Tensions High in Moscow


I’ve just returned from an epic trip in Russia, Central Asia and China to find this — a tentative plan by Gazprom to build a direct pipeline from Russia to Abkhazia, a breakaway region in Georgia that is currently the major wedge between Russia and Georgia.

Russia seems to be deliberately stoking the flames. When I lived in Moscow years ago, eating inexpensive Georgian food was one of my favorite things to do. A few weeks ago I spent three days in Moscow and learned that there is no such thing anymore as inexpensive Georgian food. Certainly, the weak dollar and ever-increasing cost of living have much to do with this, but that’s not all. Georgian cafe proprietors are apparently raising their prices so they will have the means to leave the city on a moment’s notice when the hostilities between Russia and Georgia inevitably begin. I’m getting this from only a couple of sources off the record and I myself am not so certain that war is inevitable, but I’m told that this does represent the general perception — among Russians, Georgians and expats alike — in Moscow.
More soon.
— Scott Paul


5 comments on “Tensions High in Moscow

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    Well said, WigWag (both your first and your second post).


  2. WigWag says:

    It does, Dirk. I think it could only help if both sides in the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians tried to see things from the other sides point of view.
    Many folks who comment at the Washington Note could also benefit from a more nuanced point of view about the Middle East. And while I am no partisan of President Bush or the neocons, the reflexive tendency by many here to blame them and the Israelis for viturally every problem in the world is both naive and misinformed.
    As for the Russians, I think our policies have given them the perfect opening for adventurism in the former Soviet Republics. While ethnic Russians are leaving those nations in droves, many still remain. Russia will view their protection through the nationalistic lens that is so prevalent in that country today. Just as the “protection” of Serbia is an echo from the pan Slav movement that started in Russia in the 19th century and still has resonance in the souls of many Russian nationalists.


  3. Dirk says:

    Abkhazia and Russia are right next to each other, so that news that they might build a direct pipeline is perhaps not such a big deal. In fact, the 2014 Winter Olympics right next door in Sochi, will also include new rail links.
    Apart from that, everything that WigWag says above is right on the money. I can only hope her advise to view things from a Russian viewpoint carry over into her views on Palestine.


  4. WigWag says:

    Tensions High in Moscow and the US has virtually no positive role to play. I’m actually amazed how little attention US/Russian relations get at the Washington Note. This is still not only one of our most important bilateral relationships, but the number of critical issues that Russia is intimately involved with (from non-proliferation to Iran)is very large.
    I am also amazed how Condi (can’t close the deal) Rice gets a pass on mishandling our relationship with Russia. Wasn’t her great claim to fame that she’s a Russian expert? Doesn’t she speak Russian fluently? While in the academic world, wasn’t Russia her beat? Despite all of this, it’s hard to think of a time since the end of the Cold War that Russian/US relations have been worse.
    The US loves to bemoan Russia’s failure to cooperate on sanctions with Iran and we love to criticize how Russia treats the former Soviet Republics, but has the US (or the EU for that matter) ever attempted to see the world from Russia’s point of view?
    The “west” has taken one provocative act after another against Russia. We’ve invited former Warsaw Pact members to join Nato and now we are getting ready to invite former Soviet Republics who border Russia into Nato. Imagine if the Warsaw Pact still existed and Mexico or Canada was thinking of joining. We’d be apoplectic.
    We’ve abrogated the ABM Treaty and now we want to place our missle defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia may or may not be fearful of our puny missle defense system (that probably won’t work), but clearly it’s got to be humiliating that we are putting the missles in former Soviet satellite nations.
    The US and Nato have recognized Kosovo in violation of International Law over Russian objections. The situation in Kosovo is complicated and there is no good answer to the problems there. Perhaps recognition was the ethical and in the long run, practical thing to do. But did it have to be done now? The UN Security Council did not provide a mandate for recongizing Kosovo because Russia and China objected. Ignoring those objections is a slap in the face to Russia that is hardly likely to be interpreted as a friendly act.
    Then to make matters worse, the US and EU refuse to even consider partioning Kosovo so that the overwhelmingly Serbian North can be attached to Serbia. Everyone knows that Serbia and Russia have old historical links based on religion and shared history. Pretending that Russian sympathies about Serbia/Kosovo don’t matter is hardly a way to win Russian cooperation on matters of mutual interest.
    And not only does the recongition of Kosovo set a bad example for other former Yugoslav republics (Bosnia, Republic Srpska and Macedonia) but it gives license to everything Russia is doing in Georgia and other former Soviet Republics. After all, if ethnic Albanians are entilted to a state of their own carved out of an existing state, why aren’t ethnic Russians entitled to the same thing?
    The Bush Administration has done everything it can to spit in the eye of the Russians. And now we think they’re supposed to help us with Iran, non-proliferation, oil prices or anything else.
    That’s a joke.


  5. jerseycityjoan says:

    I hope the tensions there can be defused.
    Who wants to go back to a world in which we’re constantly wondering what Russia will do next? Who wants another European war to worry about?
    This is such a sad and depressing thing to think about, I thought those days were over.


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