Publications

David J. Smith. Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine).  April 2 – 8, 2012

нтвлжет—ntvlies—is the latest online rallying point for the persistent opposition to Russian President-elect Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.  The immediate object of the protest is the NTV television documentary Anatomy of a Protest, a “pseudodocumentary,” writes the New York Times, with “all the familiar earmarks of a hatchet job against opponents of the Kremlin.”  On a deeper level, #нтвлжет signifies that some segment of the Russian people is unwilling to leave behind Putin’s tragicomic Kremlin re-entry.  Their web-based protest against the Gazprom-owned television channel marks Russia’s transition from broadcast to online politics.

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David J. Smith. Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). March 19 – 25, 2012.


Americans are eleven weeks into the arcane electoral process that will culminate in the election of the President of the United States on November 6.  There is no doubt that President Barack Obama will be the nominee of the Democratic Party.  Therefore, the big question between now and summer is who will be the Republican Party nominee to challenge Obama.  But as days with names like “Super Tuesday” pass and we read headlines like, “Romney Wins in Guam and Northern Marianas,” the process may seem beyond comprehension.  Nonetheless, who will occupy the White House through 2016 matters to everyone, so let us take a closer look.

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The United States Government is in debt over $15 trillion—about the annual value of America’s gross domestic product.  Dramatic cuts in spending are necessary.  But if the current 2013 defense spending plan wending its way through Congress is not considerably altered, it will launch America on a decade of cuts that will undermine the superpower’s power and credibility.  The implications are global, not least for Georgia.


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Iran may be lurching toward a showdown with the west, but for the moment, talk of war is premature.  And any suggestion that Washington and Tbilisi are somehow plotting an attack is nothing short of delusional.  Nonetheless, the situation is serious, and the moment during which talk of war is premature may be fleeting—2012 is a crucial year.  And Iran is no farther from Tbilisi than is Sochi, so all this matters to Georgia.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on September 24, 2011 surprised political observers with what many believed was an early announcement that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will be the regime’s candidate for president in the March 4, 2012 elections.  "I think it would be correct,” Medvedev told a United Russia Party Congress, “for the congress to support the candidacy of the party chairman, Vladimir Putin, to the post of president of the country.”  And so, to thunderous applause, nothing in Russia changed.

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For a week last month, US Marines of the 2nd Combat Engineering Battalion and Georgian soldiers of the 33rd Infantry Battalion joined forces in Operation Black Sand in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  Deployed to Combat Outpost (COP) Shukvani, they cleared the Ladar Bazaar of improvised explosive devices—bombs.  Insurgents had taken over the bazaar, depriving local people of a real market in which to buy and sell everyday goods.  Now, Americans and Georgians are building a new market for the people.  Operation Black Sand is just one example of how Georgian forces are ready, willing and able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with US Marines in one of the toughest areas of Afghanistan.


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David J. Smith.

Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). June 20 – 26, 2011

Turkish voters on June 12 handed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party—AKP—a third successive parliamentary election victory.  Erdoğan and his government are now set to become the longest serving in Turkey’s history as a multi-party democracy.  But record books are different from history books.  Erdoğan now has a chance to make Turkish history—but it will take hard work, of which he is palpably capable, and wisdom.  And where he leads his country matters well beyond its borders—Turkey is an important country.

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When even a handful of demonstrators take to Tbilisi streets, residents of the Georgian capital wonder whether Russia will seize upon a pretext for further aggression against Georgia.  And what lies between us and the Russian tanks that occupy the Georgian region of South Ossetia, just 40 kilometers away?  The answer: a diligent and proud Georgian army, including Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, barred from acquiring western military equipment since Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008.


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David J. Smith. Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). May 9 – 15, 2011


This week marks the 66th anniversary of the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany, recognized in the West on May 8 and in the East on May 9.  Thus an important chapter in the greatest conflagration in human history was closed—the war in the Pacific raged on for another three months.  The epic Allied victory is well worth recalling three generations later—but we should mind what we celebrate.

 

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David J. Smith. Published in TABULA

April 18 – 24, 2011

 

Swindlers and thieves Aleksey Navalniy calls Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his United Russia Party.  Navalniy exposes corruption at the nexus of Russian wealth and power on his blogsite at LiveJournal.com.  This earned him a visit from a gang of thugs—cyber thugs who, with techniques reminiscent of Russia’s 2008 cyber assault on Georgia, attacked LiveJournal.  With Russian elections looming and Putin and the siloviki growing unpopular, expect more cyber hooliganism in Russia—LiveJournal was just a rehearsal.

 

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March 29, 2011
By Khatuna Mshvidobadze. Senior Associate at the Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi, Georgia. GFSIS.

 

As Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili appeared before the European Parliament in Strasbourg last November 23 to commit his country not to use force to recover its territories occupied by Russia, the Russian General Staff laid the groundwork for another aggressive step against Georgia.

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David J. Smith.

Published in TABULA . (Weekly magazine). March 28 – April 3, 2011

 

On March 11, a Richter scale 9.0 earthquake and a 10 meter tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, the worst earthquake in that region since the year 869.  It was the fourth strongest recorded by modern equipment anywhere and the hardest natural blow ever at such an industrial and strategically significant country.  A Japanese proverb says, “Fall seven times; stand up eight times.”  Japan will recover.  But recovery may coincide with the grinding of geopolitical tectonic plates around the globe to produce a somewhat new situation.

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David J. Smith.
Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). March 21 – 27, 2011

American Vice President Joseph Biden whisked through Moscow and Chisinau last week, promoting the Obama Administration’s “reset” of US-Russian relations.  Ushering Russia into the World Trade Organization, the VP said, is an American priority.

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Something big is happening in the Middle East—precisely what is yet unclear.  Unfolding developments and thoughtful analysis will no doubt tarnish some of the instant western labels affixed to the unrest—democratic wildfire, first Twitter revolution, etc.  It may emerge that a major causal factor was food inflation exported from the first world to dead-end Middle Eastern economies.  And there will be more developments, including more surprises.  Nonetheless, it is not too early to consider the likely consequences for the west, particularly for Georgia, of what is going on in the Middle East.

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David J. Smith.

Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). February 21 – 27, 2011.

 

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara got as frigid a reception on his February 11-12 Moscow visit as anyone has gotten since the coldest days of the Cold War.  Russo-Japanese relations are in a deep freeze over Moscow’s 65 year occupation of Japan’s Northern Territories—four islands called Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai Rocks.  Moscow says they are part of Russia’s Kuril Islands and does not want to talk about it.

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Last December 17, fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself aflame to protest his humiliation and beating at the hands of corrupt officials in Tunisia.  This sparked a wildfire that smoked Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali out of office and, at this writing, appears to be spreading across the Middle East, from Mauritania to Yemen.  Its extent and full effect are yet unknown.  The blaze is unlikely to ignite clean sweeps for either democracy or radical Islamism.  Nonetheless, something big is happening in the Middle East.

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David J. Smith.

Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). December 13-19, 2010.

 

`It’s a victory! We are hosting the 2018 World Cup,` a beaming Russian President Dmitry Medvedev tweeted his countrymen, moments after the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) made its December 2 announcement in Zurich.

Khatuna Mshvidobadze

JINSA Global Briefing. December 2, 2010.

The installation of the S-300 air defense system in the Russian-occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, although described by Moscow as necessary for territorial defense, is aimed at cementing Russian dominance over the South Caucasus East-West Corridor, in which the United States has a strategic interest.

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David J. Smith.

Published in TABULA (November 29 - December 5, 2010)

Although the pre-summit hype—mostly generated by NATO itself—had observers thirsting for more, the 19-20 November NATO Lisbon Summit was a moderate success. The alliance took some measured steps toward dealing with new challenges, deftly sidestepped some political landmines and laid a reasonable foundation for the considerable work that remains. Perhaps most important, in Lisbon, NATO reinvigorated itself.

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David J. Smith.

TABULA (Weekly magazine). November 8-14, 2010.

 

“Electronic warfare against Iran,” an unnamed Iranian intelligence source told the New York Times. We shall probably never know the details or the extent of it, but apparently last summer, something went askew with the computer-controlled processes in the Islamic Republic`s nuclear programs.

