The War Diaries

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Archive for the ‘Russia’ tag

Politics is Not a Zero Sum Game

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Georgia’s Forgotten Frozen War from Derek Flood on Vimeo.

Barcelona- In the new issue of Jane’s Intelligence Review, (subscription required) I have an interview out with Ambassador Kaha Imnadze who represents the Republic of Georgia at the United Nations along the banks of New York’s East River . We spoke in early September on the heels of the NATO summit in Newport, Wales. We had a lot to discuss relating the Georgia’s signing of the EU Association Agreement earlier in the summer which acted as a veneer of raison d’étre for Russian’s invasion of Ukraine.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.42.22 PMWith Georgia already having two occupied regions where the overt presence of both Russian troops and intelligence agencies act as a shadowy reminder that this frozen conflict can reheat should Russian policy dictate so or a resurgent Georgian nationalism stumble into another fight that it cannot win on the battlefield.

Georgia occupies a unique place in the world in terms of both cartography as a mountainous land bridge between the Muslim and Orthodox worlds in broadest terms and geopolitically where it could potentially act as a robust diplomatic conduit between Iran and the West. Straddling vital energy routes, Georgia maintains amicable relations stretching from Washington to Tehran as if a fusion of its warm hospitality and realpolitik.

When asked how such a small nation can skillfully exploit its underappreciated diplomatic potential, Imnadze mentioned Georgia’s ancient history in relation to how it has lasted mostly intact for centuries.

Despite marauding powers hailing from Slavic, Turkic, Persian and other empires vying for power in a wider South Caucasus which acts as a natural land bridge between the Caspian and Black Sea regions as well as between the Middle East, Iranian plateau and Russia, for Georgians to have survived for so long in this contested environment, they seem to have in inherent diplomacy “in their DNA” as Imnadze put it to me.

Georgia's ambassador to the United Nations, Kaha Imnadze, photographed in his New York office on July 9. ©2014 Derek Henry Flood

Georgia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kaha Imnadze, photographed in his New York office on July 9. ©2014 Derek Henry Flood

One thing to remember is that Georgia’s democracy is very much a still evolving one. It’s just transformed from a presidential system to a parliamentary style democracy. The ex-president is running around Williamsburg for some reason. The parliament that was relocated out to Kutaisi is being at least partly moved back to its home in Tbilisi.

And though Moscow has pursued two largely different policies with regard to South Ossetia and Abkhazia–the former being a lightly populated space which has a thin veneer as a republic but is thought of a more of a glorified Russian base-building project while the latter has more palpable politics. Abkhazia is also possible to actually visit as an outsider on a tourist visa while what transpires in Tskhinvali is cloaked in mystery.

Despite Georgia’s challenges, it is comparatively a beacon of light when compared to its neighbors, Azerbaijan, Armenia, not to mention the violent republics of the North Caucasus to the north.

Written by derekhenryflood

October 20th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Caucasus,Georgia

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To Catch an Unattainable Tatar

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New York- So the Lotus revolution has come and gone (sort of ) and the story has moved on to the more mundane and TWD has to comment on more important matters, namely the new cover model of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Irina Shayk is described to the American reader in a typically dumbed down fashion as ‘Russian’ but having what appeared to be an Arabic-to-Russian-to-English transliterated last name I doubted very much she was ‘Russian’ in the way ethnic nationalities are defined in Russia. In the Soviet era and in post-Soviet successor states today like, say, Kyrgyzstan, your ‘nationality’ (what Americans term ethnicity) is written in your passport and is ascribed to you by the state. Cultural diversity in post-Stalinist in Eurasia is not a concept dreamed up by left-leaning American university professors in the early 1990s blindly promoting multiculturalism but part of an oppressive system aimed at repressing the populace.

I assume her name was shortened by a modeling agency or talent scout early on in her career to enhance her marketability. Likewise, it probably wouldn’t be prudent to promote her Muslim background in light of what happened when certain pundits got ahold of the fact that Miss USA, Rima Fakih, was, gasp, an Arab and a Muslim.

Upon a quick gander of Irina’s Wikipedia page, as I suspected, her actual last name is Shaykhlislamova which is a Russified-version of the Arabic ‘Sheikh al-Islam’ (‘Scholar of Islam’), nothing vaguely non-Islamic about that last name. She says that her father is a Tatar (though she grew up in the Chelyabinsk Oblast on the border of Kazakhstan, to the east of Tatarstan) which is a Turkic Muslim ethno-religious group that inhabits the present day Tatarstan inside the Russian Federation in the Volga region. After the dissolution of the Soviet  Union, when the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic was transforming into what would become today’s Russian Federation, it sent out a Federation treaty in the spring on 1992 to be signed and ratified by its 89 internal republics and regions: two republics refused; Chechnya and Tatarstan. While Chechnya spiraled into a violent rebellion that destroyed most of the nation and continues to this day, Tatarstan fell into line a couple of years later and flourishes today with its capital of Kazan having become one of Russia’s best destinations for investment thanks in part to its oil reserves.

So there you have it, Sports Illustrated has its first (nominally) Muslim cover girl. Hooray for progress!!! It’s time to throw the clash of civilization into the ash heap of history and move forward with over-simplified bikini diplomacy! The Kremlin currently demonizes Muslim women in the Russian Federation as so-called ‘Black Widows’ but a bombshell named Irina can help explode that myth. Wishful thinking on my part…

Written by derekhenryflood

February 16th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Can the U.S. and Russia ever get on?

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Picture 1I was shocked back into geopolitics today (thank god!) with another cheery call from London. I appeared on the BBC World Service today in the wake of President Obama’s trip to Moscow to ink a new nuclear disarmament deal with Russian President (and some might say Putin puppet) Dmitry Medvedyev. I particularly love when I’m jarred out of sleep or some other do-nothing activity and forced to turn my brain on at warp speed. It seems the times I’m most often asked to appear are the odd moments when I have yet to scan the days news which forces me to put my foreign policy hat on with little or in today’s case, no, perparation. I was mortified when I listened to the podcast that I flubbed Putin’s name in place of poor old Boris Yeltsin. Oh well, I’ll have to be more en pointe next time around. Keep those calls coming Beeb producers! I thoroughly enjoy the challenge. 

Here is the podcast. I come in at the very beginning. Forgive my mistake with the name flub. Oh the humanity! Who among us is without fault?

Written by derekhenryflood

July 6th, 2009 at 10:54 pm