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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

November 24, 2003

November 24, 2003





**  Shevardnadze "had little choice" but to acquiesce in his "overthrow."


**  Commentators view Shevardnadze as a "tragic" figure similar to Gorbachev.


**  Russian mediation was a bid for influence in "a volatile region."




'A fresh start'--  Editorialists concluded that Georgian President Shevardnadze "finally bowed to the inevitable" by resigning from office.  "The Tbilisi revolution was predictable, taking into account that Eduard Shevardnadze had decided to keep power by electoral fraud," wrote Romania's independent Cotidianul.  Papers in Georgia declared that the "velvet revolution" was a "historical event" marking the beginning of "a new era."  Pro-reform Resonance stated that Shevardnadze's departure had given birth to "a civil society."  Liberal opposition 24 Hours argued that the "velvet revolution ended in a velvet manner" and that the opposition was not "driven by revenge" but "defending their legal rights."  Dailies elsewhere noted that the "only aim that united...Georgia's political opposition" was toppling Shevardnadze, and held that "the mood for reform that has gripped the country must be harnessed" through proper elections and "the hard work of economic restructuring" if Georgia is to avoid continued civil strife.


Like King Lear, surrounded by fawning courtiers, out of touch with reality--  Writers in Europe and Australia viewed Shevardnadze at least partly as a tragic figure.  "If he had left two years ago, he would be a national hero in Georgia today," commented Poland's liberal Gazeta Wyborcza.  "After the secession and civil wars in Georgia he at least gave his people self-confidence and a certain degree of stability," a German paper remarked, adding that he "will keep his place in the history books."  But Shevardnadze "frittered away" the trust of his countrymen, "surrounding himself in the end with familiar yes-men" and failing to tackle the corruption which "has eaten at the country's soul, undermining repeated efforts at reform."  Having championed the end of one politically corrupt regime, Shevardnadze "drifted into actively leading another that has sullied his reformist legacy."


An opportunity for Russia 'to open the door'--  Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov's "positive role" in resolving the crisis led one Georgian daily to see "a new beginning to Georgia-Russian relations."  French papers observed that Russia's "magnanimous" assistance comes after years of "creating chaos and rendering Georgia impossible to govern" and that "behind these latest events what has become clear is the forceful return of the Russians in the Caucasus."  Financial De Tijd of Belgium averred that "Putin is ready to keep the former Soviet states in line again."  Other analysts observed that the U.S. "has jostled with Russia for influence in Tbilisi" because of Georgia's "geostrategic" position astride a proposed Caspian oil pipeline.  Writers opined that Washington wants Georgia "stable and manageable" and concluded that Shevardnadze's "infidelities" had proved too much for continued U.S. support.


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 34 reports from 17 countries, November 24-25, 2003.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date. 




GEORGIA:  "Resigned"


Daily pro-reform Resonance editorialized (11/24):  “President Shevardnadze’s resignation gave start to a new era in Georgia.  It also was a new beginning to Georgia-Russian relations.  Taking into consideration Minister Ivanov’s positive role in the resolution of Georgian crisis, it becomes obvious that Russian policy toward Georgia is changing.  Russia feels that Georgia is becoming a valued and decent state, that has to be treated not though the policy of force, but respect and friendliness....  A new era is launched in U.S.-Georgia relations.  In spite of great respect and love of Georgians, the United States was still perceived as supporting President  [Shevardnadze] who was feeding and strengthening his corrupt government while the U.S. did not control the appropriation of donated assistance.  There is no doubt certain U.S. political circles are backing the opposition.  It is hard to believe that any opposition party or NGO had the economic capability of producing and placing numerous adds on [Georgian] TV.  It is hard to believe that without serious backing or support the moderate part of the opposition would have taken these risky steps. Obviously if the public protests failed, these opposition leaders would have faced repressions and imprisonment.”


