A War in Pictures

Russia and Georgia just can't get enough of not getting enough of one another. The latest weapon: celluloid. In March, Russia released a film about its 2008 war with Georgia. That film, called “Olympius Inferno,” was about an American reporter who came upon evidence that Georgia actually started the war. (The non-partisan EU report on the war supported this claim, though it blamed both countries for escalating the violence.) Not surprisingly, “Olympius Inferno” wasn’t very popular in Georgia. And now a new film is being shot with Andy Garcia in the part of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Val Kilmer as a war correspondent. The extent to which the film will be pro-Georgian remains to be seen, but it has the full cooperation of the Georgian government. Significantly, the film’s director Renny Harlin, best known for “Die Hard 2” and “Cliffhanger,” is originally from Finland, the one country that successfully repelled the Russian Bear in the run-up to WWII.

Is a picture worth a thousand bombs?

Although Russia dwarfs Georgia in population and military might, Georgia has continued antagonizing Russia like it was 2005 (the time when Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were staging revolutions against perceived Russian hegemony). Taking stock of these three countries now, has the hope of those revolutions materialized?

Despite the anti-Russia fervor of the Orange Revolution, Ukraine has been politically chastened due to its failure to clean up corruption or fight back against Russia’s natural gas blockades. While the EU is no fan of Russia’s energy politics, calls for Ukraine to join NATO have grown quieter, and its EU membership prospects seem as distant as ever.

Preliminary polls in Ukraine show that the presidential election this January will kick out Viktor Yushchenko, who’s estimated poll number barely breaches 2 percent. Yushchenko spearheaded the Orange Revolution – and perhaps was poisoned from political rivals because of it, though the evidence remains inconclusive. Moscow-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovich – Yushchenko’s bitter rival in the last election – currently leads polls with an estimated 26 percent of the vote.

While the Tulip Revolution promised greater political independence in Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek has been careful to appease Moscow in recent years while wringing as much money as possible from the US for the use of its military base servicing soldiers in Afghanistan.

Georgia alone seems to be upholding the old revolutionary fire. Yet has it overplayed its hand? Will its feisty independent spirit – and close relations with the US – give it the upper hand against its giant neighbor and former Imperial master? Will its movie win an Oscar, or at least the international box office?

Only time will tell if Georgia gets its desired Hollywood ending.

- Ivan Weiss