The Caucasus

Russia strengthens its power in its "backyard"

August 28, 2008

The forceful advance of the bonapartist Russian regime in its
operations in Georgia over the last four days is a sign of Russia’s
reemergence, after its decomposition in the decade of the 1990’s, and,
fundamentally, of the acceleration of the US hegemonic decline after
its disaster in Iraq.

The Russian achievements

Russia has achieved a tremendous victory. The terms of the ceasefire,
broadly favorable to Russian demands, negotiated by French President
Sarkozy, current temporary President of the European Union, prove that
(although new skirmishes cannot be ruled out).

From the military point of view, Russia has shown its ability to drive
Georgia out of South Ossetia and Abkhazia completely, in addition to
having smashed the Georgian military machine.

On the political level, it has enormously destabilized the Georgian
government of Mikheil Saakashvili, who, in spite of the demonstrarion of
support in Tbilisi on August 12, attended by hundreds of thousands of
people, was fatally wounded, after having begun a war and then failing
to carry it through.

Last and most importantly, Russia has managed to show the
powerlessness of the West and, at the same time, to weaken every
serious prospect that Georgia will join NATO or the European Union.
The US failure to support its main puppet regime in the region in its
hour of need, because of excessive US commitments in Iraq and
Afghanistan, is a big blow to US influence in the Caucasus and in the
other former Soviet republics, that allows Russia to move forward to
rebuild its zone of influence in its borderlands.


For some analysts, the attack launched by Saakashvili’s
pro-imperialist government against the capital of South Ossetia,
recalls the last years of the Argentinean military dictatorship, when
in 1982, then de facto President Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri launched
the invasion of the Malvinas Islands. At that moment, the Argentinean
general was confident that, to say the least, the US would maintain
neutrality in case of a conflict between Buenos Aires and London,
because of the importance the dictatorship had for Washington since it
was operating in a semi-secret manner against the Sandinista regime in
Nicaragua. In the same way, Saakashvili’s overestimation of Georgia’s
role as an outpost against Russia was the key to his miscalculation.

Nevertheless, however interesting it may seem, this comparison has its
limits. It is difficult to believe that Georgia decided to challenge
Russia without having any kind of gesture by the Pentagon, as, for
instance, former Soviet Chairman Mikhail Gorbachov suggests. The
current Georgian regime was prepared by Washington, promoting the Rose
Revolution in 2003. In addition, the Pentagon has had a strong
presence in Georgia, training their army and anti-terrorist forces
since 1999; the Georgian government receives big sums of money in
armaments with the aim of reinforcing the geopolitical encirclement of
Russia, as well as looking after the only pipeline that carries oil
from the Black Sea to Europe without passing through Russian territory.

One or the other: either US intelligence made another miscalculation,
like the one that led it to get bogged down in Iraq, or else the US
saw Russia through the prism of the 1990’s when, in addition to the
paralysis of the Russian government, the army was demoralized and
lacked financing, which came from the exhausting conflicts in
Chechnya. More generally, the US has not seen a decisive military
movement by Russia beyond its borders since the war in Afghanistan,
that ended in a humiliating defeat ("the Russian Vietnam"). For years,
Russia has taken care not to carry out this type of military
operations. In this framework, it is not absurd to think that the same
people who believed the Iraqis were going to welcome them with flowers
for having toppled Saddam Hussein, expected that the Russians would
not respond to the Georgian attack.

The real miscalculation is not to have taken into account the fact
that Russia got stronger all these years. It has not only
reconstituted its army and the Great Russian patriotism of the
population as the state ideology through its control of the
communications media, but also reconstituted itself economically -
unlike the years of Yeltsin when it defaulted on its enormous debt in
1998 - now it has the third largest amount of foreign reserves
worldwide and has a big trade surplus, based on gas and oil. In this
context, both militarily, because of the weakness of the Georgian
forces, and in economic terms, because of the European Union’s
dependence on its energy, Russia did not see the operation as being
very risky. On the contrary, it was the moment Russia was waiting for,
to reaffirm its powerful new role to counteract its loss of influence
in its backyard and among the European nations. Russia was waiting to
draw a red line after the imperialist advance with the Orange
Revolution in Ukraine (whose definitive passage into the NATO camp
meant a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security), and, more
recently, support by the US and the European Union for Kosovo’s
independence, brazenly ignoring Russia’s objections (Russia was
opposed to damaging the principle established by the victorious powers
in the Second World War in Europe, of not modifying borders, to avoid
conflicts, a question that could open a Pandora’s box in the Russian
Federation, formed by different nationalities and ethnic groups.

For its part, US imperialism, still trapped in Iraq, needs Russia
politically to exert pressure in impossing sanctions on the Iranian
regime. Above all, it wants to prevent the Russian state from selling
weapons to Iran or Syria, especially its highly effective air defense
system, in the face of an eventual war. With its humiliation, Georgia
paid for the geopolitical reality that shows that Iran and the Middle
East are now more important in calculating US foreign policy.

