Sunday, August 31, 2008

Georgia, Kosovo and sugardaddies

Tara Bahrampour wrote in the Washington Post an article about her experiences in Georgia. One part of the article deals with the political culture in Georgia:
The Georgians are afraid of [the Russians], but they are also intertwined with them. Russia has been Georgia's savior and tormenter, its subjugator and protector. The Soviet Union kept them in bondage, but it also supplied them with food, jobs, education, a market for their goods. And it freed them from responsibility.

"We always had sugar daddies," my colleague Giorgi said as we sipped strong Turkish coffee one spring day in the school cafeteria. "They would come, kill, rape, take over the land, but you always had a shepherd, always had an overseer, someone who decided for you. So in a way we're not grown up. We are like 17-year-olds who cannot operate in real-life settings -- you know, you move out, and you find that life is not fair, the outside world doesn't necessarily love you the way your family does. So what's the solution? As soon as we lost one shepherd, we started looking for another. So the U.S. is like a substitute for Moscow."

It could have been about Kosovo.

This dependent behavior works very well in Washington as both Kosovo and Georgia get loads of aid (Georgia already under Shevardnadze). Both have also been very active (and successfull) in lobbying the US government. But the price of the aid is keeping the conflict with the big neighbor going. People like Saakashvili and Thaci understand very well that if you are out of the news your aid package will shrink very fast. So they keep finding excuses to keep the conflict going. This is not in the long term interest of their citizens as it precludes normal development.

In both areas politics is in essence clan-based. As a consequence they are highly corrupt (Saakashvivli reduced this somewhat). In Georgia (under Shevarnadze) only 10% of the population paid for its electricity. This was even worse than Kosovo.

No comments: