McCain and Co.’s Magical Mystery Tour of Russia’s Front Line
05 January, 2017
McCain and Co.’s Magical Mystery Tour of Russia’s Front Line
John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Amy Klobuchar traveled from the Baltic to the Black Sea confronting Putin—and Trump. But will it matter? The Daily Beast publishes an article about their visit.

“TBILISI, Georgia — On Sunday afternoon in the village of Khurvaleti, a jetlagged but gritty-as-ever John McCain walked up a snow-covered hill to meet an aged Georgian man, Dato Vanishvili, who waited on the other side of a 52.5-kilometer razor-wire barrier. Sen. McCain leaned into the fence, reached over and
shook Vanishvili’s hand. In doing so, the senator’s gnarled grip passed through the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) into Russian-controlled South Ossetia.

This small gesture was the most geopolitically provocative move that McCain made during his weeklong tour of countries on Russia’s frontier.

With McCain, the Republican from Arizona, were Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, on an excursion over the holidays that looked like a pregame lap before they face off with President-Elect Donald Trump and his buddy Russian President Vladimir Putin on Capitol Hill, where it really counts.

The trio traveled from the Baltics to Ukraine to Georgia—“the near abroad,” the Kremlin calls it, but it’s rapidly becoming “the fear abroad” as Trump appears to be signaling none of these countries can rely on American protection anymore.

The senators made both their rhetoric and their actions more pointed as they passed from country to country, laying the groundwork for their hearings into Russian hacking later this week. McCain’s handshake moment seemed like some kind of peak in that escalation—he was literally crossing the line.

But there is only one thing that John McCain can do for Dato Vanishvili: Stop Trump from lifting sanctions on the same guys that put a fence through Dato’s yard.
Dato went to bed one night in Georgia in 2009 and woke up in South Ossetia. The fence was originally erected (passing behind his property) after the war in August of 2008 to mark the newly recognized (by Moscow) South Ossetia.

But the Russian security service, the FSB, has a penchant for sporadically moving the fence further into Georgian territory in the middle of the night—a process referred to as borderization. That’s how Dato woke up in Russian controlled territory.

The 85-year-old farmer told The Daily Beast in an interview last spring that he was detained by the FSB for crossing into Georgia to collect his pension in October 2012, three years after discovered he was living in occupied territory. “Georgian police helped me pass over the fence onto their side. But the FSB waited for me, and as soon as I crossed back over, I was detained. They put my cap in my mouth and took a knife and threatened me with it.” Dato claims, “They have threatened my grandson, who lives in South Ossetia, and say they will take me to Moscow if I talk again.”

But, clearly a stubborn man of the land, he still does talk, and even shakes hands through the fence with senators.

McCain and Co., attempting to reassure American allies of their support, know full well that the U.S. president who will be inaugurated on Jan. 20 does not share their views about Russia and could care less about people like Dato Vanishvili.

Meanwhile the FSB is watching all of this. There are state-of-the-art FSB telecommunications outposts all along the administrative border. From where the senators stood they could see one of the many FSB bases that pepper the area. This base in particular is so close that you see the Russian soldiers hanging their laundry out the windows to dry in warm months. The front side faces Georgia, and looks like a brand new hotel, giving the impression of a Potemkin-esque military base.

Indeed, the Russians are doing everything they can to create an impression of permanence—and menacing proximity.

In local terms, according to the Jamestown Foundation, “Russian forces stationed along the current occupation line could capture and block that section of the East-West highway within 15 minutes. Needless to say, were Tbilisi to lose control over the highway, it would split Georgia into two parts, causing a major political as well as humanitarian catastrophe in the country.”

But in a broader sense, it is the creeping process of invasion, intimidation, “borderization,” and the menacing facades of power that McCain, Graham, and Klobuchar found wherever they went.

iga Bokeria, an opposition leader and former secretary of the Georgian National Security Council who met with the senators, said, “The visit is a very important signal at this point in time. There is a very risky international environment for everyone and particularly for Georgia. There is a new administration in the U.S. and their policies are not clear yet. So the visit of our friends… is a very important signal.”

The operative term here is “signal.” If this congressional delegation (a CODEL in diplospeak) teaches us anything new, it is how quickly the language of foreign policy has changed—and how little diplomacy relies on actual conversation. President-Elect Trump’s use of tweets to state his position on nuclear weapons or to praise Putin’s decisions reflects this new reality.

In a world where countries are hacked each day or pinged (in constant displays of the ability to hack demonstrated by both enemies and allies) and where senators reach across fences and visit front lines, the new language of diplomacy is one of dramatic actions and visible, social-media-shareable signals.

The guy at the fence, Dato Vanishvili, has probably done his routine 100 times. In his own way McCain has, too. The roles are not unlike that of theater. McCain and Graham are weathered old Cold Warriors who have been performing for decades now. But suddenly their routine is back in vogue. Their signals are in demand. Or so they hope.

No one is getting any younger, however, and at times it seems both sides of this new Cold War are going through the motions.

