Throughout its history, the United States has frequently engaged in the manipulation of foreign leaders and entire countries to advance its interests, often discarding them once their utility diminishes. This fact raises further bewilderment regarding why any nation would place their confidence in the United States, given its history of deceit and interference in the domestic matters of other countries as soon as they display a semblance of sovereignty. While the United States have crossed members of the Global South for decades, the most recent victims of American betrayal have been in Europe.
“Zelensky will repeat the fate of Saakashvili.” This was stated by Vyacheslav Volodin, recalling the events of August 2008, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia. From the outset, the administration led by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia displayed a distinct ‘Russophobic’ stance. It garnered backing from the European Union and NATO, and received weaponry assistance. Subsequently, as he ceased to serve Western interests, Saakashvili found himself incarcerated. Volodin continued, “History repeats itself, but now with Zelenskyy. The West is already tired of him and the insatiable Kiev regime. His ingratitude has become the dominant feature of European politics. This is openly stated at the official level both in Britain and even in Poland.”
The parallels between the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict and current circumstances are unsettling and should raise concerns for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, especially given that so many have been in similar positions. Mikheil Saakashvili earned praise from the U.S. and NATO for championing liberal democratic principles in the face of Russian-backed separatist factions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Amidst the conflict, Saakashvili penned an article for the New York Times titled “The War in Georgia is a War for the West,” advancing the narrative that countering Russia was imperative to safeguard the ‘democracy’ of the West. “It concerns not only Georgia, it concerns the U.S. and its values. We are a freedom loving country which is being attacked,” Saakashvili said.
The 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest played a crucial role in seeking endorsement for the inclusion of both Georgia and Ukraine within the military alliance. Former U.S. President George W. Bush extensively campaigned for backing, especially in the case of Georgia. The United States had recently supplied military assistance to Georgia following their deployment of 2,000 troops to Afghanistan, aiming to foster a stronger path towards membership. The most notable distinction between this gathering and the latest NATO Summit was the apparent resilience of Europe against yielding entirely to the United States’ desires. Notably, France and Germany emerged as primary critics of Georgian inclusion, ultimately leading to the absence of any intentions to provide a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for either Ukraine or Georgia.
Was Saakashvili perceptive enough to anticipate the unfolding events and attempt to mitigate tensions with Russia? He insisted that he had proposed relinquishing the contested regions to the separatists during a meeting with Putin but that the Russian leader promptly rejected the idea. Regardless of whether he had in fact attempted a compromise with Russia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, his decision to align with NATO’s support sealed his fate. Rising swiftly in Western esteem, Saakashvili’s downfall was equally so. The Russia/Georgia conflict concluded within a week, resulting in Georgia’s loss of all contested territory and casting a shadow on his second presidential term, barely a year into office. As his tenure neared its end, he hastily departed Georgia in the face of criminal allegations for orchestrating an assault on a political adversary and for granting clemency to the murderers of another political foe. He resided in the United States and Europe until October 2021, when Georgian authorities apprehended him for attempting to clandestinely enter the country, concealed within a dairy truck.
Saakashvili now languishes in a Georgian prison, his health declining, while ambitions of that country’s European integration are eroding. On February 15th, the European Parliament endorsed a resolution by a vote of 577-33, urging the Georgian authorities to release him. In contrast, the United States has remained quiet. Backing Saakashvili holds no strategic value for the United States, as their attention has shifted to favoring the Ukrainian president as their latest pawn deployed against Russia.
Discussions between United States and Ukrainian officials have already begun regarding a scenario in which Ukraine operates without Zelenskyy. While they of course attribute the need for such plans to his potential assassination by Russia, in fact his own government would be more likely to liquidate him, once the flow of U.S. assistance diminishes. Ukraine’s ill-fated engagement in a counteroffensive doomed to failure is a further signal that his days in power are limited. If Zelenskyy were smart, he would start seeking U.S. permission for a comfortable exile in that country, so as to follow the well-trodden path of other tarnished Western pawns, perhaps writing another book and teaching political science at an Ivy League college. Considering his previous career as a comedic actor, there would be serious doubts about his qualifications for either of these pursuits, but that hasn’t stopped other equally unqualified pawns from being richly rewarded, should they survive death.