 

David J. Smith
OPINION. 13 October 2010

Coinciding with the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Georgia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Air Force Commander-in-Chief General Colonel Alexander Zelin broadcast an unmistakeable reminder that Russia is altering the geopolitical situation in the former Soviet space and that no one had better interfere.

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Khatuna Mshvidobadze

DefenseNews - October 2010


The installation of an S-300 air defense system in the Russian-occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, although described by Russia as necessary for territorial defense, is actually aimed at cementing Russian dominance over a vital resources trade corridor through Eurasia.

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David J. Smith.

TABULA (Weekly magazine). October 11-17, 2010.

 

As French officials sat on the beaches of the Cote d’Azur last August, some no doubt thought that they were on a well-earned break from negotiations to sell Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia.

Diana Tsutskiridze

Researcher, Georgian Security Analysis Center.

Tbilisi 24 Saati September 23, 2010.

Millions of Internet users have had at least a casual brush with cybercrime. An E-Mail message arrives from a friend in trouble far from home.

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David J. Smith.

Tbilisi 24 Saati. September 27, 2010.


Ignoring pleas from America and Israel, Russia says that it will provide Syria with P-800 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. Meanwhile, Russian bellyaching induces Washington and Jerusalem—and every other western capital—to maintain a complete arms embargo on Georgia.

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David J. Smith

Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine).

September 20-26, 2010.

 

Turkish voters September 12 approved a package of 26 constitutional amendments proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The 58% “evet” or “yes” vote boosts Erdoğan`s prospects in the July 2011 parliamentary elections, which could make him the longest serving Turkish leader since Kemal Atatürk.

 

David J. Smith. Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine).

July 26-August 1, 2010


The first half of the World Cup final game was drawing to a close when that universal cry of combined disappointment and relief arose from restaurants and bars around the world. Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas had made a spectacular save.

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David J. Smith.
Tbilisi 24 Saati. July 28, 2010.


As if driven to Georgia by Zephyrus, ancient god of the westerly wind, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton arrived here in the turn of two weeks.

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David J. Smith.

Tbilisi 24 Saati July 22, 2010


The Paris Court of Commerce last week handed a victory to the Russian propaganda machine, allowing French satellite operator Eutelsat—one quarter French Government-owned—to bar Tbilisi-based First Caucasus Television from one of its broadcast satellites. For now, this prevents First Caucasus from reaching most of its intended Russian-speaking audience.

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David J. Smith.
Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). July 12 - 18, 2010. Russia Smiles.

 

As America defeated Algeria to advance in the World Cup, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in California to kick off a round of intense diplomatic activity. Smiling, he toured “Silicon Valley” in search of money and technology.

David J. Smith.

TABULA (Weekly magazine). June 28 - July 4, 2010.

Last April 7, the world was too busy to notice Russian fingerprints on the coup that toppled Kyrgyzstani President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Within weeks, ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks were at each other’s throats.

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David J. Smith. Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). June 14-20, 2010.

Early morning on May 31, Israeli commandoes slid from hovering helicopters onto the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. They prevented embarked so-called peace activists from gaining the shore of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas.

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David J. Smith
Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). June 7-13, 2010.

Western diplomats were poised to impose new sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program when on May 17 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared in Tehran, clasped hands raised in triumph, to announce an agreement aimed at defusing the international tension surrounding Iran’s nuclear endeavors.

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David J. Smith.
Published in TABULA (Weekly magazine). January 24 – 30, 2011

 

Ninety-one years ago this week, the British cabinet rejected a comprehensive plan to rally an anti-Bolshevik coalition, support White Russian forces, control the Baku-Batumi corridor and the Caspian Sea and, from that position of strength, negotiate with the nascent Soviet government.  The geopolitical effect of this decision was cession of the Eurasian heartland to the Soviet Union for seven decades. 

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  Published in Defense News in 19 April 2010
The New START Treaty

Nuclear Progress or Limits on U.S.?

David J. Smith

Resurrecting ICBM de-MIRVing should have been a priority. Nonetheless, a White House fact sheet says, "Each party has the flexibility to determine for itself the structure of its strategic forces within the aggregate limits of the treaty." In other words, the Russians would not budge on MIRVs. Now, they are unlikely to budge because the New START validates their financially driven reductions in delivery vehicles. The White House fact sheet proclaims this as a virtue: "This limit is less than half the corresponding strategic nuclear delivery vehicle limit of the START treaty."
* The fifth and sixth matters can be fully explored only when the veil of secrecy is lifted from the draft treaty. Fifth is whether Russian negotiators managed to plant in and around the document obstacles to U.S. missile defense or long-range precision strike capabilities. The administration insists there are no restrictions, however, borrowing a line from Shakespeare, "The lady doth protest too much."

Senators must carefully comb through the negotiating record to ensure that there are no restrictions. Furthermore, they should be aware that even nonbinding preambular language, coupled with the numerous public statements of senior Russian officials, could amount to practical constraints on U.S. defense programs.

* Finally, there is the age-old matter of verification, which administration officials seem to acknowledge is less in New START than it was in START I. Now, senators must ascertain that negotiated verification provisions will be effective.

The imperative of verification raises the matter of whether New START is a step toward a worthwhile U.S.-Russia partnership or another Pavlovian press on the "reset" button.

The new START Treaty, signed April 8, 2010 in Prague castle, would reduce strategic nuclear warheads by 30 percent compared with the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and delivery vehicles by 50 percent compared with the 1991 START I Treaty.

It is apparently a big step in U.S. President Barack Obama`s quest to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations, but the U.S. Senate ratification process may reveal that New START holds both less and more than meets the eye. U.S. senators should consider six matters:

* Obama`s stated aim of zero nuclear weapons - though he admits it may not be achievable perhaps even during his lifetime - is off the mark, and in international negotiations, aim matters. If the administration regards nuclear weapons as vital national security tools for the foreseeable future, it would have mounted painstaking and likely protracted negotiations not only to reduce, but to craft more stable strategic force structures, protect critical future capabilities such as missile defense and rein in tactical nuclear weapons. Instead, it lunged for reductions and called for further cuts before the ink dried on the document.

* The focus on numerical reductions led to a flawed process. On a subject fundamental to national security, the administration should have thoroughly assessed the current situation, future requirements, prudent hedges against unforeseen events and comprehensive objectives before engaging the Russians.

In fact, American negotiators hopped on a flight to Geneva while the Washington security bureaucracy pondered and haggled over the details of nuclear strategy. The administration released the new Nuclear Posture Review just two days before Obama signed the treaty.
Unsurprisingly, the review validates the numbers that had already been negotiated in the New START Treaty, which, by the way, Obama had already generally agreed upon with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last July.

Medvedev craved the appearance of Russia on the superpower stage with America, and he wanted a treaty to lock in U.S. parity with Russia`s plan to draw down and modernize its strategic force. By agreeing so readily, we squandered our bargaining leverage to induce Moscow to negotiate over its massive tactical nuclear arsenal and to remove multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) from its land-based ICBMs.

* So, the New START is less than it might have been; indeed, it may not even deliver the touted cuts. This is because the new counting rules count manned bombers as just one warhead. However, as Keith Payne points out in the April 8 Wall Street Journal, Russia`s 76 bombers can carry between six and 16 nuclear bombs and cruise missiles. Consequently, Moscow can erase the claimed 30 percent warhead reduction but remain treaty compliant.

* Worse, the New START validates instability in Russia`s strategic force structure. Two generations of arms control professionals labored to spread each side`s warheads across as many delivery vehicles as possible to confound first-strike calculations. This is particularly important for ICBMs, which are easier to find and target than submarines or manned bombers. Indeed, the 1993 START II Treaty would have required ICBM de-MIRVing. However, START II foundered over disagreements on ballistic missile defense.

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David Smith is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Arlington, Va. He was the U.S. chief negotiator for defense and space from 1989 to 1992.

 

David J. Smith

Published in Tbilisi 24 Saati January 12, 2009.

Meeting in the ornate Treaty Room atop the State Department State in Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze on Friday signed the United States-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership. “I want the people of Georgia to know,” said Rice, “that they will always have a friend in the United States of America.”