Fortunately, they have Sen. Klobuchar, the spry 56-year-old second-term Minnesota Democrat, with fresh energy and perspective. On tour, she was an especially sharp new voice and also a subtle reminder that this isn’t some partisan hawk-fest of old white dudes saying “Mr. Putin, tear down this fence.”

“We just left Ukraine, where we’ve seen firsthand what happens when Russia crosses over into a country’s independence,” Klobuchar told reporters succinctly outside the Tbilisi airport. “And we saw it in our own elections with the attempt to influence our elections.”

By Will Cathcart

Read the full story here


Related Story:

US Senator: Putin Illegally Annexed Part of Georgia


Print
Other Stories
Tbilisi sign may appear on the Funicular hill
Hollywood has become a source of inspiration for many people worldwide. A similar idea from a Tbilisi citizen sounds very clever and attractive.
Russia was at an undeclared war with Georgia for years - Matthew Bryza
I think anybody who has observed how Russia has been conducting its war in Ukraine should realize that Russia was at war with Georgia, an undeclared war for years,
Tbilisi Park is due to open in Buenos-Aires
Tbilisi Park is due to open in the capital of Argentina, Buenos-Aires. The decision was recently made by the city parliament.
Young people detained by occupying forces in the Truso gorge
Some young Georgian hikers have recently been detained by armed forces in the Truso gorge. They have been accused of illegally crossing the so-called border into the occupied Tskhinvali region.
Wildfire in Khashuri, Tseda village
Fire broke out yesterday in Khashuri, Tseda village, in the forest.
Travel between Ukraine and Georgia for both countries’ citizens to be allowed only by electronic ID cards
The Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze has announced that the citizens of Georgia and Ukraine will be able to travel in and out of both countries using only electronic ID cards.
Why does the Georgians love John McCain?
John McCain, Senator, and former Presidential candidate of the USA died on the 25th of August, 2018. He was diagnosed with lioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer last year.
The IBSU Conundrum
Teachers, students and students-to-be all took to the streets when the news broke that the International Black Sea University, one of the most highly regarded universities in the country, wouldn’t be admitting new students into its ranks this year.
Angela Merkel arrives in Georgia
German chancellor Angela Merkel has already arrived in Georgia.
German media about possible reasons for  Merkel’s visit to Georgia
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Tbilisi today, expectations are high and both the Georgian and German media are speculating about the possible results of the visit.
Angela Merkel to visit Georgia on August 23
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Georgia on the 23rd of August. Her plan is to visit the Caucasus states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Georgian presidential candidate to Journalists –“Shake your brain!”
“Journalists should shake their brains” – said Georgian presidential candidate, Salome Zurabishvili to journalists.
What does Giorgi Margvelashvili own?
The presidential election will be held on 28th of October, 2018 in Georgia. The President Giorgi Margvelashvili has not yet confirmed his participation in the election.
"Father returned for mother ... then the bomb landed …”
10 years on, this is a different August. But this month is a time of remembrance and of hard memories and hurt.
The World talks about the 2008 war
On the tenth anniversary of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, 20% of Georgia continues to be occupied by Russian military forces who also seem intent of further encroachment on Georgian territory.
Georgia hosts high ranking guests for the 10th anniversary of the 2008 war
Ten years have passed since the Russian military intervention in Georgia,in August, 2008.
 10 Years Anniversary of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia – “Mission supports stability and security on the ground”
10 years have now passed since the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia and still we face a huge daily threat. Certain parts of Georgia continue to be occupied even today.
Heroin seized near Georgia-Azerbaijan State Border
Border Police from the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs have arrested a 28 year old individual.
After ten years from the 2008 war, borderization continues
It is ten years since the 2008 August war between Russia and Georgia.
Multinational Noble Partner training 2018 has launched
The multinational Noble Partner training 2018 commenced on the 1st of August.
National Democratic Institute publishes the latest survey
Poll results released today by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC Georgia show growing dissatisfaction about the state of the country’s economy, environment, and political climate going into the presidential election.
Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze needs 5 more Regional Governors
At a recent Government press conference Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, announced that new Governors for the following regions are required:
German government plans to recognize Georgia among safe countries
The German government will shortly approve a law, which enables the countries such as Georgia, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria to be recognized as safe countries
Latvian MEP Andrejs Mamikins about Georgia’s prospects for EU membership
Georgia is a country that wants to become member of the EU, but how does it look from Brussels?
Military equipment and techniques created by Georgians
Delta is a Military, Scientific and Technical Provider.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Exchange Rates
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
18.09.2018
19.09.2018
USD
1
USD
2.6156
2.6188
EUR
1
EUR
3.0498
3.0593
GBP
1
GBP
3.4259
3.4414
RUB
100
RUB
3.8379
3.8673
Other Stories
On 26 May, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, joined celebrations in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi
Violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Assad regime has been strictly criticized
Exactly one year ago, Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the European Union.
Georgia’s ex-president president Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters managed to free detained Mikheil Saakashvili in the center of Kiev.
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.6188
EUR
1
EUR
3.0593
GBP
1
GBP
3.4414
RUB
100
RUB
3.8673
September 2018
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30