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>How Long Will Withdrawal From Georgia Take?

Mikhail Saakashvili speaking to French President Nikolas Sarkozy in Tbilisi

August 13, 2008
Tbilisi, Georgia–Apparent accord was reached this morning between the Russians and Georgia for Russian troop withdrawals. It is not certain when this will take place, but if you know Valdimir Putin you know it will not be in haste–better next week than this. That kind of thing. And maybe better in October or next spring? I doubt that. Occupation is not in the plan. It takes a lot of money to maintain troops in a “foreign” country, and if he is anything he is a pragmatist. Something we can’t always say about George Bush.

Putin is the former leader of Russia’s KBG and a two-term president and he’s no dummy. Words like “slick, conniving, treacherous, scoundrel, bounder, conspiring, intrigue and bastard” are too mild for a man who “miraculously” became prime minister when Mikail Medvedev, his protege, became president. But, of course, you must remember that Putin still controls more than half of Parliament, so his candidacy as prime minister was a “shoo-in,” a foregone conclusion.

He’s so tough, he even has his protege Dimitri Medvedev eating out of his hand. Nothing happens in Russia without the stain of approval of Vlad Putin. If you’re wondering whether to believe him when he blames the president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, for starting the war, and that’s what most of the news wires are saying, then you don’t know Putin well enough.

Even in his own country, Saakashvili is coming in for some pretty stern criticizm this morning. Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said Georgia made a “grave mistake” in advancing into the breakaway province of South Ossetia without adequate preparation. That’s true, and this American-educated Saakashvili, who has a law degree, is no match for the wits of Putin.

Here’s my take on what probably transpired:
Putin has long wanted to punish Georgia for gravitating to the West and, in fact, seems surrounded by Western-leaning countries including the Baltic states, and he saw a natural opening in the obvious great angst between a region of Georgia, South Ossetia, and Georgia. Eduard Kokoyty has been its leader since 2001. I posit that Putin, with Medvedev with him in the Kremlin, called the president of this little Ossetia area to Moscow to lay down the law.

They’re sitting in a stunning Kremlin office with it’s thick red carpets, heavy draperies that let in only a little light, and lavish dark furniture. Behind the largest desk Kokoyty has ever seen is Putin, whose icy cold, penetrating blue eyes do not leave Eduard’s as they speak. This conversation probably takes place in July.

“Eduard, so kind of you to come in. We are aware of the problems you are experiencing with this Saakashveli guy who’s out to make a name for himself.’

Eduard Kokoyty’s body shakes a little as it’s his turn to speak. “I…I don’t know where you get your information…

Putin smiles coldly, “Oh, come now…we have our spies, both in South Ossetia and Georgia, itself. I’ll bet I could tell you what you had for breakfast this morning.”

Everyone laughs.

“We know that you are on shaky ground with your people. Want to solidify your position as president and at the same time help Russia?”

“Uh, of course I do. I’ll do anything.” At that moment Putin had him. In Kokoyty’s totally psyched out mentality, he would shine the prime ministers boots if he asked.

The words “do anything” alerts Putin–this guy’s a pushover.
“Then listen to me you sonuvabitch, and listen carefully,” he says leaning over the desk with even a stronger eye-to-eye contact, magnetic force that literally freezes Koko.

“I have a plan. If you work it right, it could be the end of this western-leaning Saakashvili fellow, and Georgia will not only be in our hands, but your little province will be declared a sovereign country…or if you wish it can be included, with North Ossetia, as part of the great Russian empire. If you refuse or work it wrong, you’re a dead man, understand?”

“I would like nothing more than to work for you, your highness,” he says, as if he is talking to King Saud. Putin reminds him he is not a “highness” and Koko’s face glows red.

In that simple, intimidating exchange a plan is hatched. Eduard Kokoyty would start a series of raids on Georgian facilities, like bombing the post office, rail line, oil line, roads, and bridges. “And I’ll have some of our million-man army, with tanks and warplanes available,” assures Putin. “They’ll be staged and waiting at the border as this fool Saakashvili plays the part of the fly in our neat little “spider and the fly” entrapment. We will wipe his country off the map and blame him for starting a war. In fact, if you like, I will blame him for genocide and have him tried at the Hague. Do you see the genius of this plan?”

“I…I do, your rightness.” By now Putin is smiling, knowing he has this little fart in the palm of his hand.

So the commando activities begin and Saakashvili gets on edge and forgets to prepare properly, starting what he thought was an innocent little invasion of this little section of his country to put it down once and for all. He forgot to send out spies across the Russia border. If he had, they would have warned against the massive and deadly Russian army poised to strike. The rest is history.

Since 1991 Putin has done everything he could to consolidate, following the cataclysmic breakup of the Soviet Union which once had greater population than the U.S., something like 350 million people. Now it is a condensed country of 140 million, but it has resources. Thanks to Western style initiative and private enterprise, Russia is coming back, and with this Georgian affair completed so successfully, Putin can honestly say “Russia is back.”