A conflict with two reactionary camps

The ultimate origin of the conflict, is, on the one hand, the Russian
resurgence after the rise of Putin’s Bonapartism, and, on the other,
the continuation of the US policy of encircling Russia to curb its
ambitions for power and to give Russia’s integration into the world
economy dominated by imperialism, an increasingly semi-colonial
character, like the Russian dynamic - only temporarily reversed — was
in the decade of the 1990’s, during Yeltsin’s administration. For the
US, the independence of Georgia, or, for the Russians, the
independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, are only pocket change in
the calculation of US imperialism or of the rising Russian capitalist
state in their quarrel over influence and power in the system of
relations between states.

Demands by the US and Great Britain that Russia respect the "territory
integrity of Georgia," that is, Tbilisi’s right to repress and kill
the separatist population of South Ossetia, are totally hypocritical,
coming from those who keep Iraq and Afghanistan under occupation.
Equally dishonest is the Russian request, advanced in the UN during
the crisis, in defense of the right of self-determination of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia, when, for years, Russia has been denying
self-determination to the Chechens to blood and fire.

In this context, from the first day, we revolutionaries have clearly
indicated that this was a reactionary conflict, because of which we
repudiated Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia and demanded the
withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia. We are opposed, both to the
advance of NATO in the region, and to every militarist attempt of
Putin-Medvedev’s Bonapartist Russian regime to use the crisis in South
Ossetia to reconstruct a zone of influence over the territories of the
former Russian empire. At the same time, we struggle for the fall of
Saakashvili’s repressive, neo-liberal, pro-NATO government, a puppet
of imperialism that has had the third-largest contingent of troops in
Iraq, and the biggest in proportion to its population, and for the
expulsion of all the US political and military advisers. A
semi-colonial country guarded by NATO is no alternative to the
historical oppression that all these nations suffered under Great
Russian nationalism. On the contrary, the existence of pro-imperialist
governments, as in Georgia, the Ukraine and the rest of the Republics
of the former USSR, are an obstacle to awakening the Russian workers
and facilitates the xenophobic propaganda of Putin and Medvedev’s
Bonapartist government against the Georgians and other nations,
accusing them of being part of a Western conspiracy to prevent Russia
from overcoming its exhaustion in the 1990’s and recovering its
imperial role. This reactionary propaganda serves to reconstitute the
Russian state internally, against the historic interests of the
workers and oppressed nationalities in the current Russian Federation.
For that reason, Putin’s Great Russian nationalism, in spite of the
fact that it has disagreements with Washington, is not a progressive
alternative to NATO.

The struggle against the policy of reconstruction of the zone of
influence of growing Russian capitalism, that aspires to be recognized
as a regional power, is only possible from the most implacable
opposition to the advance of NATO in Eastern Europe and in the
Republics of the former USSR and opposing the penetration of this
region by European and US imperialisms. As we have said in view of the
recent conflict, only a Georgian workers’ and peasants’ government
that breaks with US imperialism and that of the European Union and at
the same time raises the right of self-determination and even
secession of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, if they so desire, could have
the authority to stop Great Russian nationalism by appealing to the
only force capable of defeating it: the Russian workers. They must
break with the xenophobic policy of the Russian government, that only
guarantees big deals for a handful of big capitalist barons and
friends of the central government, and return to the proletarian
banners of internationalism and defense of the peoples’
self-determination, that permitted the temporary solution of the
national problem of old tsarist Russia during the first years of
Bolshevism until the Stalinist counterrevolution. Only a party that
has fought against Stalinism and draws a sharp balance sheet of this
monstrous experience not only for the masses of the former USSR, but
on a world level, the Russian Section of the reconstructed Fourth
International, could offer this perspective.


- Georgia: A Russian protectorate from 1783, in 1810 it was annexed to
the Russian empire. After the Russian Revolution, it formed part of
the Soviet Socialist Republic of Transcaucasia, together with Armenia
and Azerbaijan, which was dissolved; in 1936 it became the Soviet
Socialist Republic of Georgia. After the fall of the USSR in 1991,
Georgia declared its independence. Tbilisi: capital of Georgia.

- South Ossetia: In 1922, it was declared an Autonomous Region of
Georgia. In 1989, the local parliament declared South Ossetia an
Autonomous Republic inside Georgia, an act ruled unconstitutional by
the Georgian parliament. In 1990, the sovereignty and the creation of
the Republic of South Ossetia were proclaimed; in response, Georgia
considered South Ossetia’s autonomy abolished, which caused the
beginning of confrontations between South Ossetia and Georgia from
1991. These confrontations stopped after the Dagomis Agreement was
signed in 1992 (between Russia and Georgia), after which Russian
"peacekeepers" were deployed, that backed South Ossetia with armaments
and money. In 2006 a referendum (not recognized by Georgia) was held,
where more than 90% of the population voted for independence.

- The Orange Revolution and the Rose Revolution: Also known as the color
revolutions, processes that happened during 2003 and 2004, channeled
electorally, through which pro-Russian candidates in the former Soviet
republics of Ukraine and Georgia were defeated by candidates supported
by the US and the European Union.

Translation by Yosef M.