking about South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They were thinking about Iraq. And so they were considering Misha as their allies, because when whole Europe was against them and practically whole world, that there were some of these small countries that needed another neocon country.
So what happened basically, that a small part of Washington establishment, which is Johns Hopkins University, basically, the people came out of there, even not-- excluding Fukuyama, who just renounced that stuff-- but the Wolfowitz, and Cheney, and all these guys that Misha was coming to them all the times. And Johns Hopkins is his favorite place, where he can talk anything he wants to.
And liberals, and moderates, even realists in Washington were-- I mean, I talked with Dick Armitage, and he was like, Misha is crazy. Two years ago, Dick Armitage-- even Dick Armitage. Colin Powell doesn't like him. There are lots of people on Republican side who don't like him. The moderate, normal Republicans, the sane Republicans--
--they don't like him--
VALERIE BUNCE: All three of them.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: --because they think this is crazy. And so I think your point is well-taken. With Obama and McCain, I think-- I might be wrong-- but Obama needs to come out with vision, because McCain, with the help of Misha, took the momentum and now with Sarah Palin or whatever. But momentum was taken from Obama in the Georgia crisis.
Now, Randy Scheunemann-- I don't know if they planned it. Maybe they didn't plan it. But for McCain, it was advantageous neocon issue.
Now, what Obama needs to come out with, not the solution, not realism or whatever, neoidealism, I call it. If he comes up in the peace zone sound proposal, and if he tells American people, look, we're going to have peace with Russia rather than cold war or hot war and all this kind of stuff, and if he is aggressive with this-- he can't be trailing McCain and saying, oh, yes, I don't like Russia.
Yes, I can tell you. I fought Russians, and I was beaten up to death. But that doesn't make me like neoconservatives. Because Dick Cheney-- he has never been beaten up by Russians, and he would never be. And he's made money with Russians together, all this stuff. And that's a whole different issue.
Obama needs to be more aggressive. I don't know how this message is going to reach him, but hopefully it will reach him. He needs to be aggressive for peace. I mean, he needs to embrace Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. more aggressively. If not, I think he's pretty much in a losing position, because McCain is going to nail down this Georgia position.
I'm going to be voting. I became American citizen a very short time ago. So I'm going to be voting for Obama. Hopefully, my vote is going to help him. But he needs much more. He needs much more, and for the--
VALERIE BUNCE: Move to Pennsylvania.
IRAKLI KAKABADZE: Yeah.
MITCHELL ALVA: Well, on behalf of the entire Cornell International Affairs Review executive board, I just want to extend my deepest gratitude and thanks to you, Professor Bunce and Professor Kakabadze, for your both informing and enlightening talk. And I think everyone in the audience gained a new perspective not only in the events in Georgia but also on how this event can be framed as a microcosm for future developments in Eastern Europe, the same developments that Mearsheimer wrote about that you referenced in your speech.
Indeed, the decision to recognize South Ossetia deepened the rift between Russia and its partners in the West. And The New York Times reported that as Moscow departs from its traditional insistence on territorial integrity, ethnic groups within its borders will demand greater autonomy or independence, such as Tatars then, as we talked about.
Thus, as the re-emergence of Russia continues to take shape, Western countries will increasingly have to confront this force. A question our next president will, without question, have to face is whether to engage Russia using traditional Cold War, great power politics or a more multilateral approach, something like a coalition of the willing, like we did in Iraq.
Nonetheless, thanks to our panelists. Those of us in the audience are better equipped to answer the question of today's talk-- are we approaching a new Cold War?
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Cornell professor Valerie Bunce, a specialist in the post-communist world, and Irakli Kakabadze, a Georgian writer and political figure, present their interpretations of the Georgian conflict and its implications for East-West relations and the post-Cold war international order.
The September 10, 2008 event, held in Cornell's A.D. White House, was hosted by the Cornell International Affairs Review.