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Anatoly Chubais. Photo: FIRST Magazine

Suggested readings

In October 2006, after the Russian economic embargo on Georgia, Bendukidze gave an interview to the Russian political online portal about the prospects for Georgian-Russian relations. For full article in Russian please see: Обмена политических взглядов на комфортную жизнь не будет."

On former Russian prime minister and current opposition politician Mikhail Kasyanov's book Without Putin ("Bez Putina") you can read a review in the New York Review of Books: Amy Knight, "Forever Putin" (February 2010)

Anatoly Chubais' concept of "Liberal Empire" as a new strategy for Russia is elaborated in his January 2003 article in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, entitled "Russia's Mission in the 21st Century." Chubais writes:

"I am deeply convinced that, in the visible historical perspective, Russia's ideology should become liberal imperialism, and Russia's mission – the creation of a liberal empire."

He lists three key elements of "liberal imperialism":

  1. Promoting Russian culture and the culture of other peoples in Russia; defending Russian and Russian-speaking citizens in neighboring countries;
  2. Economy and business. The Russian state can and must facilitate the expansion of Russian business in neighboring countries both in the area of trade and in the purchase and development of assets.
  3. Freedom and democracy. The Russian state is interested in supporting, developing, and if necessary defending, fundamental democratic institution, rights and freedoms of citizens in neighboring countries.

On Anatoly Chubais' ideas of a Russian "Liberal Empire" see Igor Torbakov, "Russian Policymakers air notion of 'liberal empire' in Caucasus, Central Asia," 27 October 2003. Torbakov notes how the concept was inspired by debates on a new American Empire taking place in Washington in the wake of the invasion of Iraq:

"Russian policy makers are relying on the precedents established by the US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq to justify Moscow's own push to forge a "liberal empire" in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Recent Russian activity in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan underscores Russia's new imperial tactics … An example of this debate is a recent article by political scientist Stanley Kurtz published in the journal Policy Review. 'Today, Afghanistan may be the germ of a new American imperium,' wrote Kurtz, who added that the US-led ouster of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein brought the imperial question into greater focus. The current debate on an American empire largely centers on the question of whether postmodern imperialism is capable of being democratic in nature. Symptomatically, Kurtz's article is titled 'Democratic Imperialism'. Russian leaders have quickly seized on the notion of a liberal empire to refashion their own foreign policy agenda. To a great extent, since the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, a policy priority for Moscow has been retaining influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia."

Torbakov point out that "the leading spokesman for Russia's liberal imperial ambitions has been Anatoly Chubais":

"In late September, Chubais, who remains one of Russia's most influential politicians, delivered a broad policy speech, and later penned an article, arguing that Russia's top 21st century goal should be to develop "liberal capitalism" and build up a "liberal empire." "It's high time to call a spade a spade," wrote Chubais in a commentary published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. Economically and culturally, Russia is a "natural and unique leader" of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)."

Vladimer Papava and Frederick Starr co-authored an article on "Russia's Economic Imperialism" in 2006. There they write:

"In Georgia, as in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to implement the doctrine of a 'liberal empire' put forward in October 2003 by Anatoli Chubais, the chairman of United Energy System (RAO UES), Russia's energy monopoly. According to Chubais, Russia will never find a place in either NATO or the European Union, so it must create an alternative to both, a new empire of its own. It can do this by using its huge and rich public-private monopolies to take over the key industries and economic institutions of former Soviet republics, thereby laying the groundwork for political domination. The resulting empire will be liberal, according to Chubais's definition, because it can be built with money rather than tanks."

Then they demonstrate how this applies to Georgia:

"Then came Georgia's "Rose Revolution." Many state-owned firms were privatized for ten times the sums yielded in asset sales under the previous government of Edvard Shevardnadze. But an utter lack of transparency allowed Russian companies, and their subsidiaries registered in third countries, to snap up most of the new offerings. Typical was the Russian holding company Promyslennye investory (Industrial Investors), which managed to get a major gold mine and then half of a plant producing gold alloys.

Russia's main foreign policy instrument in Georgia is Gazprom, the state-controlled gas monopoly. Gazprom's aim is to control not only the gas industry in Georgia, but also the only pipeline that feeds Russian gas to both Georgia and Armenia. Had the US not intervened in 2005 with $49.5 million to rehabilitate the pipeline, it would have ended up in Gazprom's hands."

Other articles by Papava include: "The Political Economy of Georgia's Rose Revolution," East European Democratization, Fall 2006; and "On the Essence of Economic Reforms in Georgia, or How European is the European Choice of Post-Revolution Georgia?"

Background on the different privatization deals discussed here can be found in this document: Transparency International, "Georgia's State Energy Policy in the Natural Gas Sector" February 2008.

April 2010

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