Georgian Politician Irakli Gogava: US Neocons Seek to Destabilise Georgia and Drag Russia Into Another Conflict

“Gavrilov event” on June 20th, the McCain Institute conference in Tbilisi on September 10th, some ideas on the port of Anaklia, and protests on November 17th and 25th are all components of one big scenario, the purpose of which is so alarming that it is difficult to imagine.

The public part of this scenario started to be implemented on September 10th, when the McCain Institute and David Kramer, together with Saakashvili‘s United National Movement and other Georgian neoliberals held a conference in Tbilisi. This is a conference that David Kramer did not want to let the visting Deputy Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Irma Inashvili (“Alliance of Patriots of Georgia”) in.

The participants of this conference are interesting:

Ben Hodges – retired US General, head of the “Center for European Policy Analysis,” an ardent opponent of President Trump.

Kurt Volker – professional diplomat. He was the special representative of the United States in Ukraine and Director of the McCain Institute. He worked for Senator McCain‘s office in the 1990s. He is married to Georgian “Voice of America” journalist Ia Meurmishvili and the couple’s recent wedding was witnessed by the journalist of Saakashvili’s “Mtavari” TV channel Eka Kvesitadze and Tamar Kordzaia from the ultra-liberal Republican Party of Georgia. Kurt Volker is a key witness in President Trump’s impeachment proceedings and has been questioned by the US Congress. He belongs to the neoconservative group created by McCain.

David Kramer – director of the McCain Institute, a former director of Freedom House, and was an assistant to McCain. In 2016 he published “Trump Dossier”, which he received from British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. According to the dossier, Russia has kompromat on Trump. Kramer handed the dossier to McCain and Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who recently visited Georgia. Adam Kinzinger also belongs to the neoconservatives. Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation did not establish Trump’s connection with Russia, nor was the veracity of the “Trump Dossier” confirmed.

Batu Kutelia – Saakashvili’s ambassador to the United States and Deputy Defence Minister of Georgia in 2008. He works with US research centers: McCain Institute, Atlantic Council, etc.

Matthew Bryza – since 2005 Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the United States and friend of Saakashvili. His work in favour of Saakashvili’s party in Georgia is widely known. In 2010 he was appointed ambassador to Azerbaijan, but due to the pressure of the Armenian lobby was not confirmed by the US Senate. He had to leave the State Department and today works as an adviser to the Turkish branch of SOCAR. He cooperates with the Jamestown Foundation.

Michael Carpenter – director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, and also works for the Jamestown Foundation. During Saakashvili’s administration he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence of the United States and together with Matthew Bryza often visited Georgia. 5 days before “Gavrilov’s Event” he arrived in Tbilisi. On June 18th he wrote on Twitter that the “Georgian leadership does not understand the dangers of an open-door policy with Russia and the flow of Russian tourists into Georgia can be used by the FSB to infiltrate agents”. His visit is most likely related to the events of June 20th, as information about Gavrilov’s visit was known for several weeks.

Randy Scheunemann – American lobbyist who has been working for Saakashvili since 2004. This cooperation is officially published in the US, on the website of the register of lobbyists. In 2002-2003 he helped President Bush popularise the invasion of Iraq. In 2008 he was the head of international relations for McCain’s presidential campaign. His lobbying firms are Orion Strategies, Scheunemann and associates, and Mercury Group. He and McCain visited Georgia in the spring of 2008 a few months before the outbreak of the August War. On August 14th 2008 the American “Houston Chronicle” outlet wrote that three events suspiciously coincided: McCain’s active interest in Georgia, Scheunemann’s lobbying business with the government of Georgia, and the “Russian aggression” in Georgia.

Daniel Fried – American diplomat, who was Assistant Secretary of State of the United States from 2005-2009 and was the boss of Matthew Bryza. He worked as an adviser to President Bush. He is known for opposing the process of recognising the Armenian genocide. Under Saakashvili’s rule he actively supported Georgia’s militarisation. Since 2017 he has been retired.

General Philip Breedlove is a retired United States general who distinguishes himself by anti-Russian rhetoric. He states that Georgia is ready for NATO membership and advises Georgia to create an anti-Russian military coalition. His statements in the media are mainly about Russia and in this context about Georgia and Ukraine.

These persons represent a group of neoconservatives, and they can also be called the McCain group. The goal of this group is to prevent Trump from being re-elected in the 2020 election. I don’t think Democrats are involved in this scenario. An analysis of the steps taken by this group shows that they are trying to repeat the 2004 and 2008 scenario, when Bush vs Kerry and Obama vs McCain election races were held in the United States and as a “coincidence” Saakashvili was involved in military actions involving Russia during these years.

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What happened in 2004?

On November 2nd 2004 presidential elections were held in the United States, where the Republican Bush won by a margin of 2%. Republicans held an anti-Russian platform in 2004, and Democrats advocated a more flexible policy with Russia. In the United States the attitude towards Russia is one of the factors for the voter through which they decide for which policy to vote. The people of the United States lived for decades under massive anti-Soviet and anti-Russian propaganda until the collapse of the USSR, and now relations between the United States and Russia are not very good. Ordinary Americans feared that the Russians would hit them with nuclear weapons and destroy them. These generations are now US voters, and youth fears influence their behavioural algorithm. According to research, 60% of Americans are negative about Russia.