"November Lessons To Be Learned By Winners"


The political columnist of the daily liberal opposition 24 Hours wrote (11/24):  “What happened in Georgia yesterday was a historical event.  It is a fresh start, the beginning of something new for all citizens.  Yesterday a civil society was born in Georgia, a society which knows the price of freedom, which knows how to defend this freedom, which believes in its own strength and which knows that from now on each government has to serve the interests of the people and not vice versa....  The velvet revolution ended in a velvet manner.  Opposition leaders managed the key task.  They decently faced the victory....  The fact that the opposition and Shevardnadze negotiated and he was granted freedom to stay in the country, was in fact, a matter of dignity for the entire nation.  It showed the world that people were not seeking a political guillotine, but were rather defending their legal rights.  Young political leaders were not driven by revenge, but strove for the peaceful resolution of the conflict....  Now the primary goal is to maintain what we’ve achieved.  People should not let the future government act against their interests.  Opposition leaders must realize that the 'rose revolution’ is a lesson for them to learn.”


"Journalist Eyes Will Watch New Faces"


Radical weekly Akhali Versia remarked (11/24):  “The velvet revolution is over and even the main hero, ‘dictator’ Shevardnadze has left the stage with decency....  [We] will continue to develop investigative journalism in Georgia....  The events of the last few weeks showed that investigative journalism works.  Participants of the velvet revolution knew everything about the government and the president’s environment....  We believe that from now on, each dishonest government official unveiled by journalists will be legally and fairly prosecuted.”


"Russia Once Again Lost Georgia"


Georgia's right-of-center daily Mtavari Gazeti contended (11/24):  "President Shevardnadze did not heed the West's advice and recommendations and found himself on the 'dustbin of history'.  At the most crucial point in Shevardnadze's career the West not only turned its back on him, but also 'instigated' the upheaval of the revolution.  No doubt--today we are dealing with the American revolution.  The verdict was made regarding President Shevardnadze right after he'd rejected the Baker plan.  He appeared then to be dangerous for the America's interests in the Caucasus.  Shevardnadze's rapprochement of recent times with Russia had finally 'upset' the West....  Yesterday, Shevarnadaze resigned without any blood shed, leaving Russia incapable of engaging in Georgia's internal political processes.  Especially as political blackmail, on the part of Russians through Agordsineba, had definitely been underway....  The West's primary demand that the opposing sides should avoid bloodshed has been satisfied.  It is obvious that this revolution did not happen without United States support, which means that Georgia is moving toward being under America's 'protection'.  Igor Ivanov was striving to save Russia's interests more than Shevardnadze's chair....  Russia will not put up so easily with the dominance of the Western regime in Tbilisi."


BRITAIN:  "Bloodless Revolt Could Trigger Violent Struggle"


Foreign Affairs Writer Robin Gedye observed in the conservative Daily Telegraph (Internet version, 11/24):  "Mr. Shevardnadze, who used the brutal skills honed during years at the top of the Soviet political machine to bring together the disparate clans of Georgia, eventually became a man out of tune with his time.  In his desperation to cling to power the dictator made the same mistake as many of his contemporaries in eastern Europe when they tried to hang on despite the overwhelming opposition of the people they ruled....  Georgian opposition leaders called their coup a 'velvet revolution.'  The problem for Georgia, however, is that while Czechoslovakia had the charismatic Vaclav Havel to act as its guide from dictatorship to democracy, Tbilisi has little but a fractured opposition.  The only aim that united the clans that make up Georgia's political opposition was to rid the state of Mr. Shevardnadze....  Nino Burdzhanadze, the parliamentary speaker who has been appointed as acting president, must move swiftly if she is to steer Georgia smoothly to its second election in two months.  The possibility of a further collapse in law and order is immense in what is effectively a political vacuum that will be fought over by fractured opposition groups with no obvious national leader.  While Mr. Shevardnadze may have been ruling on borrowed time, he was, because of his consummate political skills, once the only figure able to unite his notoriously corrupt and volatile country, which sits on a planned oil pipeline to open up the Caspian basin to the West....  Georgia's current political state, with its lack of any effective opposition leadership, is more akin to Romania's situation in 1990....  It will require the skills of a Shevardnadze in his heyday to see Georgia through the next 45 days without a proper government.  There will be hundreds of supporters of the fallen regime who could be expected to plot revenge, both out of fear of retribution at the hands of the mob as well as a sense that they were unfairly robbed of power.  If the passions of the crowd become the lawlessness of the mob and the army is called out, Georgia may yet descend into another dictatorship."


