Tomorrow, the country of Georgia will hold its parliamentary elections. Those elections will pit two foes: incumbent president Mikhail Saakashvili and his party, the United National Movement, against Bidzina Ivanishvili and his coalition party, Georgian Dream. Saakashvili is pro-American. Ivanishvili is pro-Putin. Ivanishvili is the richest man in Georgia, worth well over $6.4 billion, or as Der Spiegel points out, “more than Georgia’s entire national budget.” Saakashvili says that Russia has subsidized Ivanishvili to the tune of $2 billion.
Since the Georgian revolution in 2003, the country has shown a steep economic increase, growing in double digits in GDP for most of the years since. In 2008, the World Bank said that Georgia was the top reformist country on the globe. It is now ranked 16th in the world in business friendliness, up from 112th in 2005.
Saakashvili engaged in an actual war with Putin’s Russia back in 2008; it ended disastrously for Georgia, which lost 18 percent of its territory. The international community blamed Georgia.
Where is the Obama administration now, when it seems that this bulwark against Russia in the Caucuses could fall into the hands of a Putin ally? Nowhere to be found. According to Der Spiegel, “The question of whether Georgia should be admitted into NATO is not among President Barack Obama’s top concerns.” And no doubt the Obama administration will side with Russia’s hypocritical condemnation of Saakashvili as a strongman.
Here’s the bottom line: one of the candidates is pro-America. And America is nowhere to be found in this election. The vacuum of leadership in the White House could lead to a further increase in the Russian sphere of influence.