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KHATUNA MSHVIDOBADZE 

Jan.21, 2009. THE JERUSALEM POST

Two days before Christmas, Israeli flags fluttered against Tbilisi`s gray sky. Some 150 Georgian students gathered to support Israel`s antiterrorist battle in Gaza. One waved a sign that read "Israel has the right to defense." Like Israel, Georgia is an ancient but tiny country that must fight for freedom. Like Israelis, Georgians understand war and they know the global dimension of the threat to freedom.

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Published in Tbilisi 24 Saati January 26, 2009

David J. Smith

Last week, Moscow afforded us dour folk who concentrate on international security a real laugh-out-loud. On January 19 and again on January 21, the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded an inspection of Georgian military facilities under the Vienna 1999 document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The jocularity was short lived, however, as Tbilisi categorically refused the request—as would any government not on psychotropic drugs.

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David J. Smith.

24 Saati February 2, 2009

Eighty-nine years ago—January 29, 1920—the British cabinet rejected a plan to support the independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan and to secure the Black Sea to Caspian Sea corridor. The geopolitical effect was to cede control of the Eurasian heartland to the Soviet Union for seven decades. Reflection upon this anniversary provides historical perspective to analysis of Russia’s August 2008 war on Georgia.

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24 Saati. February 10, 2009

David J. Smith.

Last weekend’s 45th Munich Security Conference afforded the world its first look at the emerging foreign policy of US President Barack Obama. The conference’s mostly European audience heard the constructive new tone for which it had hoped. However, the substantive policy studiously delivered by all Administration representatives in Munich was one of cautious continuity.


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Russian Occupation Threatens More than Georgia:
Threat to the East-West Corridor

24 Saati. February 17, 2009.

David J. Smith*

Another round of international talks on the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is underway this week in Geneva. Meanwhile, Russia is tightening its vice-grip, transforming the two occupied territories into military garrisons. Moreover, Russian forces cling to the Akhalgori District and the village of Perevi, neither of which is part of nearby South Ossetia. This Russian military buildup has important strategic consequences not only for Georgia, but for the East-West Corridor.

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24 Saati. February 24, 2009. David J. Smith*

Last week, the Georgian Defense Ministry unequivocally signaled that it is moving forward by publishing its plan for 2009. The MoD—civilian and military—is building upon its achievements, studying the lessons of the August 2008 war and moving forward to defend Georgia at home and in international security operations.

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David J. Smith. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. February 25, 2009.

The U.S. fundamentally failed to understand the implications of the Russian aggression against Georgia in its early stages. Russia invaded Georgia, but it really attacked the East-West Corridor that connects the Black Sea to the Caspian, a vital American interest.

David J. Smith. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. February 25, 2009. The U.S. fundamentally failed to understand the implications of the Russian aggression against Georgia in its early stages. Russia invaded Georgia, but it really attacked the East-West Corridor that connects the Black Sea to the Caspian, a vital American interest.

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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. March 3, 2009.

“Congratulations, Mr. President.” With those words from US Chief Justice John Roberts, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States. Under the XX Amendment to the Constitution, this orderly transfer of power happened at 12 Noon on January 20—no sooner and no later. George W. Bush—who minutes earlier had been the most powerful man on earth—left the US Capitol Building by a quiet door.

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. March 3, 2009. “Congratulations, Mr. President.” With those words from US Chief Justice John Roberts, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States. Under the XX Amendment to the Constitution, this orderly transfer of power happened at 12 Noon on January 20—no sooner and no later. George W. Bush—who minutes earlier had been the most powerful man on earth—left the US Capitol Building by a quiet door.


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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. March 10, 2009.