"Revolution Haunts The Land Of Monsters And Poets"


Robert Parsons wrote in the left-of-center Guardian (Internet version, 11/24):  "Eduard Shevardnadze's departure need never have been like this.  Although he is still lauded in the west for his part in the end of the cold war, Georgians have always been more equivocal in their assessment of his character and abilities.  Yet when he returned to power in 1992 they accepted him, albeit grudgingly.  They understood he was a giant on their tiny Caucasian stage.  Shevardnadze, however, frittered away their trust, surrounding himself in the end with familiar yes-men from his Communist party past.  The opportunity was there to groom another generation for power, but he took fright when the young politicians he introduced into office developed ideas of their own.  He retreated into the security of his old cabal, expelling the young pretenders into what he hoped was the wilderness.  This weekend they have come back to haunt him.  Georgians have a keen sense of theatre and a subtle understanding of the nuances of Shakespearean tragedy....  Today they are comparing Shevardnadze to King Lear--a lonely, disconsolate figure, surrounded by fawning courtiers and hopelessly out of touch with reality....  The country's record since independence has been desperately disappointing.  Corruption is a problem in all of the former Soviet republics, but in Georgia it has eaten at the country's soul, undermining repeated efforts at reform....  Much responsibility for that rests with Shevardnadze.  He repeatedly described it as his country's greatest curse and promised, time after time, that he would fight it to the bitter end.  But these were empty words....  The question now is whether any of this will change under the new generation of politicians ushered in by Georgia's 'velvet revolution'....  Most encouraging of all is the birth of civil society.  Indeed, some argue that it is the emergence of civil society in Georgia which ultimately ensured Shevardnadze's downfall.  The irony is that he made it possible."


"Shevardnadze Had Little Choice But To Resign"


The center-left Independent argued (11/24):  "Nothing quite so became Eduard Shevardnadze as president of the Caucasian republic of Georgia as the manner of his resigning from the post yesterday.  After weeks of resistance to the clamor for his resignation after parliamentary elections widely dismissed as rigged, Mr. Shevardnadze finally bowed to the inevitable and last night announced on television that he was going....  In truth he had little choice.  His attempt to prepare for his own agreed retirement by holding elections earlier this month ended in disaster....   As in Eastern Europe and the Balkans a president, well-known abroad but deeply distrusted at home, fell to the sheer power of the people and the unwillingness of the military to intervene.  The peaceful manner of his overthrow--for overthrow is what it is for all Shevardnadze's final gesture of resignation--must give some hope for a country which has suffered so much from corruption, separatist conflict and war with its neighbors and Russian interference.  But it starts from a low base of economic stagnation, huge disparities of wealth and deep internal divisions....  Georgia--crucial for its position along the path of the proposed Caspian pipeline--...will need all our assistance, and the cooperation of Russia, the EU and Washington, if it is to achieve what the Poles, Czechs, Serbians and others have already done."


FRANCE:  "Sovereignty"


Gerard Dupuy wrote in left-of-center Liberation (11/24):  “Shevardnadze’s departure was brokered by Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister.  The Kremlin, after creating chaos and rendering Georgia impossible to govern, is playing the magnanimous role of troubleshooter.  This attitude cannot make us forget the brutality of the Kremlin’s actions in the Caucasus, both to control oil routes and to establish its role as regional sovereign, even at the cost of a dangerous disorder.”


"The Foreign Referees"


Francois Ernenwein commented in Catholic La Croix (11/24):  “It is Russia that will decide whether Georgia’s revolution will be no more than a soft revolution....  But the U.S., which had begun to see the uprising in a good light because of Shevardnadze’s infidelities, will also have something to say about Georgia’s future....  For years Washington has tried to help Georgia get out from under Russia’s control, hoping to profit from that nation’s geostrategic position....  After Ivanov, it is now Colin Powell’s turn to visit Tbilisi....  Neither Russia nor the U.S. really needs any more conflicts:  both have their hands full, one with Chechnya, the other with Iraq....  But a peaceful scenario presupposes caution on all sides, including the rebels.”


