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The August Probe for Dignity

Posted 17/8/2008

By Inna Rogatchi - The Baltic Times
© Inna Rogatchi, 2008


On August 21th this year, there is a 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the event that has become a crucial point for many people in the West who did realise what's the Russian bear's hugs are about.

As Russia has its own calendar, the Kremlin still has it own way to celebrate some dates. The way they did it in Georgia this August, has made the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to pronounce the mark-bench phrase on "this is not 1968".

American administration has been late in their reaction to the Russian invasion of Georgia, clearly, but without it the Russian tanks would be occupying Tbilisi and overthrown the Georgian government by now quite surely.

Appearing together with the US Secretary of State in Tbilisi on August 15th, the Georgian President Mikheil Saakishvili did produce an once-in-the-life speech which may seem to be shocking to the vast majority of the Western officials and diplomats who did forget if ever knew what it is like - to name things by its own names.

That speech might be the considered as a highlight of the Prague-68 '40th anniversary' world-wide celebration.

But the true beginning of that celebration in real-time regime has happened on the night of August 12th at the same Tbilisi central square. At the vital moment when the Russian tanks were marching towards Tbilisi, five presidents of the states who did experience the full range of the Russian suffocating 'hug', flew to Georgia to support the dignity of the country and its people against that customarily Stalinist attack.

Emphatically well-dressed President of Poland Lech KaczynskiPresident of Ukraine Victor JuszhenkoPresident of Estonia Toomas Hendrik IlvesPresident of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, and prime minister of Latvia Ivar Godmanis came together with the Georgian leader to address to more than on one hundred thousand people of Georgia gathered that long day and night in the heart of their capital.

The heads of states did represent one hundred million people from their countries. It has been a very mighty voice - quite comparable with the Russian one, but far stronger one in the sense of moral commitment to defend one's freedom.

As Toomas Hendrik Ilves put it, they were doing "obvious thing", and were reacting in the way "that civilised world have to react" under the circumstances.

Well, one is coming to difficulties to explain such basic things to the leaders of many Western countries who regard itself as an epitome of the world civilisation.

The EU current chairing country France in capacity of its president also did arrive the same night to Tbilisi. He could easily to step on the same podium with the other presidents of the states. He can also make a clear public appearance and statement in the motion the US Secretary of States did a couple of days later. But how could he, being warmed up back in Kremlin by hugs with "dear Dmitry" (the current Russian president)?

In this context there is no wonder that French Le Figaro in its report from Tbilisi dismissively calls the support of five presidents "a romantic scene", while calling Russia "the Georgian great northern neighbour".

Maybe it is the time to remind to those people that it is rather hundreds of photos of jolly Parisians enjoying life under the Nazi occupation which everyone could see at the recent scandalous exhibition in Paris shall be called "bloody romantic", and that northern neighbour of Georgia has a centuries' enduring record for its greatness in one category primarily - cruelty and mass killing.

At the same time, the German chancellor also went to see "dear Dmitry" in the end of the last week in Sochi first before appearing in Tbilisi with her so mild statements on "now it is not the time for the genesis of the conflict". Why not?

One could hardly imagine that Angela Merkel with her DDR experience cannot perceive what it is all about now in Georgia. But it should be really hard for her to face bombed Georgia now after being personally responsible for blocking its membership in NATO just a few months prior to the conflict.

Ironically, there has been no sight of the Czech Republic leadership in the connection to the Russian attack on Georgia. In absence of Vaclav Havel as the country leader, Prague seems to fail that August probe for dignity.

There are choices which state leaders are making being driven by their positions rather than by their convictions. But in the end of the day, people would always remember those historical figures in full correspondence with their choices. There is no other way of memory.

August 17, 2008 
© Inna ROGATCHI, 2008

Inna Rogatchi is a writer and political analyst. Her current project is called "Mentality of Betrayal" and includes documentaries and a book.

The column has been published first time in The Baltic Times weekly in August 2008.

Copyright © 2017 by the Inna and Michael Rogatchi Foundation. All rights reserved.