If good feelings were the measure of effective diplomacy, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foray into Europe last week earned top marks. She wooed her NATO counterparts, balanced reopening NATO-Russia ties with reassurances to Georgia and Ukraine, charmed European Union leaders, chatted with women’s and youth groups and dined with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. March 10, 2009. If good feelings were the measure of effective diplomacy, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s foray into Europe last week earned top marks. She wooed her NATO counterparts, balanced reopening NATO-Russia ties with reassurances to Georgia and Ukraine, charmed European Union leaders, chatted with women’s and youth groups and dined with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. March 17, 2009. Who Was First?, a recent publication of Andrei Illarionov, once Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Chief Economic Adviser, affords a fresh look at Russia’s August 2008 war on Georgia. That war was the long-planned military phase of an ongoing conflict between Russia and Georgia. Nonetheless—in Georgia and abroad—the misconception persists that Georgia, particularly President Mikheil Saakashvili, somehow started the fracas. Lest anyone be tempted to exploit such misinformation among unwitting people, it is useful now-and-then to review reality.

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. March 17, 2009. Who Was First?, a recent publication of Andrei Illarionov, once Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Chief Economic Adviser, affords a fresh look at Russia’s August 2008 war on Georgia. That war was the long-planned military phase of an ongoing conflict between Russia and Georgia. Nonetheless—in Georgia and abroad—the misconception persists that Georgia, particularly President Mikheil Saakashvili, somehow started the fracas. Lest anyone be tempted to exploit such misinformation among unwitting people, it is useful now-and-then to review reality.

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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 1, 2009.

This is a marathon foreign policy week for US President Barack Obama. The next six days will leave a bold imprint on how American foreign policy is perceived in the world, indeed, on what Obama can achieve during his term.

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 1, 2009. This is a marathon foreign policy week for US President Barack Obama. The next six days will leave a bold imprint on how American foreign policy is perceived in the world, indeed, on what Obama can achieve during his term.

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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 14, 2009. On April 9 and successive days, people took to the streets of Tbilisi calling upon Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. The President remains in office, as a majority of Georgians want. However, the demonstrations have not been for naught—the peaceful, democratic demeanor of demonstrators and government alike has burnished Georgia’s image abroad. Now, Georgians must decide whether to consolidate this gain for Georgia and build upon it.

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 14, 2009. On April 9 and successive days, people took to the streets of Tbilisi calling upon Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. The President remains in office, as a majority of Georgians want. However, the demonstrations have not been for naught—the peaceful, democratic demeanor of demonstrators and government alike has burnished Georgia’s image abroad. Now, Georgians must decide whether to consolidate this gain for Georgia and build upon it.


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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 22, 2009. Since April 9, some Georgians have taken to the streets of Tbilisi calling upon President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. Their numbers have dwindled, but a dedicated few still block major thoroughfares, populate tents outside the presidential residence and rally bigger crowds in front of Parliament. Meanwhile, ordinary Georgians—of all political leanings—ask, is this normal in a democracy?

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 22, 2009. Since April 9, some Georgians have taken to the streets of Tbilisi calling upon President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign. Their numbers have dwindled, but a dedicated few still block major thoroughfares, populate tents outside the presidential residence and rally bigger crowds in front of Parliament. Meanwhile, ordinary Georgians—of all political leanings—ask, is this normal in a democracy?

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David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 28, 2009.

When there is interesting news from just down the road, most people focus on that, largely ignoring events in other countries. But in our globalized world, a few keystrokes put us in touch with London, Paris, Rome or New York. Google is marvelous. A few hops around cyber space yield two observations. First, almost everyone in England, France, Italy and America is paying attention to their own news. Second, much of that news is about protests, which are normal democratic phenomena.

David J. Smith. 24 Saati. April 28, 2009. When there is interesting news from just down the road, most people focus on that, largely ignoring events in other countries. But in our globalized world, a few keystrokes put us in touch with London, Paris, Rome or New York. Google is marvelous. A few hops around cyber space yield two observations. First, almost everyone in England, France, Italy and America is paying attention to their own news. Second, much of that news is about protests, which are normal democratic phenomena.

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David J. Smith* Limes: Rivista Italiana di Geopolitica, 2009(3), April 2009

Seven months after the hot phase of Russia’s August 2008 war on Georgia, Russian military forces continue to occupy Georgian territories in violation of the Six-point ceasefire plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the name of the European Union Presidency. It is hard to know Russia’s purpose or to predict its next move—Moscow is likely divided. Certain, however, is that Russian military forces intend long-term occupation of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Akhalgori District and Perevi village.

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David J. Smith. Tbilisi 24 Saati May 5, 2009


Late last week, about 1,800 additional Russian troops poured into the already heavily occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Akhalgori District. The latest Russian contingents are Federal Security Service (FSB) Border Guards sent to implement a so-called border control agreement signed at the Kremlin on April 30 by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and separatist leaders Sergei Bagapsh from Abkhazia and Eduard Kokoity from South Ossetia.


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David J. Smith Tbilisi 24 Saati May 12, 2009

The first of two successive NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) exercises began yesterday at the Vaziani Georgian Armed Forces Base, 30 kilometers East of Tbilisi. The objective of Exercises Longbow and Lancer is to improve the abilities of the 14 participating nations to respond cooperatively to crises. “When the situation demands,” Georgian Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze told yesterday’s opening ceremony, “we are expected to react quickly and perform effectively.” Despite this matter-of-fact approach, the twin exercises get underway amidst fulminations from Moscow.

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David J. Smith. Tbilisi, 24 Saati.
May 19, 2009

Fairytale is the sprightly little ditty that won the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest for Norwegian Alexander Rybak last Saturday in Moscow. We Don’t Wanna Put-In is a song by Stefane and 3G, the Georgian entry nixed by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to shield the apparently very thin skin of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin from the possibility of a burn from the strobe lights of Olympiyski Arena. Fairytale might also have described the saga of a Norwegian fiddler, three pretty Georgian girls and a guy with funny hair—except it was real-life farce.

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David J. Smith
Tbilisi 24 Saati May 26, 2009

US President Barack Obama heads to Moscow July 6-8. With his trip just six weeks off, and the new American administration still crafting a foreign policy, newspaper pundits, including the author of this column, are scribbling. Opinions abound, but almost all agree that it is time for Obama to step Beyond the ‘Reset Button.’

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David J. Smith.
Tbilisi 24 Saati June 2, 2009

US President Barack Obama will travel to Moscow July 6-8 on the first real test of his attempt to “reset” US-Russian relations. At the Kremlin, Obama must articulate what is negotiable and what is not. In the latter category, Obama must tell Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to quit the Georgian territories that the Russian army has occupied since Russia attacked Georgia last August. This is not just a favor to a pro-American democracy—Obama’s “reset” policy depends upon it.

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By KHATUNA MSHVIDOBADZE

Published: 8 June 2009

As U.S. President Barack Obama flips through his briefing book to prepare for his July 6-8 summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, he should tarry over Russia`s May 12 "Security Strategy of the Russian Federation to the Year 2020." A good read will reveal that he is about to meet the president of a country like no other, one that blends insecurity, bluster and a sense of grievance into a drive to become "one of the world`s major powers."

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David J. Smith. Tbilisi 24 Saati.

June 17, 2009.


Russia on Monday kyboshed the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG). Throughout the day, UN Security Council members failed to agree upon a two week extension that would have provided time for further negotiations. So, as a midnight deadline approached, ten Security Council members voted to extend UNOMIG’s mandate, four abstained and a lone raised hand signaled the Russian veto. Accordingly, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon instructed “his Special Representative to take all measures required to cease the operations…effective 16 June.”

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David J. Smith,

Tbilisi 24 Saati. July 28, 2009.

US Vice President Joe Biden stormed Tbilisi last week with a message of American support for Georgian territorial integrity, sovereignty and democracy. Biden told dinner guests at the residence of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that US President Barack Obama had sent him with “An unequivocal, clear, simple message to all who will listen, and those who even don`t want to listen, that America stands with you at this moment and will continue to stand with you.” If Washington now backs its words with deeds, then Biden’s visit to Tbilisi could emerge as one of the most important moments in Georgian history.

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David J. Smith.
Tbilisi 24 Saati June 24, 2009

Last Sunday, Avtandil Akhaladze died of shrapnel wounds sustained when the ambulance he was driving struck a landmine. His MediClub ambulance was on a European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) patrol near the Mingrelian town of Muzhava. “I am very concerned,” said EUMM Chief Hansjörg Haber, “that our preliminary findings on this incident indicate that this was a deliberate attack on our patrol, going about its daily duties.”