"The Return of the Russians"


Alexandre Adler held in right-of-center Le Figaro (11/24):  “Should we fear trouble in Georgia?...  At this point it appears that Moscow has played both ends against the middle, nurturing relations with Shevardnadze and the opposition....  And for a number of reasons, including a similarity of views with Moscow on how to fight against terrorism, Washington has abandoned its old ally....  Behind these latest events what has become clear is the forceful return of the Russians in the Caucasus, after, successively:  the weakening of Turkey due to its alliance with the U.S., a convergence of views between Brazil and Argentine, also based on anti-Americanism, South Korea’s turning to China, and the creation of a Franco-German nucleus in Europe.  What one can conclude from all this is not that the American empire is on the move, but rather that a multipolar world is emerging.”


GERMANY:  "Shevardnadze Steps Down"


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine argued (11/24):  "The pictures from Tblisi resemble those we saw in Belgrade three years ago.  In Georgia and in Serbia the presidents sought refuge in electoral fraud to stay in power.  Here and there people staged mass protests in front of the parliament and called for their resignation.  After some time the opposition in both countries achieved 'breakthroughs.'  But on the other hand, the opposition forces in Georgia that are now trying to come to power, are not only democratic beacons.  Appeals to storm the president's residence are no evidence of a democratic background.  The opposition groups only agree on their opposition to Shevardnadze; a common will for something seems to be out of the question."


"Creating Stability In Georgia"


Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich opined (11/24):  "The Europeans can now take advantage of this chance to help the future rulers and contribute to creating stability in this strategically important region.  In addition to economic support, Georgia also needs support in the fight against the shortcomings of the past: rampant corruption, the deficiencies in the justice system and administration, the arbitrariness of the state.  Opposition leader Saakashwili called Shevardnadze a semi- dictator.  But at the moment he is not even this.  For Georgia this could be a writing on the wall for better times."


"Resignation Of Shevardnadze"


Centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin noted (11/24):  "Following Shevardnadze's resignation, a power vacuum is threatening to develop in Georgia, for, in one point, he is right:  parallels to the events in the fall of 1991 which escalated to a civil war later, cannot be overlooked.  At that time, people in the streets ousted a government, and this move was initially as bloodless as today.  Swiad Gmsachurdia, the first freely elected president, was accused of the same democratic deficiencies of which Shevardnadze is rightfully accused today.  In this situation there is no supportive alternative to new parliamentary elections.  But the opposition must prove to the world that it is willing and able to consolidate its legitimate demand for a change of power with legal means.  Then it will really gain the majorities in free elections to which it has thus far only talked about.  A power vacuum in Georgia can be prevented only if democratic legitimation and the execution of power stabilize the country."


"A Tragic Figure"


Center-right Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung had this to say (11/24):  "The falsified results of the parliamentary elections have now politically broken Shevardnadze's neck.  But he will keep his place in the history books.  As former foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev he took considerable part in establishing Germany's reunification.  And after the secession and civil wars in Georgia he at least gave his people self-confidence and a certain degree of stability.  But power changes people.  Now Shevardnadze is turning into a similarly tragic figure as Gorbachev."


ITALY:  "The Sad Parable Of Perestroika


Valerio Pellizzari remarked in Rome's center-left daily Il Messaggero (11/24):  "Moscow's embrace is still a decisive gesture, as effective as an excommunication, as quick as a toast enriched by a sleeping pill.  The Kremlin envoy arrives in Tblisi overnight, as if he were visiting a province of the Soviet empire, a rebel contingent, and not a sovereign state.  A few hours after his arrival, Eduard Shevardnadze realizes that he has no protectors any more and resigns.  The Soviet empire no longer exists, but the Kremlin still knows how to be very rapid when necessary, as was the case with soldiers transferred from Sarajevo to Kosovo in order to arrive in that province before the British soldiers....  This personal case, alone, is a parable of Yeltsin's and Putin's Russia.  But, most of all, it shows the reawakening of the old imperial visions....  The independence of Asian republics over the last few years has been conditioned by the physical impossibility to export their oil resources without paying duties to the Russians.  There are three ways to export: one goes through Iran, one will perhaps go through Afghanistan, and the most used one goes through Georgia.  Russia does not want the Chechnya contagion to spread.  But, most of all, it does not want the control of oil and gas meant for the West to suffer interference."


