There used to be a lot of Saakashvili apologists writing in Western papers and magazines, but it takes a special kind to outdo them all in sheer servility. I give you Andre Glucksmann:
If only such a vibrant opposition could exist under Putin’s regime—with newspapers, two television channels, and the privilege of blocking major arteries and access to official buildings by setting up political protests. In Georgia, I saw a protest take place for two months, while the police refrained from opening up traffic in order not to offend the demonstrators. How many minutes would it take to arrest someone so bold as to set up a protest in front of the Elysée Palace? And who would imagine for an instant that such a thing could be attempted in Red Square?
Of course, this only came after Saakashvili disgraced himself and embarrassed all of his willing defenders in the West by ordering a brutal crackdown on a similar protest in late 2007 that seriously injured 500 people, whom Saakashvili lamely claimed were working as part of a Russian-backed coup. Saakashvili tolerated the recent demonstrations because he realized that he could not simply bludgeon his critics and get away with it after having led his country into a disastrous war.
As for allowing a vibrant opposition, Glucksmann is greatly exaggerating. Imedi was shut down on Saakashvili’s orders, and he and his allies have been taking control of the rest of the media for the last several years. Regarding the “republic free of corruption” Glucksmann praises, this is also a vast overstatement. Corruption has been declining, but it has by no means been eliminated.
Earlier this year, The Christian Science Monitor reported:
The annual global survey by the New York-based Freedom House found that Georgia “slid backwards” in a few key democratic indices in 2008, such as independent media and electoral process, but still had a higher freedom rating than most other post-Soviet states.
But some Georgian experts take a dimmer view. “The human rights situation is worse today than it was under Shevardnadze,” says Nana Sumbadze, codirector of the independent Institute for Policy Studies in Tbilisi. “Last year’s presidential elections were faked. The [subsequent] parliamentary elections were manipulated; the media was controlled and opposition parties had no voice on TV. The public mood [about the elections] was dark,” she says.
It was under these circumstances that Saakashvili has held on to power. Meanwhile, Glucksmann is reduced to appealing to sheer majoritarianism to defend Saakashvili’s continued hold on power. From the same CSM article, this is how political opponents are treated:
Last month, Georgian authorities arrested seven members of Ms. Burjanadze’s party on charges of illegal weapons possession. Georgian intelligence chief Gela Bezhuashvili alleged they were part of a Moscow-backed conspiracy aiming to “remove Georgian authorities through internal disorder and destabilization.”
Looking for anything he can use, Glucksmann brings in the chimera of energy independence for Europe. What little gas and oil that can be moved through Georgian pipelines is not going to free Europe from its dependence on Russian energy. If it were the case that Russia did not have major agreements with the Central Asian republics concerning their energy supplies (Turkmenistan was just the latest), an alternate route might make sense, but it is not the case. For the foreseeable future, that dependence is not going away, and it is simply wrong to hold up potential pipelines through the Caucasus as a realistic chance to break Russia’s hold on the European energy market. To use this as a means to prop up a reckless authoritarian seems especially foolish.