When is a friend not a friend?

The ousting of Eduard Shevardnadze from office in November 2003 has resulted in revelations, many of which are of a highly ironic nature as will be appreciated as the story unfolds.  Alfred Mendes on recent events in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia.

Keep in mind the following facts: (a) Shevardnadze had “ruled Georgia for  12 years after playing an instrumental role in the final days of the Soviet bloc” [1] ; (b) Georgia has been a member of NATO's 'Partnership for Peace' (PfP) Pro-gramme since 1994; (c) “The US is providing military assistance to eorgia in the form of training and equipment, which has already cost the US government about USD 70 million. US instructors have already trained three battalions of commando units, a total of 1750 people... US military instructors have finished training 550 Georgian commando units...and, in the words of Shevardnadze ‘Georgian forces are now approaching NATO standards.’” [2] ; (d) Shevardnadze had at all times offered his full support to the US on its foreign policy - including the invasion of Iraq; and (e) above all, he had willingly cooperated with the oil companies in their Caspian projects (with not a little help from his old friend, James Baker III, legal rep.of the Azerbaijan International Oil Co.).

On the face of it, it would seem puzzlingly ironic that America would have allowed Shevardnadze to be removed from office. This, therefore, calls for a closer look at matters/events which, because of their pertinence, may help solve the puzzle.


In late 2000, Shevardnadze invited George Soros - whom he had known since the 80s - to Tbilisi to set up the Open Society Georgia (an offshoot of Soros’s Open Society Institute), ‘with the stated aim of building democratic institutions and civil society.’ On that trip, Soros met Shevardnadze’s Justice Minister, Mikhail Saakashvili - who some months later, and now disillusioned with Shevardnadze - quit the government & went into opposition. This initial trip by Soros was to be followed by several other visits, though his relationship with Mr. Shevardnadze had begun to sour, as evinced by Soros’s statement to a news conference in Moscow in 2002 on the subject of the coming Georgia election in 2003: "It is necessary to mobilize civil society in order to assure free and fair elections because there are many forces that are determined to falsify or to prevent the elections being free and fair," Mr. Soros said, adding that "This is what we did in Slovakia at the time of [Vladimir] Meciar, in Croatia at the time of [Franjo] Tudjman, and in Yugoslavia at the time of Milosevic."


In February 2003, Giga Bokeria, a Georgian activist who had founded the ‘Liberty Instititute’ in opposition to Shevardnadze, was sent to Serbia to learn how the Serbian resistance movement , OTPOR, had brought about the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic. This resulted in a trip to Georgia the following summer by an OTPOR group “who ran three-day courses teaching more than 1,000 students how to stage a peaceful revolution.” This was all funded by Soros’s Open Society Institute. [3] (Soros’s dealings throughout the Balkans are in the public domain - well-covered elsewhere)

Mikhail Saakashvili was a name that would subsequently ‘hit-the-headlines’ come November 2003, when Shevardnadze was deposed. After all, as leader of the United National Movement and chairman of the Tbilisi City Council, he had led the rebellion. Intriguingly, in April 2003, he had been invited to attend a ‘discussion’ chaired by the Nixon Center in Washington. This was a group founded by Nixon on “January 20, 1994 (the 25th anniversary of his first inauguration and just three months before his death in April of that year) as a forward-looking, activist institution designed not just to study and talk, but also to make a difference in shaping U.S. foreign policy perspectives for the 21st century....The Center is funded through a combination of corporate and individual donations in addition to foundation grants...In March 1995, the Center was quickly established as a leading participant in the debate over American foreign policy by its highly successful national policy conference ‘After Victory: Defining an American Role in an Uncertain World.’ The conference addressed fundamental questions about U.S. goals and interests in the post-Cold War era and featured major presentations by President Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Dr. Henry Kissinger, who served as conference chairman.”.....To further emphasise the preeminence of this Center, the following is a list of its more famous/infamous board members:

Honorary Chairman: Henry A. Kissinger (Former Secretary of State, et al.)