RUSSIA:  "Shevardnadze Stopped Being Leader Long Before Resignation"


Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (11/24):  "The latest events in Georgia have dispelled illusions that, in the one-and-a-half years left before the presidential election, Eduard Shevardnadze will be allowed to run the country as he has done for the past decade to some or for eternity to others.  It has been clear right from the beginning of the last political crisis that Shevardnadze is no longer an ace and will never be able to unite the nation again.  This is what brought him to power and helped him overcome one crisis after another.  Shevardnadze started out as one who united Georgia and ended up as one who divided it, running out of his potential as a national leader.  His dilemma was not whether he should quit but when and how he should do so.  That, in large measure, will determine what people will make of him and his times....  As the current crisis revs up, Georgia increasingly resembles the USSR shortly before its collapse, and Shevardnadze's position Gorbachev's in 1991.  The resemblance is all the stronger in view of the fact that, after helping dismantle the Soviet Empire, Shevardnadze tried to reproduce it in Georgia on a smaller scale.  He could not but fail.  But then, you can't be sure that the exulted people who will succeed Shevardnadze will do better."


"U.S.-Russia Quarrel Over Georgia Unlikely"


Maksim Yusin mused in reformist Izvestiya (11/24):  "In the Georgian crisis, Moscow and Washington are on different sides of the barricades.  The Americans openly support and finance the opposition....  But even so, a serious quarrel is unlikely.  It is good for the Kremlin that the Bush administration has been mired in Iraq and is hardly willing to get embroiled in yet another crisis or endanger its relations with Russia as it may need its assistance elsewhere in the world, in areas that, unlike the Southern Caucasus, are of vital interest to the United States."


"West Doesn't Care About Shevardnadze"


Dmitriy Suslov wrote in centrist Neazavisimaya Gazeta (11/24):  "The West wants stability in Georgia but does not care about its leader.  Gone are the days of Washington's unqualified support for Eduard Shevardnadze.  Now the United States wants the Caucasus to be stable and manageable."


"It Dates Back To James Baker's Visit"


Business-oriented Kommersant asserted in a piece by Vakhtang Dzhanashia and Boris Volkhonskiy (11/24):  "It did not start last Saturday.  Not even on November 2 (the polling day).  A visit to Georgia by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker last July and the Americans' efforts to rally anti-presidential forces in the intervening months became a catalyst.  But at the closing stage of the crisis, Russia, launching a counteroffensive, made a strong bid to retain its position in post-Shevardnadze Georgia."


BELGIUM:   "A Democracy Needs To Be Built"


Deputy chief editor Jean-Paul Duchateau editorialized in independent La Libre Belgique (11/24):  “A velvet revolution does not automatically mean that a country will become a peaceful and steady democracy.  History has sufficiently shown that the end of a dictatorship or the ousting of an authoritarian regime does not systematically bring an end to autocracy and corruption.  A democracy needs to be built, and it does not only need responsible leaders but also a vigilant population, who can demand that their rights be respected, but who must also be aware that they have duties.  Actually, Georgians’ luck is that both Washington and Moscow are quite interested in their country.  It was in the interest of both capital cities that the situation did not turn sour in Georgia.  But this luck has also a down side, as it is clear that the Russians as well as the Americans have a ‘plan’ for Georgia, and consequently for Georgians as well.  Good for them if that plan for the time being corresponds with their great democratic aspirations.  One simply hopes that, tomorrow or the day after, they will not, like many others, be disappointed because of realpolitik considerations.”


