The European Bank likes Georgia. They rate the country highly for business investment, citing the solid currency and a record of anti-corruption efforts in the government. Most Americans haven't a clue about Georgia, associating the name mostly with peach trees, antebellum mansions, and the beautiful city of Savannah.
Although Georgia is not entirely pro-West, they are democratic, and their President, Mikhail Saakashvili (pronounced sah-kash-VILLY) says he admires our founding fathers and that the government in Georgia is inspired by the U.S. model. 'Misha', as he is known to his countrymen, attended both Columbia University and George Washington University. You can tell he understands the American ideal, although he makes it plain Georgia is not pro-Western, but simply pro-democratic. He says Georgia suffered greatly under Soviet rule for seventy years, and Georgians will 'link arms' to resist any attempts to again become a Russian satellite.
In a recent interview with CNN, Saakashvili stood atop a rooftop in the capital city of Tbisili and spoke with Glenn Beck. He had a few things to say about both the current situation and the Russian government.
'They (the Russians) think Georgia should belong to them...'
'Hundreds have been killed by the bombings. I think it may be thousands. I hope not.'
'Make no mistake. Russia is controlled by people with a KGB background...'
'We're building values here based on American values...'
'After the Cold War ended, and I realized my dream to study in the U.S., I never thought the KGB would return...'
'The Russians said we attacked them. This was not true...'
'This is not about me. (when asked about his personal safety) It's about freedom. But no matter how much they bomb us, no matter how many tanks they send, Georgians will lock arms and stand together. We will never surrender...'
'If freedom is crushed in Georgia, they (the Russians) will move on to the Baltics, and then other places...'
The current population is about five million people. Estimates vary, but between 100,000-200,000 of them are now either homeless or displaced due to the current conflict. The International Red Cross has delivered about twelve tons of medical supplies, food, water, blankets and clothing to the region for distribution, but they have security concerns.
These are legitimate worries, because Georgians are claiming more attacks and Russian vehicles are still moving up and down the roads, even with a supposed cease-fire in place.
When asked if the Russians were abiding by the cease-fire, Saakashvili said, 'There is still intense fighting going on...' He added, 'This (the action by the Russians) is nothing more than what happened in World War 2. It is 'ethnic cleansing' and a 'purification' campaign...'
Saakashvili made a brief mention about Georgia sending troops to Iraq, and noted some of them had died in action. He said Georgian troops are still fighting in Iraq alongside the Americans.
The country of Georgia is very mountainous and the majority of the population are ethnic Georgians. Some states are autonomous, and it's difficult to understand the situation. The general overview is that Georgia is probably the most democratic country of all the former Soviet republics. They have a free press and media, and a constitution enacted in 1995 that is partly based on the U.S Constitution.
Listening to Saakashvili, (he speaks English and several other languages fluently) you can tell he admires America a lot. He wants the Georgian version of democracy, which means encouraging business, free trade and a free media, and foreign investment.
He talks about freedom a lot.
If Saakashvili is to be believed, a Russian government with a KGB background has decided to flex its muscles and regain some of the losses of the Cold War. Intelligence from the region is spotty at best, but Saakashvili's record is pretty good in Georgia and the people love him.
You want to believe Saakashvili. And if you do, this does not bode well for a country that established the greatest amount of liberty for its citizens since escaping the clutches of the Soviet Union.