Stanislav Markelov: A Political Olympiad

From time to time, we receive occasional contributions from the highly respected Russian human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who heads up Russia’s Rule of Law Institute. Below is his take on the invasion of Georgia. Markelov’s article does not necessarily represent the opinion of Robert Amsterdam, this blog, or its editors. markelov082608.jpgThe immediate battle area By Stanislav Markelov Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. We can rejoice, we have carried out the desire of our powers in full and are getting used to the dispatches from the front like to competitions going on the news before the Olympic games. For now they still tug at the heartstrings, but a few years will go by and just like with the war in Chechnya, we will look with irritation at the latest propagandistic brew from the information chest with one thought: “When will this all finally end! Just leave us alone and let us watch as one bunch of athletes pumped up with doping raise the prestige of their state, outplaying the same kind of steers pumped up with pharmacology from other countries”. The war in the Caucasus has begun to resemble a political Olympiad. Everybody wants it to go on and on, and only the exhaustiveness of the resources of war does not allow it to be conducted forever. The rulers leave only glowing coals from the peaceful life, forcing the people to dance on them, and to count the mountains of victims of the latest peacekeeping companies.

The [annual] August political crisis in Russia has already become a subject of folk mythology. So everyday and ordinary, that this time around they didn’t even start organizing a parliamentary farce and let the puppet deputies have a rest at their resorts. The power has obviously come to conclusions from the previous crises, and in contrast to all kinds of defaults, the current one only reinforces the positions of the Russian leadership, creating a patriotic wave and at long last satisfying national pride, which has been strangulated for the last 15 years. Only will we be able to handle this patriotic wave in consequence?War is to lucrative a thing for there not to be one for a long time. In Chechnya, the resource of war is already exhausted, and to continue active combat operations now is pointless and politically dangerous. Isn’t it easier to expand the sphere of the conflict to the whole of the North Caucasus, after all the Chechen battalions «Vostok» and «Zapad» have already managed to fight some in North Ossetia, and now in Georgia as well. The North Ossetian volunteers are howling there, this goes without saying in and of itself. And what joy for «soldiers of fortune», who arriving at the place of the conflict get to choose whom to fight for as the result of bargaining, who will pay more.One need not be a prophet in order to predict what will happen, all the more so since we have already been through the consequences of war in the Caucasus. At first for the reconstruction of Tskhinvali so much Russian money is plumped up that at its expense one could coat the mountains of the North Caucasus with gold from the southern side. From the north side they have already thrown money during the many-time and many-years-long reconstruction of Grozny. Then the criminal “authorities” are going to become completely legal authorities and will continue their business on more than official grounds, true, using the same old methods. While the pent-up anger of the losing side will start to manifest itself in 10-20-30 and more years, because this is the Caucasus and there are no such thing as losers here: only those who have been killed, and those who are avenging their deaths.Strange as it may seem, both the Russian and the Georgian sides are remarkably similar in their social-and-psychological motives for the start of the war. Both the first and the second have a strangulated national pride as the result of lost wars in the 90s, flows of refugees, their own criminal regimes, and a complete fall in prestige on the international arena. Both the ones and the others want a restoration of this prestige, first and foremost in their own eyes.The Georgian military were dreaming of war so much that in the past years they have increased their military budget by 30 times, specially training military subunits for combat operations in a forested locale. Against this background all the peace proposals by Saakashvili look like nothing more than a political smokescreen. It was enough for the elder American brother to pat Misha on the back for Georgia to start thinking that just about the entire American army would immediately stand up for its interests. Out of youth and naïveté the Georgian leadership forgot that Americans are interested in their own interests, and not at all in Georgia’s.In response to the pacifistic warbling of Saakashvili against the din coming from Georgian shells, purging Tskhinvali of peaceful inhabitants, the Russian leadership thought up the wonderful military neologism «coercion to peace». This gem is worthy of entering into the annals of modern diplomacy in the same rank as the memorable “humanitarian bombardment”, when the Americans exclusively for humanitarian purposes tossed bombs at Belgrade. Coercion to peace by way of military actions, artillery shelling and bombardments – this is something out of the same category as medical treatment by way of placement in a plague-stricken barrack or chopping off the head. A more sarcastic name than “peacekeepers” in relation to an army that is one of the parties to a conflict is hard to imagine.In these conditions, it would seem, the absolute victims look like the Ossetians, who have suffered more than everybody else. This is truly so in relation to the peaceful population. But why did Kokoity so insistently need to provoke a conflict with Georgia, if the Ossetian formations were crushed literally after several hours and without the aid of the Russian army looked like adolescents with sticks, up against tanks. I understand that the Ossetian leadership wanted as quickly as possible to cut the Gordian knot of their own independence and to prove to the whole world that to live with Georgia is impossible, but surely a thousand of your own citizens, completely innocent of anything, is a normal price to pay for such a demonstration?So far the West has had enough brains for one thing only – not to get involved in a new Caucasian war. If they do get involved in any guise, then in essence with will become a verdict for the western community. One would have to be totally zombied out western liberal mass information media not to see that this whole progressive world public has as it is already played the role of the provocateur-goat in the conflict, having given the formal signal for it to start. They were telling us so much that the Kosovo precedent – this is a special case, not having relation to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, that it started to seem – the European politicians are washing away in advance the sins of provoking the conflict. As soon as it’s to their advantage – they’re globalists, any demands of theirs they foist on the whole world, but if the advantage disappears, then “Kosovo in the center of Europe” becomes a “special case” and now you can’t apply the methodology of creating independent states. By the way, why this is a special case, and just how exactly is it that Kosovo differs so greatly from any other unrecognized state, not a single western expert has even thought to explain. Apparently this is simply a mantra of international politics, that needs not to be discussed, but to be blindly believed, repeating it 200 times a day after the manner of the western mass information media.By the way, we’ve got more than enough of our own informational mantras and the national-patriots, for whom all Caucasians are darkies who deserve a good beating, suddenly, are ardently in love with the Ossetians and have rushed throughout the cities of Russia to beat up representatives of the Georgian diaspora who haven’t a clue about what’s going on. The main thing in the outburst of national rage is not to beat up some Ossetian along the way, well and a few Russians while you’re at it, for company. Patriotism – this is, after all, a tricky business: without blood and pogroms it just looks too unserious and clownishly silly. But now we’re living a front-line life and everything’s got to be serious, true, without breaking away from watching the Olympiad and, not violating the sacred right to rest for the deputies.The immediate battle area, unlike patriotism, is indeed a very serious thing. The Caucasus is turning into the new Balkans, where the boundary between political, social, and military conflict is erased in mere hours. In exactly the same way did this boundary get erased for the Georgian leadership over several hours between the declaration of peace and the storming of Tskhinvali. The Caucasus is becoming an eternal hotbed of banditism, having justification in the form of multitudinous wars, semi-wars, and just as predictable future «coercions to peace». This banditism is going to manifest itself for us in the immediate battle area not once, but many times.The immediate battle area is always larger than the front line and now all of Russia and all the Trans-Caucasian republics on the other side have ended up within it. On this territory the boundary line between war and not-war is illusive and can make itself known tomorrow with another Nord-Ost, bombed house, or pogrom by the siloviki like in Blagoveshchensk. All of us together are going to feed this war, because in the immediate battle area, whether you want it or not, a special order and an emergency situation are introduced, even if nobody had formally declared anything. And even peace looks like another breathing spell before a new war company.After all as Orwell said:WAR – THIS IS PEACE.And what await us are new «coercions to peace» until everybody is made to cease hostilities, it goes without saying, without tearing away from watching the Olympic show and not interrupting the vacation of our precious deputies.