"A Lot At Stake In Georgia"


Foreign affairs writer Erik Ziarczyk remarked in financial daily De Tijd (11/24):  “There is a lot at stake for the United States and, as is often the case, it is all about oil interests.  Georgia is of crucial importance for an expensive project that exports oil from the Caspian Sea.  American companies paid millions of dollars for a pipeline through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the port of Ceyhan in Turkey.  To protect those investments the U.S. government was generous these last few years with financial and military support to the Shevardnadze government.  America’s meddling was ill received by Russia.  After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow continued to view the former Soviet states as Russia’s backyard.  However, the early Russian democracy was no match for the American companies which became very generous with money--with the support of the U.S. government....  The election of Vladimir Putin as president gave Russia new self-confidence....  After more than ten years of absence from the Caucasus, Putin is ready to keep the former Soviet states in line again.  The fact that he is irritating his American friends is not a real problem for him.  It was no coincidence that Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was the first to land in that he had a free hand to bring things under control.  With some Russian pressure, Shevardnadze resigned....  Maybe, Shevardnadze’s successors have already understood that Moscow is expecting something in return for its support to the ‘velvet revolution.’  Perhaps and extra oil or natural gas contract, or a few military agreements.”


"Shevardnadze Had No Choice"


Foreign affairs writer Isa Van Dorsselaer observed in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (11/24):  “For ten years the Americans considered Shevardnadze a stabilizing force and supported him with money.  Last week, however, the State Department criticized the ‘massive fraud’ during the elections.  Observers viewed that as a signal that Washington was ending its support to Shevardnadze--also because the once pro-Western President was moving into the direction of Russia this last year.  Suddenly, young pro-Western Sakaashvili became an interesting person.  For Russia--which is not happy with the American influence in its backyard--the crisis in Russia was an opportunity to open the door.  Russia dispatched its Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov who mediated between the opposition and the President on Sunday....  Without the support of the army and the police, with a divided circle of advisers and under pressure from thousands of people in the streets, the United States and Russia--which all urged for a peaceful solution--Shevardnadze had no other choice.” 


BULGARIA:  "Georgian Velvet"


Center- right daily Dnevnik commented (11/24):  "The manner in which Georgia exited the Shevardnadze era seems like a distant echo of the velvet revolution wave of the late 80s-early 90s....  In such cases everything hinges on the side that the military and the police will take.  In the Georgian case there was another factor involved--Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov personally asked the president to sign his resignation, essentially Moscow sacrificed Shevardnadze for the sake of its strategic interests.  After 1991, Russian troops based in Georgia have always taken part in every national unrest and every losing party has relied on their weapons.  This time Russia scored high by avoiding a civil war in a region expected to play a major role in the transiting of Caspian oil.  And a lot of Caspian oil, at that."


HUNGARY:  "Georgia’s Stake"


Liberal Magyar Hirlap editorialized (11/24):  “Why Georgia, many ask this question.  Georgia has become, not voluntarily, a buffer state of East and West.  More precisely Georgia has been made a buffer state.  It has ‘put’ Georgia into an uncomfortable situation that the West handled the Chechen conflict as a human rights issue but still turned away from Russian President Putin’s acts.  The Russian planes that were after the Chechen rebels jettisoned their murderous cargo over Georgian soil, which incident sharpened the Moscow-Tbilisi relationship.  And the United States has taken advantage of the situation.  The U.S. officially complained about the developments in Chechnya, but sent at the same time military experts to Georgia to train and prepare the armed forces.  Tbilisi has become strategically important in the international political an economic competition too.  The oil-pipeline, which carries oil from the Caspian Sea to the West stretches across Georgia’s territory.  That is why the State Department also urged those involved in the crisis to seek a peaceful solution.”


POLAND:  "Step Down In Time"


Editor-in-chief Adam Michnik opined in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (11/24):  “The old fox was skilled in maneuvering between Moscow and Washington.  Georgia was not a British-type democracy, but it was not a Turkmenistan-like dictatorship either.  If Shevardnadze had left two years ago, he would be a national hero in Georgia today.  But nothing in politics is more difficult than to know when to step down.  Shevardnadze did not understand that the world had changed, that Georgia had changed, and that even a limited democracy must respect some rules.”


"The End Of Shevardnadze’s Era"


Slawomir Popowski observed in centrist Rzeczpospolita (11/24):  “Shevardnadze’s misfortune was that he was unable to transform Georgia into a normal civilized state.  The country was controlled by corrupt clans whose positions were defined by connections and support from the president.  The new authorities will have to dismantle this system.  This task will be their first serious test to prove how credible their slogans of building a civic society in Georgia are.”