In 2003 Shevardnadze was overthrown and in 2004 Saakashvili started to inflame the situation in the Tskhinvali region. At the end of May 2004, he moved the military there. Small and medium-intensity fighting broke out, which stopped only when the US presidential election ended. Bush won on November 2nd, Tbilisi and Tskhinvali signed a truce on November 5th. It is quite possible that this was done in return for support in the so-called “Rose Revolution”. The 5-month conflict was covered in the US media with support for anti-Russian statements.

What happened in 2008?

In 2008 Democrat Obama and Republican McCain participated in the US presidential race, and Republican Bush was the current president. Obama was a supporter of soft relations with Russia, and McCain, on the contrary. It was clear that any escalation with Russia would help McCain. The accelerated militarisation of Georgia started in 2006. The budget of the Georgian Defence Ministry in 2004 was 127 million lari, 2006 – 684 million lari, 2007 – 1.4 billion lari, and 2008 – 1.54 billion lari.

In February 2008 Kosovo declared independence from Serbia and the Republican leadership of the United States immediately recognised it, ignoring the Russian position. Russia started to look for ways to adequately respond to the “insult” against Serbia’s historical ally.

Here the impulsive nature of the Russian government was apparently envisaged. Prior to the August 2008 war Obama was 11% ahead of McCain. In the days of the war the difference reached only 2-3%, and this was already at the level of a statistical error and in elections any candidate could’ve won. The Democrats were shocked by what happened, huge resources were spent and everything was lost because of some Saakashvili. Obama was lucky, Saakashvili announced the surrender quite quickly, but the 100,000 reserve supposedly prepared for conducting partisan actions for several months was not ready. The occupation of Georgia began.

The active phase of the war ended and Obama’s approval rating started to recover. In the end, Obama won and defiantly ignored Saakashvili, did not meet him, and at the end, when he directly met him stated that he should leave in peace. As a result of such an adventure, Georgia lost more than 100 villages in the Tskhinvali region, received 60,000 refugees, patriots fell in battle, Russia took military equipment, Russia took the Akhalgori district, Kodori, and Georgian enclaves, the nation suffered a deep psychological trauma, and Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, which buried even the long-term prospects for the restoration of Russian-Georgian relations. Perhaps the declaration of the Bucharest NATO Summit in April 2008, where it was recorded that Ukraine and Georgia would become NATO members, was part of this puzzle and served to further annoy Russia towards Georgia and Ukraine. For McCain to win, it was necessary to maintain an anti-Russian background and extend military operations in Georgia until at least November, which Saakashvili could not do.

2020 United States presidential election

In the United States the roles have changed: now, unlike 2008, the Democrats are on a more anti-Russian platform than the Republican Trump. It turns out that the engagement of anti-Russian topics is in the hands of the Democrats. Research shows that 60% of Americans see Russia as the main threat, so Trump tries to highlight China as the main threat and started a trade war with it, and softened relations with Russia. In order for Trump to lose, it is necessary to demonstrate “Russian aggression”. It is easiest and cheapest to do this in two places: Ukraine and Georgia. Both countries have an image as an ally of the United States and any aggressive Russian move toward Ukraine and Georgia will be shown as Russia’s performance against the United States.

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It is clear that the project of using Georgia as a tool to solve the domestic political and electoral tasks of the US is coordinated by neoconservatives (McCain group). For implementation, they need experienced and proven people, i.e., Saakashvili and his United National Movement, as this force will do everything to return to power. They confirmed this by their involvement in the 2004 armed conflicts and involvement in the 2008 war.

“Gavrilov’s Event” on June 20th in Tbilisi was a well-prepared operation to build up fresh anti-Russian emotions in Georgia. The organisers expected that the impulsive Russian authorities will have a sharply anti-Georgian reaction to these events, and they were not mistaken: Russia forbade air traffic with Georgia, Georgia lost $350 million, in the Russian media powerful anti-Georgian propaganda started. They intended to start a boycott of Georgian goods, but a few days later the anti-Georgian campaign stopped – apparently Moscow realised that they were dealing with a carefully prepared operation.

In the scenario against Trump’s re-election, trusted people have to come to power in Georgia who can provoke Russia to commit military aggression against Georgia. And it is easy to do this: any military or paramilitary action near the so-called border with the Tskhinvali region will trigger a Russian response. In order to prepare the soil, acts are already being carried out by prepared groups of Saakashvili supporters along the Tskhinvali border. If you look closely analogical actions do not take place near the Abkhazian border, where the situation is identical. The ideal time for the scenario is the parliamentary elections in Georgia in October 2020. Extending the military confrontation from the end of October to the presidential election in the United States on November 3rd is realistic.

