Political bribe in Russia-Nauruan Dollar Diplomacy
03 February, 2011

Exclusive comments by Nauru citizens on Abkhazian and S. Ossetian independence

August, 2008 - a war breaks out in so called South Ossetia, Georgia. Nino Elauri’s mother runs from the village on foot under the rainfall of bombs. Nino’s father is captured because his son is a soldier, defending his country. Nino Elauri is 20 years old.

 

A year later in 2009 she is homeless, living in a building of gymnasium; her father dies from injuries - the result of the torture he underwent during his captivity the previous year. Along with Nino, nearly 160, 000 people have been thrown out from their homes throughout Georgia. 362 people are dead. Dozens upon dozens are still missing.
Shunt in time to December 15, 2009; a fragile time for the smallest independent country in the world. The Republic of Nauru is desperate. Its most important source of income - phosphates formed from fossilized bird droppings over centuries is almost exhausted. The “Pleasant Island”, as it is known, must find a way to survive the crisis, but Nauru has to pay a price for it. The Russian Gambit unfolds and Nauru is a pawn in the game. Russia pays $50 million for “urgent social-economic projects” and in turn the island recognizes the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. This offer is provided under the guise of economic aid, but is the largest republic in the world really helping the smallest?
Nauru has 11,000 inhabitants and no official capital city. With $33 million in foreign debt, Nauru relies on imports for nearly everything: from food and water to vehicles, drinks, cigarettes and entertainment systems. Furthermore Nauru has absolutely no defense structure. Since the 19th century when the population was merely 1,500 after an influenza epidemic, public policy for the tiny island nation has been “populate or perish”. Due to economic conditions each Nauruan supports ten people with his wages. The Pacific Island, which was one of the richest in the world, is today a tiny republic facing an uncertain future. The president and the head of the government, Marcus Stephen with an 18-man parliament resorts to accepting Russia’s “dollar diplomacy”, which is the promotion of Russia’s political or commercial interests abroad by using financial resources. This time Nauru puts price on the recognition of a state—12,700 km away and Russia is its new “sponsor”.

Nauru’s dollar diplomats began their work in 2002 when Nauru received $130 million in aid from China to de-recognize Taiwan. However, in 2005 in exchange for more aid from Taiwan, the “pleasant island” pleased Taiwan with its re-recognition. Between 2002 and 2009, the price of Nauruan recognition fell from $130 to $50 million. Apparently, the more often Nauru performs “recognition-for-sale” politics, the more its recognition value decreases. The question is: do these actions mean that not only the “recognition value” is decreasing, but also the invaluable and irretrievable national integrity of Nauru is also being devalued?
Still, despite the crisis, despite the entire government policy, the diplomatic games and the financial politics, the life of an average Nauruan has not changed. The Nauruan mother still goes to the Christian Protestant church in the morning, while her husband is already out fishing or selling straw hats and ornaments made of shell. Jake Ageidu, a Nauruan says: “Women mostly stay at home and prepare food and clean the house until their family comes back home”. But Barrick Harris, a student, explains:”It depends on the woman. If she chooses to stay at home to watch over the kids and the house at home and be a normal housewife, that’s entirely her choice, but if she finds that she has potential to work at an office or other jobs, then she may seek for jobs matching her qualifications”.  However, there are no women in Nauru politics. Some Nauruan women teach at school. Ninety percent of children attend school every day; the primary education is both free and compulsory. After school an average Nauruan child goes to the only pitch in Nauru to play soccer or Australian Football, which is very popular with the small island nation. Students say that another interest for Nauruan children is weightlifting, as they are inspired by President Marcus Stephen, whose seven gold and five silver medals in weightlifting at the Commonwealth Games, are an issue of pride for the nation of Nauru. According to the survey of Nauru Bureau of Statistics, the average Nauruan drinks rainwater along with 90 percent of his fellow citizens. The population listens to the Australian radio channel FM 105.1. As 21 year-old George Quadina says: “Men usually work for government office and other departments like phosphate labor”. An average Nauruan father comes home in the evening, reads the popular fortnightly newspaper the “Bulletin” to get information about national and international news. He, like most on the islanders, watches Nauru Television ( NTV).
But is an average Nauruan really interested in politics—in the foreign policy of his republic, which affects other country’s territorial integrity? According to Octavian Harris, a Nauruan student, the average Nauruan should be interested in this, “Because the politics will determine how our country will run and how it further improves or deteriorates”.
After the recognition-in-cash of 2009, some things did change in Nauru. As Barrick Harris, a Nauruan student says: “It is not a profit (for each Nauruan), but it is “stored” to be fortnightly salaries for people who are working for the government; also quite a significant amount of that money has been invested in renovating hospitals and schools and even in building the new ones”. Nauruans see all the unusual changes in their republic, but they can barely connect this to the fact that this is a political bribe in Russia-Nauruan Dollar Diplomacy. According to one source close to the Nauruan government who has requested to remain anonymous, only 20 percent of the island’s population is likely to know about the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by their country’s government. While another source, close to a member of Nauruan Parliament, who also prefers to be anonymous, claims that 1-2 percent of Nauruans are aware that their country has recognized other country’s regions as independent.
The world chess game of countries and their inhabitants goes on and people from the Pleasant Island continue with their pleasant lives, while 350,000 homeless Georgians have the lives that are anything but pleasant, thousands of kilometers away.


 

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