Red Line: Syria, Abkhaz elections and Anna Hazare

Mira Salganik: I also have many friends in Abkhazia, and I have seen those
memorials. They are really very moving, there was a lot of suffering. But let
me say that my friend’s family at least for the last three years is happy that
they can go to sleep at night without thinking of Kalashnikovs.  Mr.
Buchanan is absolutely right when he says that whatever are the circumstances
Russians are more welcome in Abkhazia and Ossetia than Georgians, this is a


Sergei Strokan: And these people who gave up their Kalashnikovs have come to
appreciate the peace, and they know they have Russia to thank for that.


Mira Salganik: Admittedly, each of the conflicting parties has their own
arguments and reasoning, and each of their stories is true in its own way. Only
time can solve the problem.


Sergei Strokan: I think Pat Buchanan also makes this point. Let us hear one more
voice from American media. Now we are joined by Fred Weir,
correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.


Pat Buchanan in his story
says that Senate had no right to criticize Russia on Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, do you share this view?


Fred Weir: I suppose it is important to know that Pat Buchanan is a very
prominent member of the Republican Party, he ran in the presidential primaries
twice, in the 1990s, but he is of that part of the Republican Party, that wing
of the party, that is often termed isolationists, which means that his
criticism is not based on any particular love of Russia or support for the
Russian position. His position is that the United States should not get
involved in very large parts of the world where it can only do bad. This is his
argument, and he says in the article that the United States is just
unnecessarily antagonizing Russia over a matter that the United States has no
business involving itself in. So this is a position, but it is a minority
position within the Republican Party and it is not going to be widely accepted.
But today in the Republican Party the same position is held by Ron Paul, who is
part of this wing of the party the same as Buchanan is, and Ron Paul is not
only running in the presidential primaries, he is doing very well in using the
same arguments that the United States should get out of a lot of these foreign
entanglements, there is no business being in Iraq or Afghanistan, building an
empire, having troops in Korea or in Germany still. This is what is often
termed isolationism, and it is surprising that it is doing well in the
Republican presidential primaries so far.


Sergei Strokan: Have you been to Abkhazia, have you seen the developments in the


Fred Weir: Yes, I spent a couple of weeks in Abkhazia in 2008 just before
the war, just weeks before the war broke out, and first of all I was stunned by
the natural beauty of that place, it is really an amazing national creation
that will do very well if they can solve their political problems. I am sure
that even when I was there, there were enormous numbers of Russian tourists in
places like Gagra, and I am sure that this will only get better, that the
prospect is excellent, but especially in the southern part of Abkhazia, Sukhumi
and further all the way down to the border there, most of the infrastructure is
still destroyed from the war; in the capital Sukhumi even lots of buildings are
still bombed out, they have an enormous amount of work to do.


Sergei Strokan: But do you believe that it can develop into a sovereign state?


Fred Weir: Sure, I don’t see why not. We know there are lots and lots of
places that are members of the United Nations, little tiny dots on the map,
which are sovereign states. It is not rocket science apparently to manage as a
sovereign state. There are some places in Africa or the South Pacific that
would never make it if they had high-standard statehood. So I am sure Abkhazia
has lots of preconditions to be a sovereign state, it is just caught in the
political gears or geopolitical gears, which prevented from being recognized by
the world.


Sergei Strokan: Can I ask you one question about Russian-American relations? So as
you know, this Abkhazia and South Ossetia issue is a matter of contention in
our relations. Do you think it can jeopardize the reset process, it can poison
our relations, or we have to agree to disagree on that subject?


Fred Weir: I think that the worst moment of course was at the time of 2008
war, and that was when it all blew up. George W. Bush was still president of
the United States, and he had a fairly hostile attitude towards Russia, so I
don’t think that this is going to get worse. It remains a frozen problem. These
problems remain and they can blow up in the future, there is no doubt about


Sergei Strokan: Well, this is politics, but let us hope for the beauty of
compromise that will prevail in our relations.


The time has come to move
on to Red Line’s concluding heading, Face in the News. This week
the man we talk about is Mr. Anna Hazare, a 74-year old Indian public figure
who ended his two-week hunger strike against corruption in New Delhi by making the
Indian parliament bow to his demands to tighten anti-corruption legislation – a
move which if implemented will leave top Indian public figures with no
immunity. Anna Hazare – a former peasant, ex-army driver and “one man army” in
a fight against wide-spread Indian corruption staged a protest in the center of
Indian capital which rocked the “most populous world democracy” making
embattled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh say he applauds Anna Hazare.


Mira Salganik: He does applaud Anna Hazare. I would agree with Mr. Soutik Biswas,
a renowned Indian journalist, who wrote that Hazare’s campaign was a reality
check for India.  Indeed it is for the first time in decades that the
ruling political elite of India is being directly exposed to the frustrated
masses and is made to hear their demands.


Sergei Strokan: What Anna Hazare has done is truly an extraordinary thing. This is
something one can hardly believe, regardless of whether parliament will finally
approve all the amendments to the legislation Hazare proposed. While lying on a
bed covered with white linen under the huge portrait of Mahatma Gandhi Anna
Hazare outplayed the authorities.


Mira Salganik: There was another thing that added to the development of the
protest movement. The Indian authorities made a silly mistake, which they
regretted almost immediately. They put Anna Hazare behind bars, and that
immediately galvanized the whole of India, and the government naturally the
next day released him, but one day was enough, the harm was done.

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