Thursday, June 29, 2006

The mysterious assassination of Mr Saakashvili

The next posting shows the text of the "paper" and a scanned copy of it is available at

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By Edward Lucas

Just don't ask me where I got it," said a beautiful, mysterious and well-connected woman, as she slipped a document into my pocket at a party last week.

The title was Mikhail Saakashvili: A Psychological Study of the [sic] Character and at first sight it looked like a well-sourced academic paper. The abstract says that the Georgian president suffers from "certain psychiatric disturbances" and offers practical advice to those dealing with him. It thanks half-a-dozen impressive-sounding western mental health institutes, such as the "Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, University of Vienna Medical School".
For a split-second I was puzzled, wondering what kind of western think-tank would produce something like this. But then the Kremlin bells started ringing alarmingly in my head. The English was clumsy, and unmistakably translated from Russian. There were no footnotes, no ISBN number, no quotes, no proper sources (just uncheckably vague ones). It looked very like a classic piece of Soviet-style dezinformatsija aimed at undermining a politician, and a country, which are the immediate target of Putinland's gravest displeasure.
Later that night I studied it more closely. It begins by saying that Mr Saakashvili was a disturbed adolescent who "immersed himself in a lifestyle of destructive behaviour, parties and sex", including making amateur porn films. He is egocentric and hysterical in behaviour; and though clever and highly motivated, he is over-excitable. The "Diagnosis" it states, rather baldly, is "Expansive type of paranoid dysfunction (according to ICD-10) combined with narcissist type of hysteroid personality" - a piece of clumsy psychological jargon that seems to have been translated from Russian by a computer. It concludes by recommending politeness, firmness and patience in dealings with him.
All this, cleverly, sounds convincing but has a repellent effect. I have known Mikheil (to use the proper transcription of his name from Georgian) Saakashvili since 1999. He is (like many politicians) a bit vain and (like many Georgians) rather impulsive. But the document cleverly exaggerates his weaknesses and leaves out his strengths. It portrays someone so volatile, self-obsessed and untrustworthy that they would be quite unsuitable to have as a partner for NATO or the EU.
I faxed it over to Saakashvili's office for a comment. The document, aides say, started being circulated in western Europe about a month ago. They say it is part of an intense Russian campaign to discredit and destabilise their country which also includes the recent attempted assassination of an opposition leader.
Cynics will argue "they would say that, wouldn't they". And short of the Kremlin's mischief-makers defecting and publishing their memoirs it's impossible to prove. Pro-Kremlin people may even argue that the Georgians have produced this themselves in order to stoke sympathy in the west.
I think the real significance is that Russia is losing the new cold war in the Caucasus. Ten years ago, there was a real chance that Georgia - penniless, friendless, war-torn and appallingly badly run - would collapse. But since then progress has been huge. Ajaria, a tinpot mafia statelet, is under Georgian government control. Political life is bumpy, and talent is still scanty, but the government now is one of the least bad (to put it no more strongly than that) the country has ever had. Economic growth is soaring, despite Russia's trade war (banning wine, mineral water and fruit).
Most importantly, the west realises that the only way to import central Asian oil and gas safely is through pipelines across Georgia. That means accelerating that country's Euro-Atlantic integration. I think Putinland is getting desperate.

  • Edward Lucas is central and eastern Europe correspondent for The Economist.

    Artur said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Artur said...

    Times they are a-changin'... But the KGB is not. It's typical for them... I'm just wondering - how could they even think that you'll believe this "analysis" is true?!?

    Anonymous said...

    I hardly find it surprising for Mr. Saakashvili to exhibit narcissistic tendencies. For him as well as for most of the rulers grown in “flat” serf societies, Putin included, to rule means to beat everyone.