Chairman: Maurice R. Greenberg (Chairman and CEO of American International Group)

Conrad M. Black (the Hollinger Group)

John McCain Brent Scowcroft (ref: Iran-Contra débacle) Dimitri K. Simes, Center President (Ex Officio) (expert on U.S.-Russian

relations and a foreign policy advisor to President Nixon,) James Schlesinger (former Secretary of Defense) John Deutch (former Sec. of Defense & CIA Director) [4]

The above-mentioned Center ‘discussion’ in Washington on April 14 2003 revealed many interesting pointers pertinent to the subject of this article - as the following excerpts will show:

“Mikheil Saakashvili, one of the leading opposition party leaders, argued that President Eduard Shevardnadze has very little support in the country, and added that ‘if Washington does not push for free and fair elections in Georgia , there will be chaos on the street.’”

“Mr. Saakashvili sees the main challenge from the populist Labor Party, which recently won a court case against the American electricity utility company, AES. The party promotes free electricity to Georgians and stood firmly against the Iraq war. Mr. Saakashvili argued that the government indirectly supports the Labor Party.”

“‘Georgian opposition is closely working with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) for election monitoring. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (now chairman of NDI) is expected to travel to Tbilisi in June for the first

preparatory mission, and again in September’, he said.”

“Saakashvili referred several times to Serbia in explaining developments in Georgia.... There also has been the formation of peaceful student and opposition movements like the ones that succeeded against the Milosevic government. ‘Like in Serbia in 1996, the church can play a huge role in reining in violence because it enjoys moral authority,’ he argued. Urging immediate reforms, he said that so far he was a ‘successful version of Djindjic.’” - the Serbian prime minister who was subsequently assassinated.

[5] (Refer the last paragraph to Soros’s activities noted above).

Under the heading ‘Georgia's Saakashvili backs oil-pipeline plan’, The Seattle Times of November 27 2003 noted: "‘All strategic contracts in Georgia, especially the contract for the Caspian pipeline, are a matter of survival for the Georgian state,’ said Mikhail Saakashvili, who yesterday was endorsed by the country's interim President Nino Burjanadze in the upcoming presidential election. The decision makes Saakashvili the clear front-runner in the Jan. 4 presidential election.”....

“Oil companies BP and Statoil said the ouster of Shevardnadze did not represent any threat to their plans to ferry Azerbaijan's huge oil and gas reserves to Turkey via oil and gas pipelines through Georgia, known as Baku-Ceyhan and Baku-Erzurum.”....

“Saakashvili sought to dampen the enormous expectations raised by the former opposition's victory... ‘I want to tell every family of Georgia that in three weeks, in two months, extraordinary changes won't happen,’ he said.”

Shevardnadze “speculated that forces other than the protesters were involved in his ouster. He noted that the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Miles, was posted in Yugoslavia before the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, and suggested the ambassador might have encouraged Georgia's opposition.”

The newspaper continued: “Should Saakashvili win, it would make him the most Americanized national leader ever seen in the former Soviet Union outside the Baltic states. Aside from his studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Saakashvili also earned a degree at Columbia Law School. With no money in the budget and $1.8 billion in foreign debt, Saakashvili acknowledged that the interim government cannot pay salaries or pensions until after the elections.”

“Washington committed $2.4 million to help conduct Georgia's Nov. 2 election. It was part of a 10-year investment of $1.3 billion aimed at helping Georgia create a civil society. In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration was putting together an ‘inter-agency mission’ to go to Georgia next week to offer help with

elections and other areas of cooperation.” [6]

The above recorded event bears a striking resemblance to what happened in Yugoslavia - in more ways than one - but the crucial lesson to be drawn from it is that Corporate America will desert an ‘ally’ at the drop of a hat - if that ‘ally’ is no longer of tactical use to it on its Global March Onward!

[1] Seattle Times Nov. 27 ‘03 (implying a causal linkage between Shevardnadze’s close relationship w/James Baker & the fall of the USSR)


[3] Mark Mackinnon ‘Globe & Mail’ Nov. 26th 2003



[6] Seattle Times op.cit.