"Miserable King, Lousy Courtiers"


Wojciech Jagielski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (11/22):  “To admit a mistake is a difficult thing to do.  But admitting a mistake much too late may be an inexcusable error that disqualifies such a seasoned politician [as Shevardnadze.]”


ROMANIA:  "Revolution In Georgia"


Foreign policy analyst Ioana Lupea opined in Cotidianul (11/24):  “The Tbilisi revolution was predictable, taking into account that Eduard Shevardnadze had decided to keep power by electoral fraud, despite American warnings, which had targeted him even since last year.  The former communist leader sought support from Moscow and did get it, despite the fact that, under his leadership, Georgia was a rather hostile presence for Russia....  Shevardnadze’s time has passed, it is now Shaakashvili’s time, a young politician, greedy for power, having done his studies in the United States, and more anti-Russian than the disputed president has ever been....  Saturday, it was in Tiblisi.  The next time, it might be in Kiev.”


SPAIN:  "Shevardnadze Falls"


Centrist La Vanguardia contended (11/24):  "Shevardnadze's government was pro-West.  So are the winners of the disturbance--a disturbance with strong influence from the U.S.--those most interested in building a pipeline for oil from the Caspian sea to Turkey.  This importance makes Georgia a volcano.  But this is not the only reason.  Abkhazia, Adzaria and South Ossetia...are in practice out of the central authority's control.  That's why the faceoff between Shevardnadze and those who have overthrown him could be an incentive for separatists.  In this context, the crisis in Georgia, where Russia has military bases, can be overcome only through democratic elections under international supervision."




AUSTRALIA:  Georgia trapped in its history


The liberal Sydney Morning Herald editorialized (Internet version, 11/25):  "There was a palpable sense of relief in the jubilation which greeted the resignation of Georgia's President, Eduard Shevardnadze....  Mr. Shevardnadze retreated from his threat to crush street protests by force.  This last act of statesmanship will go a long way in defining his substantial historic legacy....  When Georgia's first democratically elected, post-Soviet President, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was hounded from office by a huge popular uprising in 1992, Mr. Shevardnadze was quick to join the celebrations....   Mr. Shevardnadze then seized the opportunity to seek the presidency for himself.  Mr. Shevardnadze has fallen on the same sword.  He finally drained the last of the West's goodwill, and active support of the United States, in rigged elections earlier this month.  However, it is a crisis which has long been building.  There is no doubt Mr. Shevardnadze failed to address endemic corruption and violence as his nation slid further into poverty and despair.  Nor did Mr. Shevardnadze resist the arrogance and vindictiveness of power.  But the demise of one of the former Soviet Union's most prominent reformists must raise very difficult questions for those who will govern next.  The deep ethnic, territorial and geopolitical tensions which have historically plagued Georgia remain.  The U.S.-backed opposition will face the same overwhelming challenges in wresting control from powerful interest groups--without the tools of authoritarian rule--and in resisting the expedient alliances with unsavory warlords which hastened Mr. Shevardnadze's fall....  Since independence in 1991 the U.S., keen to secure political stability in a volatile region and to protect $2 billion oil pipeline, has jostled with Russia for influence in Tbilisi.  Russia's brutal war in neighboring Chechnya, its decision to arm separatists inside Georgia and frequent cuts to Russian supplied gas and electricity greatly destabilized the new nation.  In combination with internal divisions, including the rise of the post-communist mafia, these pressures have pushed Georgia to the brink of state failure.  Any popular revolution is burdened by high expectations.  In Georgia, the welcome fresh start for democracy is not enough.  For democracy to prevail, the rule of the warlords must be replaced by the rule of law."


