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What will Putin's “Second Coming” Bring?

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, November 29
Russian ruling party United Russia has unanimously confirmed Vladimir Putin as their candidate for the presidency at elections to be held in March next year. His victory in those elections seems all but assured. Some analysts try to outline the possible threats Georgia could have after Putin’s "second coming". When Putin becomes president next year, Saakashvili will still have around a year and a half to continue as Georgia’s president. The two men will have to co-exist as leaders of their countries for this period. If we suggest that Saakashvili could become the prime minister of Georgia in 2013, this term of coexistence will further be prolonged. Saakashvili himself is rather optimistic however. On November 22 he stated cheerfully that the days of the Russian leadership are counted.

Putin’s future presidency will take place against the background of certain tension between Russia and the west and Moscow’s attempts to create a very obscure amalgamation called the Eurasian Union. It seems like Putin will return to the Kremlin with this idea fixed and though it is said that this union will be more economic than political it is obvious that the project is a political one. Putin himself declares that the Eurasian Union is similar to the European Union however not many people trust it and many say that it is an attempt to revive the Soviet Union. As is known Putin himself labeled the disintegration of the Soviet Union the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Moreover, just some time ago Medvedev even recalled the slogan of the Brezhnev period about the peoples of the Soviet Union, the now defunct concept of "Soviet people".

Georgian analysts, such as former FM Irakli Menagarishvili, think that the Eurasian Union has nothing in common with the European Union. Europe does not force anyone to enter its union, on the contrary different countries ask for admission into the organization as the EU offers its members political, economic and social welfare. He also adds that Georgia has made a strategic preference and the EU should become the major vector of Georgia’s foreign policy. On the other hand, analysts do not exclude conducting dialogue with Russia over certain issues. The Georgian ruling majority however, whose major incentive at the moment is remaining in government, criticizes such positions and is against any kind of contact with Russia, blaming everybody who promotes this position as Russian poodles.

Some analysts meanwhile make prognoses about the possible repetition of Russian military aggression against Georgia. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgengauer who almost precisely predicted the 2008 August war now considers the possibility of a similar scenario where Russia might attack Azerbaijan and Georgia will also be involved directly or indirectly. As is known Russia is against the construction of trans-Caspian energy supply systems for oil and gas pipelines, where the key player is Azerbaijan. Moscow sees in these projects a threat to its strategic interests in economic welfare as these routes suggest alternative energy supplies to Europe. Felgengauer however is not sure which scenario is more likely however: either Russia has to aggravate the Karabakh issue setting Azerbaijan against Armenia, or to trigger military activities in the Caspian Sea region. According to Felgengauer if hostilities are unleashed between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh, Russia will be forced to support Armenia but since Russia has no land border with Armenia, Russian tanks can enter Armenia only through Georgian territory.

What would Georgia do if Russia demands that Tbilisi allow its tanks to enter Armenia? “I do not know how Georgia will conduct itself however I am sure that the Kremlin will act in whatever way is in its interests. And this means that Russian tanks have to pass through Tbilisi. As there is no other way. It is not impossible that Russian tanks will symbolically parade along Rustaveli Avenue,” states Felgengauer. The Russian expert highlights one simple reality, the west has swallowed one bitter pill – Russian aggression against Georgia was aimed at stopping NATO expansion, as is openly admitted now by Russia – and could in future swallow another. Where serious Russian interests are at stake, it's clear that Russian tanks cannot be stopped by developing tourism, putting former US president Ronald Reagan’s statue in the centre of Tbilisi or the obligatory learning of the English language. The insecurity of the region, and Russia's ability to exploit this, requires Europe and the US to more actively and firmly stand with Georgia and develop strong responses to such possible scenarios.