Sunday, August 24, 2008

The other worry about Georgia

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The other worry about Georgia

Quite a few people I have discussed Georgia with, seem to be under the impression that it is one pristine, clean nation. Seeing no evil and speaking no evil. Their understanding of that breakaway nation state is quite rudimentary, to say the very least, and it becomes useful to shed some light on the activities of this nation state beholden to the US.

Examining the role Georgia plays on its border with Russia raises some worrying issues and tend to reinforce reasons for Russia’s discomfort with Saakashvili’s government. Georgia is a known transit route for drugs, arms, human cargo and counterfeiting. This role is enabled by its strategic location and porous borders. South Ossetia for example has matured into a base for organized crime in the trafficking of all sorts of contraband including arms, drugs and uranium. Saakashvili has looked the other way, refusing to post border patrols etc, as its degradation occured and has left the Russians to their own devices in steming this malignant growth. The New York Times in its opinion of 15 August 2008 stated:

“While the Russian “peacekeepers” who entrenched themselves in the conflict zones in the 1990s (and who will now likely resume their posts anew) have proved ineffectual and uninterested in maintaining stability, they’ve been highly successful in protecting an array of sophisticated criminal networks stretching from Russia through Georgian territory. South Ossetia, in particular, is a nest of organized crime. It is a marketplace for a variety of contraband, from fuel to cigarettes, wheat flour, hard drugs, weapons, people and, recently, counterfeit United States $100 bills “minted” at a press inside the conflict zone.”

It goes on to tell us that about $20 million of this said counterfeit bills have been found floating “... up and down the East Coast of the United States as well as in Israel, Russia and Georgia.” Further more, we learn from the American Ambassador to Georgia, what the quality of this reproduction looks like “It’s a pretty sophisticated counterfeiting piece,” said John Tefft to Michael Bronner, an investigative journalist and film maker.

We also learn from the New York Times that:

“Three years ago, Georgian intelligence officials began receiving reports from South Ossetian criminal contacts that a Russian smuggler — a North Ossetian calling himself Oleg — was circulating in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. He was reportedly looking for a buyer for what he claimed was high-quality enriched uranium pilfered from the Russian military. The price was $1 million for the initial shipment: 100 grams at $10,000 per gram.”

Russia denies that the said uranium originates from its military and the Bush administration has been quick to grab hold of it. Amnesty International reports that:

“On February 19, 2003 a general cargo ship - the "Karin Cat" - foundered in rough conditions in the Mediterranean Sea midway between Malta and the Island of Crete... inquiry by the Danish Maritime Authority(65) that followed revealed that, in addition to 205 tons of equipment and pipes for a natural gas company, the cargo was made up of 158 tons of ammunition, a sophisticated man-portable short-range missile system, and a radar truck... However, the ship’s voyages and history cast doubt on the real destination of part of its military cargo and its owner’s activities... The Karin Cat was not the only ship of J. Poulsen involved in the transport of military equipment: the "Sarah Poulsen," had also been used along with other Danish ships for the transport of various arms cargoes to South Africa during the apartheid regime, in violation of the UN arms embargo. The routes followed in 2002 by the Karin Cat before reaching Antwerp were complex, calling at many ports with military-related activities, such as La Spezia (Italy), Gdynia (Poland), Poti (Georgia), Bar (Serbia) and Lymassol (Cyprus)... The secretive and irregular way these arms were collected in various ports casts many doubts about... the real destination of the military cargo.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that at least 500 Georgian women fall victim to trafficking every year. According to data from known cases, the majority of trafficking cases concerning Georgian women involve Turkey. One local non-governmental organization that took part in creating a government anti-trafficking action plan, People’s Harmonious Development, contends that 75 percent of the 800-1,200 people who cross into Turkey each day from Georgia eventually extend their stay with month-long visas. Of that number, the NGO believes that half – 300 to 450 – are trafficking victims.
A lack of statistics means, however, that the figures are largely a guessing game. Marc Hulst, the counter-trafficking program officer at the IOM mission in Tbilisi, states that there is no way of knowing exactly how many victims exist. "We believe the cases that come to the attention of police are the tip of the iceberg," Hulst said.
Given Georgia’s high unemployment rate and rampant poverty, experts fear that those numbers can only increase. The majority of trafficking victims are young (most are between 18 and 35, though some as young as 14 have been trafficked to Turkey as sex workers), female and come from poor families. But with only an estimated 20 percent of the Georgian working age population receiving wages - and average monthly wages hovering around $70 according to the latest data – even highly educated Georgians are at risk from the dangers of trafficking as they take their job searches abroad.

A report on states and their government activities viz-a-viz nacortics trade comments on Georgia thus:

“Georgia remains a secondary transit route for narcotics flowing from Afghanistan, by way of Iran and across the Caspian. The potential for Georgia to become an important narcotics transit route in the future is heightened by the lack of control the government exercises over its borders and territory. Despite numerous efforts of reform and frequent personnel changes, law enforcement agencies remained overstaffed, under-equipped, poorly paid, and with a reputation as highly corrupt.”

It further adds that:

“Afghan morphine and heroin base destined for Turkey is also presumed to transit Georgia. Given Georgia's geographic location and its ambition to be a key link in a future overland trade corridor between Europe and Asia there is a possibility it could also emerge as a major drug trafficking route. Narcotics trafficking routes through Georgia which have been identified are as follows: The east/west route with narcotics entering the country from Azerbaijan via the Caspian Sea (originating in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan) to Baku, then they are shipped north via Russian land routes and then enter Georgia.
The main method of transit is TIR trucks that are not monitored in Azerbaijan or in Georgia, but rather theoretically inspected and sealed at their place of origin. TIR trucks move westward to Kyurdamir, then to Yevlakh and cross the border at Gardabani destined for Tbilisi. From Tbilisi the drugs are shipped west to the seaports of Poti, Batumi (Adjara) and Sukhumi (Abkhazia) on the Black Sea. From there the drugs are shipped mainly to Turkey (Istanbul), Romania (Constantia) and Ukraine (Odessa)...”

And concludes:

“Corruption has been the most significant problem within Georgia's law enforcement agencies. Georgia's anti- corruption efforts continue to be hampered by the widespread tolerance of corruption within Georgian society.”

All one needs to add, is that America and its wrenching of Georgia from Russia has not helped matters but aggravates them. Having no specific interest in that country but the protection of some pipeline that empties into the seaport at Poti, it couldn’t careless in which direction the wind blows Georgia’s domestic concerns. With Saakashvili being hopeful for the history books and suicidal about winning some dream war with Russia, he's unlikely to pay any attention to the trafficking that enriches his citizens to cripple the West and Russia.


Anonymous said...

Well, look at that! Georgia on our minds eh?

Anonymous said...

The New York Times was telling it by half and in typical neocon style pushing S Ossetia as the bad guy. Tbilisi is the real bad guy in that entire region followed by the Ukraine, in terms of contraband trade and human trafficking. If at all, S Ossetia deals in the left overs from their table.

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