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June 30, 2009

Yesterday, the Russian military launched major military maneuvers in the North Caucasus and in adjacent Russian-occupied Georgian territory. The exercise “Kavkaz-2009” will run until July 6. The exercises will involve 8,500 soldiers, 200 tanks, 450 armored combat vehicles and 250 artillery pieces. According to Russian officials, the aim of “Kavkaz-2009’ is to prepare to counter terrorists.

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Rushed Follow-up Treaty Will Not Benefit U.S.
David J. Smith, Defense News. 3 August, 2009.

When U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a Joint Understanding on July 6 on a treaty to follow the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), this first press of Obama`s reset button launched U.S. negotiators into a time warp to circa 1969 Cold War-style negotiations against an artificial deadline. The result is unlikely to be in the interest of the United States.

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David J. Smith,

Tbilisi 24 Saati. August 4, 2009.

As US Vice President Joe Biden returned to Washington from his foray to Ukraine and Georgia, the first copies of a Wall Street Journal article that would plunge him into political controversy rolled off the presses. Biden told the Journal’s Peter Spiegel that Russia’s “withering” economy would force “some very difficult, calculated decisions.” He continued, “We [the United States] vastly underestimate the hand that we hold.” The Vice President’s refreshingly candid remarks are worth careful consideration, but the maelstrom that ensued had naught to do with that.

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David J. Smith.
Tbilisi 24 Saati July 1, 2009.

Russia Monday launched Kavkaz 2009—the largest ever military exercise in the North Caucasus—possibly the prelude to another assault on Georgia. Meanwhile, rumors of war loom like thunderheads on a hot summer evening. "All Russia`s propaganda outlets have been talking about the possibility,” Andrei Illarionov, disaffected former economic adviser to then Russian President Vladimir Putin, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. We should neither over-react nor under-react to those rumors—and we should expect the unexpected.

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Mistral: A Cold French Wind Blows East


David J. Smith

Estonia Eesti Paevaleht November 23, 2009.

The French Navy amphibious assault ship Mistral—named for a cold French wind—visits Saint Petersburg today. This is not just a port call; it is a sales call—with ominous geopolitical implications.

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Mistral: A Cold French North Wind on the Black Sea

David J. Smith, Romania Adevarul November 25, 2009.

The French Navy amphibious assault ship Mistral—named for a cold French north wind—arrived at Saint Petersburg on Monday. It was not just a port call; it was a sales call—with ominous geopolitical implications for the Black Sea.

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David J. Smith,

Defense News

28 September, 2009.

The U.S. decision to cancel deployment of a ballistic missile defense system in Central Europe in favor of boosting shorter-range defenses creates immediate policy problems for the Obama administration: It shreds agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland, undermining U.S. credibility; it may encourage Iranian long-range ballistic missile development; and, although it`s an apparent concession to Russia, Moscow has offered nothing in return.

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David J. Smith,

Tbilisi 24 Saati October 7, 2009.

The long awaited European Union-commissioned report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia was published last week. Unsurprisingly, it largely corroborates Georgian accounts of Russia’s August 2008 invasion while blaming Georgia for sparking the conflict. Although this report is fast receding into obscurity, we should consider it carefully as an illustration of western woolly mindedness about Russian aggression with practical consequences for the future.

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French Ships Could Mean Geopolitical Disaster.

By Khatuna Mshvidobadze
Published: 7 December 2009

Some in the French government want to sell Mistral-class ships to Russia, and the decrepit Russian Navy is eager to buy. But such advanced land attack capabilities in Russian hands will worsen the already tense security situation in the Black and Baltic seas and may even threaten Russia`s Arctic neighbors.


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David J. Smith.

Tbilisi 24 Saati November 17, 2009.


The French Navy amphibious assault ship Mistralwill visit Saint Petersburg, Russia next week. This port call signals that Franco-Russian relations thrive despite the fifteen months since the Russian invasion of Georgia during which Moscow has unflaggingly flouted the ceasefire agreement negotiated by French President Nikolas Sarkozy. But the Mistral’s mission is not just a port call; it is a sales call—with ominous geopolitical implications.

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