"A Reformist Lost Stands Down"


Melbourne's liberal Age remarked (Internet version, 11/25):  "Eduard Shevardnadze was once a darling of the West....  Since [being elected] he has presided over the rapid failure of one of the world's newest states.  Tiny Georgia could be held out as a textbook example of the fragility of democracy in post-authoritarian regimes....  The United States pumped huge amounts of aid into Georgia, helping prop up the regime, while relations with the Russian Federation remained frosty after Mr. Shevardnadze refused to assist Moscow in the war in Chechnya.  But he also allowed himself to become hostage to vested local interests, turning a blind eye to corruption to secure political support....  The humiliating scene in the parliament on Saturday of Mr. Shevardnadze, now 75, being hustled mid-speech from the chamber by his security guards signaled a sorry political demise....  Having championed the end of one politically corrupt regime, Mr. Shevardnadze drifted into actively leading another that has sullied his reformist legacy....  If Georgia is not to descend yet again into civil war, the mood for reform that has gripped the country must be harnessed.  The first requirement is for properly supervised democratic elections.  There is a role here for the United Nations.  After that must come the hard work of economic restructuring.  Its strategic position between Europe and the Middle East must not allow Georgia to become a new big power playground between Russia and the U.S., let alone a base for terrorism.  That will call for restraint and international vigilance."


CHINA:  "Shevardnadze Resigns In Bid To Defuse Crisis"


Zhao Ying provided this analysis for China's official news agency Xinhua in English (11/24):  "Considering complicated internal circumstances and hoping to prevent the current unrest from escalating, the veteran state leader finally made a difficult but bold decision to hand over his power to the opposition....  Many Georgians criticized Shevardnadze for misruling, failing to tackle rampant corruption and economic deterioration in the once affluent Soviet republic.  The president was also blamed for the decline of living standards and rising unemployment.  Shevardnadze's final concession was also made due to the close concerns shared by foreign nations, particularly Russia and the United States....  Although Shevardnadze adopted a pro-West strategy during his rule, Washington was still disappointed at the widespread corruption and some unstable factors in the government's foreign policies.   What the United State wants is a regime that meets the requirements of western-molded democracy.  Receiving no firm supports from its Caucasus neighbors and western allies, the helpless Shevardnadze realized that he had no other choice but to give up his post to powerful opponents....  But it is still unclear whether new Georgian leaders will properly solve all the economic, political and social problems in Georgia.  The emerging new government may face tough challenges in the future in navigating the development of the country."




PAKISTAN:  "Another Caucasian Domino Falls?"


Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times commented (Internet version, 11/24):  "Georgia...seems no longer able to govern itself.  Its president for nearly a decade, Eduard Shevardnadze, has been forced to flee the parliament house by a united opposition that has rejected the elections held earlier this month because they were fixed by him in his own party’s favor.  The deadlock has caused the Russian foreign minister to pay a flying visit to try and resolve matters.  But the Georgians know that Russia could intervene as it has in the past....  When Shevardnadze tried to prolong his decade-long rule, the Georgians balked.  This raises the question:  has democracy worked in the ‘republics’ that were supposed to go back to sovereign independence after 1991?  Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, all have ex-communists ruling them.  They are mostly opposed by the Islamists.  Will the Islamists usher in democracy?  No, since the Islamists have serious objections to democracy.  The region is therefore fated to remain undemocratic and problematic."


IRAN:  "Georgia's Velvet Revolution"


Tehran's pro-Khatami, English-language Iran News commented (Internet version, 11/24):  "The impoverished the others classified as the Caucasus are very important to the West compared to Central Asian republics which the Europeans and the Americans have basically written off as being within the sphere of influence of Russia....  The West considers the Caucasus region as Russia's Achilles Heel because of the region shared culture with Western nations.  Analysts believe that the West has not had a clear and well-defined strategy toward the CIS.  As a result, former communists have been ruling these republics as 'lifetime presidents' with very little political development taking place in these countries.  But what has transpired in front of our TV screens in Tblisi is a sign that Washington has turned its attention to this long neglected region and is looking for a political turnover with new leadership taking over the reigns of power in the Caucasus region....  Will Georgia's unfolding 'Velvet Revolution' give rise to a domino effect for the rest of the CIS similar to what befell Eastern Europe exactly 14 years ago?  Are we about to witness another monumental political earthquake on the same scale as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the velvet revolutions of former Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe?  Only time will tell."


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