The Blog

Will the West Stand with Tbilisi?

12:03 AM, Oct 20, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Putin's efforts to destabilize the Republic of Georgia, a pro-Western democracy, continue. The Associated Press reports that Russian sanctions

have effectively severed the Caucasus nation from its biggest market and supplier. Transport and postal links are suspended. Russian canned foods, cooking oil, and sausage are disappearing from store shelves; Newsstands report a run on popular Russian-language magazines, especially women's journals that don't appear in Georgian translation.

Georgian businesses say millions of dollars worth of orders are stuck at Russian checkpoints. Georgian Airlines, banned from flying into Russia, predicts its losses will exceed $600,000 by month's end.

Hundreds of Georgians have been deported as allegedly illegal migrants, and more are rumored to be on the way, putting at risk the estimated $2 billion that Georgians in Russia send home annually to feed their families. Some analysts predict the blockade could shave a percentage point off the country's GDP growth rate of around 6 percent….

Georgians say they have learned to cope with hardships. Power cuts are routine, so they stock candles. They maneuver their cars over axle-busting potholes. Some apartment blocks get running water only two hours a day…. The official unemployment rate is 13 percent and thought to be unrealistically low. The average salary is about $75 a month.

Where is the West's condemnation of all this? Is anything being done to help our friends in Tbilisi? Will Russia, a G8 member, succeed in breaking the Georgians?