With the much ballyhooed "Rose Revolution" of 2003 spluttering onward to its (frankly foreordained) ignominious and inglorious denouement, it might be worthwhile, by means of a little study in contrasts, to examine the bottom line of that Eurasian Hegemony which is the grand object of American foreign policy. To consider, that it is say, the point where the truncheon meets the skull of the dissident.
To foreshorten a long story involving indigenous post-Soviet political corruption, State Department and Soros-funded NGOs, and the pipeline politics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, suffice it to say that November of 2003 witnessed Georgian parliamentary elections, in which the party of then-incumbent president Eduard Shevardnadze initially claimed victory. This result was contested, by means of alternative ballot counts and exit polls, media campaigns, and street demonstrations, by the opposition, unified, per United States direction, around the candidacy of Mikhail Saakashvili - himself an American-trained lawyer. In the intervening four years, Saakashvili has assumed the authoritarian mantle that so disenthralled Georgians and - superficially at least - the United States with this predecessor.
But this is only part of the story. The backstory is much more interesting than even this (at least for those of us with a strange fascination for the politics of the region).
The fuss over the (Georgian) elections, including American support for the opposition, was stunning to anyone who had paid attention to Azerbaijan's presidential race, which had taken place in October 2003, just two weeks before Georgians went to the polls. There, Heydar Aliev, the strongman who had run the Muslim state since it was a Soviet republic, suffered a heart attack just thirteen days before the vote, creating a sudden power vacuum. Into the gap stepped Aliev's son, Ilham, with little political experience.
But to the West - and to Western oil firms in particular - Ilham's succeeding Heydar meant continued stability and a predictable business environment. Transparency International ranked Azerbaijan as one of the most corrupt countries on the planet year after year (124th out of 133 countries in 2002), but the elder Aliev was the one who had negotiated the $7.4 billion "deal of the century" that gave BP, Exxon Mobil, Total, and other Western oil majors access to the Caspian Sea reserves.
So, though opinion polls ahead of the election favoured opposition leader Isa Gambar, the official result gave Ilham Aliev almost 80 per cent of the vote. When the opposition took to the streets two days later - some of them carrying iron bars and smashing shop windows - they were met by truncheon-wielding police, who also used dogs, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Two protesters were killed. The repercussions from the West for the crackdown were nil. The Alievs were seen as pro-American and therefore tolerated as a "force for stability"... Shevardnadze, however, was seen as increasingly unpredictable, weak and beholden to Russia. In September 2003, the U.S. administration made it plain it was finished with him. (snip) On September 24, barely five weeks before the parliamentary elections, Thomas Adams, a State Department Official responsible for aid-related issues in the former Soviet Union, announced that the aid taps were being turned off, citing corruption and a lack of commitment to reforms. One key detail he mentioned said much about the motivation for the sudden reversal of policy: a$34 million package to refurbish hydroelectric stations and other energy-related projects would be immediately cut. The U.S. government wasn't forgiving Shevardnadze for ousting AES (An American-backed energy company that had acquired Tbilisi's energy grid during the murky days of
primitive accumulationprivatization, and which was integral to the American strategy of securing the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the sole purpose of which is to shut Russia out of the regional energy picture.) and welcoming Gazprom. (Mark MacKinnon, former Globe and Mail Moscow bureau chief, and author of The New Cold War: Revolutions, Rigged Elections, and Pipeline Politics in the Former Soviet Union)
My purpose in bringing these things before readers of W4 is not to expose the hypocrisy of the American foreign-policy establishment, which pays only lip service to the nostrums of democracy (except where they might actually be destructive, as in the Muslim world, but that is another issue), inasmuch as this hypocrisy is already well known, and I abjure the notion that the spread of democracy as an instrument of global policy is licit, let alone possible. No, my point is merely to substantiate that, as Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in the volume of his linked above, one of the principle purposes of American strategy is to keep the nations of the region in a state of dependency and vassalage, and to prevent other nations (whom he terms "the barbarians") from coming together to prevent or oppose this strategy. And, as I've argued previously, this sort of hegemonism is illicit, as it is a perversion of patriotism that strives to deny to others the same goods that it perverts domestically.
Hegemony, oil, economic dependency - these are the objects of the bogus revolutions American money foments in Eastern Europe and Asia, and the constants that explain the twists, turns, spirals, and contortions of American policymaking, such as who gets "democracy" and who gets the truncheons of authority. Fie on it all.