The participants of the scenario

Participants can be divided into two components: foreigners and Georgians. In the forefront of foreigners there is McCain’s group of neoconservatives. This group has influence over some international media and research centers. It is known that part of American non-governmental organisations of an international scale are opponents of Trump, because the funding for international projects was cut for them. In the State Department and USAID there are also a lot of people who are disaffected with Trump.

Most likely, a group of neoconservatives lobbied for the appointment of Saakashvili’s friend Bridget Brink as US Ambassador to Georgia, but they failed to achieve what they wanted. This suggests that this group is not that all-powerful, but they can certainly create problems.

Trump’s impeachment hearing in the US Congress is not likely to end in impeachment as Republicans control the Senate. However, during the hearing, everything is done to show that Trump does not understand foreign policy, and that specialists from the State Department are very professional. Everything is leading to cutting Trump’s foreign policy influence, and as a result, the group will be able to organise anti-Russian hotbeds of tension before the November US election.

Among the local participants, the vanguard is: Saakashvili’s party, which is ready to throw Georgia into Russia’s jaws once again just to come to power; low-rating politicians with a narrow party interest; groups tied to grants; superficial-thinking journalists, angry at the current government – “useful idiots”. However, there are also those who in their own way want good for the country and do not suspect that their energy is used for a very different purpose.

Port of Anaklia

In order to create the necessary emotional mood for the American and Russian political establishment in 2008, the recognition of Kosovo’s independence and the entry on the future membership of Ukraine and Georgia in the Declaration of the Bucharest NATO summit were used. These two phenomena made impulsive Russia even more impulsive and as a result it “attacked” Georgia. Today they want to use the port of Anaklia as a bogeyman and irritant for Russia: allegedly this port will house the warships and submarines of the US. It’s actually a purely commercial port project. The most important thing here is that Russia believes that there is a real threat of American Naval components being deployed in Anaklia, 10 kilometers from the Abkhaz border.

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This will be followed by a series of statements from retired generals and other eminent figures (for example, Rasmussen) about the mandatory admission of Georgia to NATO and the necessary nature of placing US military bases on the territory of Georgia (Luke Coffey). A declaration like Bucharest may be adopted once again or something new will be thought up, but things will not budge for Georgia.

All of this is necessary to create a nervous atmosphere for Russia. The expectation is that Russia will “attack” Georgia and local participants of the scenario will organise a provocation on the spot. This is the scenario that will ensure Trump loses in the 2020 election. Such a scenario is also being prepared for Ukraine. Saakashvili’s Ukrainian mission was and is precisely that. Poroshenko had to stand on this vector, but with the arrival of Zelensky the situation changed. European Union President Jean Claude Juncker’s statement that Ukraine will not be able to become a member of the EU and NATO in the next 25 years seems to serve to push Ukraine to negotiate with Russia, as the EU does not want to have a “hot phase” of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict at its borders. But Georgia is far away and Europe will not worry much.

The analysis shows that the conductors of this scenario are not interested in how elections will be held in Georgia. For them, the most important thing is to disrupt stability and diminish the international image of the Georgian authorities. They are well aware that the protests are not mass, 22 parties gather 4,000-5,000 people at protests, but some international media outlets reports 10,000-20,000 protesters. It is important for them to show a visual picture of a clash between the police and demonstrators, tensions, and pictures of crisis situations in order to form the idea in the West that democracy in Georgia is in danger, the country is heading towards Russia, and rapid changes are needed so that Saakashvili comes to power. Small parties are promised a place in the coalition. Such reports are transmitted to the West mainly by Georgian correspondents of some foreign media outlets. This process cannot be ignored. The world community must receive real information. It is not seen that anything is being done in this direction.

The situation is not the same as in 2003, when the coup d’état took place, the so-called “Rose Revolution”. Ivanishvili stands firm and key government figures are loyal to him. Society needs to unite to prevent the implementation of a scenario that will destroy the country.

We do not know if the government analyses the full danger of the situation for the country. Most likely, some of them know. The implementation of the described scenario will bring Georgia into chaos. It is necessary to gather all efforts to prevent the use of our country as an instrument in the games of others. The US is Georgia’s strategic partner and our country should not participate in scenarios against any candidate in any country. The example of such interference leads to deplorable results and an example of this is the Ukrainian component in the 2016 US election, the Ukrainian factor in the Trump impeachment hearings, and the August 2008 war.

Another war with Russia will destroy Georgia. The country will be empty, the economy will collapse, and new waves of refugees and unemployed queues will appear. There are effective measures in place to prevent such a scenario. It is necessary to speak openly with the authorities of the United States, with the Republican and Democratic Party, in order to prevent such a thing. It is also necessary to talk about this subject with Moscow and Brussels. Today Georgia is definitely not a priority of US foreign policy, so all statements from there should first pass through the filter of this scenario.

After the publication of this article I expect that the attacks will begin, this analysis will be called a conspiracy theory, speculation, nonsense… But I think society can independently analyse the processes of the recent past, recognise the dangers, and support me. “Evil wins when good is silent”. God save Georgia!

Irakli Gogava, specialist in international relations, political scientist, and former deputy of the Parliament of Georgia

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