Political ‘Rubik’s Cube’
14 October, 2010
Political ‘Rubik’s Cube’

Neutrality at that time had no value at all because Georgia had signed the neutrality agreement only with Russia, and this was playing only into Russia’s hands. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.


GJ – In 1920, Treaty was signed between the Georgian Menshevik and the Russian Bolshevik governments which had practically facilitated the 1921 Soviet invasion of Georgia. In what direction did the events develop in the wake of signing the Treaty?
SM – Generally speaking, the situation became graver in the South Caucasus. In November, Kemal Ataturk and Russia simultaneously attacked Armenia, having occupied the major part of its territory. The Dashnaks (the Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Armenian national force) were ensconced only in a small part of the country. At this time, Lord Cecil – one of the architects and leaders of the League of Nations – requested Karlo Chkheidze (the Georgian Menshevik Politician) and the Georgian Menshevik government to let at least the British humanitarian aid for Armenia pass through Georgia. The answer of Georgia’s leadership was that Georgia was obligated to conduct its business as a neutral country.

GJ – So the request was denied under the pretext of Georgia’s neutrality, wasn’t it?
SM – Yes, it was! And because of that denial, Georgia became a worthless partner in the eyes of Great Britain. Meanwhile, neutrality of Georgia meant nothing because at that time, Russia was the only signatory of the document about Georgia’s neutrality, and the fact was playing only into Russia’s hands. Starting from that moment, the Caucasus branch of the Russian Bolshevik government had embarked on planning Georgia’s occupation. Winter was the most favorable time for the perfidious act – unleashing war against Georgia. Winter with its snow and freezing temperature is not very much favored by Georgians as a season of the year. They don’t feel comfortable in the inclement weather in general. Inversely, Russians are used to snow and bad weather. They simply use to live their entire life in that kind of climate. So the timing was precalculated for starting war against Georgia. Meanwhile, a multi-character show was staged in the global politics: in 1920, Poland defeated Russia. General Pilsudski was an ethnic Lithuanian who wanted to reinstate the historical Rzeczpospolita, or a Polish state, spread all the way from the Baltic Sea coast-line to the Black sea shores, which would include Poland per se, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as well as Ukraine and Belarus. Pilsedski could not fulfill his plan completely – he only managed to put Ukraine and Western Belarus within the boundaries of Rzeczpospolita. Eastern Belarus remained in Russia. The three Baltic Sea republics had maintained their independence. Certainly, General Pilsudski was nursing his own political and territorial agenda, but Russia’s desire to keep all those countries, including Poland within its boundaries was also adamant. In 1920, major battles between Russia and Poland almost ended, but tinkering with each other continued for a while because the sides maintained radically different plans and targets.

GJ – Did the confrontation persist in spite of the achieved armistice?
SM – Yes! The future events in the Crimea were contemplated carefully. Politicians were trying to guess what would happen between Russian and Ukrainian patriotic forces (Makhno was a popular leader in the Ukraine) which did not recognize the Bolshevik rule. Developments in the Caucasus also attracted attention. Meanwhile, the movement of Kemal Ataturk was gathering momentum in Turkey. It looked quite realistic that he might take over the power on the Turkish territory. He defeated the Greeks and was not very far from taking Constantinople. The ruling British political forces maintained a very marginal position in the global politics. They at times played self-seeking political games which was gainful only for them. They even sought contact with Ataturk, recognizing him because they would see actual political and military power in him. At the same time, Great Britain refrained from any participation in the 1920 military operations. Instead, they tried to pick thorny roses with somebody else’s gloves. Great Britain and the rest of the world badly needed the Baku oil. Meanwhile the pipeline for running oil from Azerbaijan to Europe lay across Georgia. In the year of 1920, Baku was already under the Russian dominance. Georgia at that time was ruled by the government which to Britain seemed to be a week and useless partner. Great Britain would actually have favored keeping Georgia as a partner anyway but it was not asking Britain either for help or for partnership. Georgia even refused Britain in letting it have military bases on its territory and asked it to withdraw troops from the Batumi Port, thus cutting for Britain every possible way to get involved in the ongoing military actions.

GJ – Even if they had wanted to get involved they would not have been able to . . .SM – That’s true, very rue! Britain would rather have Georgia defeat Russia on its own, but they would never use any military power for Georgia to maintain its independence. Meanwhile, Russia came up with a new proposal for Great Britain: If Britain recognized the Bolshevik Russia and signed the economic agreement with it Russia would declare NEP – the New Economic Policy. This would mean that the former owners of factories and other enterprises were receiving a chance to have them back, at least by means of rental. If the Treaty were signed between Britain and Russia, Britain would assume the obligation of not getting involved in any war against Russia. The negotiations were taking place in January of 1921. In 1920, Georgia had a chance to become a member of the League of Nations. Accordingly, it was sending requests to member countries to allow Georgia’s admittance to the organization. The main principle of the organization was the readiness of every member to defend each other from an aggressor.

GJ – Like the NATO members who are united by the same principle . . .
SM – Exactly! But Britain was the first country which rejected Georgia’s admittance to the League of Nations.

GJ – Why? What was the reason of such a denial?
SM – The reason was the mentioned on-going negotiations with Russia. Had England agreed with Georgia’s membership in the League of Nations, its relationship with Russia would have deteriorated as a result, and negotiations between them would have come to a deadlock. On the other hand, Georgia’s independence suited Britain’s future convenience in relationships with Georgia because Georgia could have provided a control mechanism against Russia if need be in the future. This is why Britain decided to keep Georgia from being admitted to the Organization, but in January of 1921 England, France and other members of the League of Nations (at Britain’s encouragement) recognized the Democratic Republic of Georgia as an independent state. As soon as the information reached Georgia, there started endless celebrations and parties. Bingo! Zhordania thought that he no longer needed the army and weapons. Who would overrule the legally recognized independence and assault Georgia, now the officially admitted member of the League of Nations?