Blog Post

Privatized Death Machine

In 2006, I watched the French-German-American film Lord of War with Nicolas Cage and directed by Andrew Niccol.  I was struck by the film—since this picture very much reflected a post-Cold-War syndrome—market taking over any ideology and cynical sale of death across the borders.

We have waited for the end of the Cold War with so many hopes; we have fought for the end of an empire and then what we have received is a bunch of corrupt people trading with life and death.  In all senses the only result of ending the Cold War for my generation became one principle—Property became more important than Life—and if property needs it, you can sell death.  The end of the Lord of War when Vitaly Orlov dies in protest of this horrible reality is very moving.  It is also very depressing to think that our struggle for democracy and independence led to authoritarian neoliberal regimes that are trading arms, drugs and human beings.  It has been almost 20 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and high hopes for democracy are chilled by the Lords of War that are ruling different countries.

Lord of WarThere have been many parallels to the prototype of Yuri Orlov—he has been compared to Russian Arms Dealer Victor Bout, Lebanese Sarkis Soghanalian, Ukrainian Semion Mogilevich.  But I have a much closer prototype—Head of Georgian Arms Mafia—the Uncle of President Saakashvili, Temur Alasania and his partner, Eric Goudis. These guys are much closer to resembling Nicolas Cage's Yuri Orlov than other three.

Now that everyone is discussing Iran and how to avoid the nuclear proliferation there is not much discussion about huge amounts that different countries of the world put into arms trade—illegal or legal.  There are lots of US, Israeli, Russian, Chinese and other arms traded around the world every day and this subject is sort of taboo in mainstream press. The "Business of War" is going forward  and economic powers support it with fool steam.

I would like to tell the post-Cold-War story that is very important since the decline of Soviet Union.  This story is bout the boss of the Arms Dealer Mafia in Georgia who has worked for Soviet Diplomatic service and was raised by the famous Yuri Andropov—once a powerful head of KGB (Soviet Security Department—the most powerful in the empire) and Secretary General of the Communist Party of the USSR.  Andropov was known for his concept of "privatizing the KGB" and he was one of the first communist leaders to directly embrace the privatization of good and evil.  More precisely, the privatization of KGB finances, activities and business deals.  Arms trade was one of the main businesses that this organization was involved in.  This is where the father of Georgian Arms dealing mafia was raised.  Mr. Alasania was very successful in the Soviet "Foreign Service"—thanks to his patrons in Moscow, and Yuri Andropov himself was promoted to spy in Canada and the United States at a very young age.  He was one of the most successful Soviet Diplomats at that young age.  In the 1980s he started to work at the UN dealing with disarmament issues.  It has often happened that disarmament turns into armament and by different accounts Mr. Alasania became extremely wealthy.  By now his family owns lots of businesses in Georgia and not only there.  This guy is no ideological—he does not care about democracy or social justice—he does not care about communism—he never did.  All he cares about is property—and he has managed to accumulate it quite well.

In February, 2005 Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, one of the outstanding leaders of 'Rose Revolution' and the founder of the Georgian Green Party died in very suspicious circumstances.  His family and representatives of Civil Society in Georgia have asked for an investigation.  But President Saakashvili refused to conduct an independent investigation and after 6 years the case is not solved.  Many questions appeared but almost none were answered.   Georgian Society and Zurab Zhvania's family were left left on its own.  The young investigator from Georgian Prosecutor's office who found some controversial evidence was also killed in very mysterious circumstances in several months. Independent investigative journalist, Vakhtang Komakhidze together with his team traced the circumstances of death and has concluded that there was a significant evidence indicating that authorities were lying.  Since then he was threatened multiple times and was forced to leave Georgia and has received political asylum in one of the European countries.  Zurab Zhvania's family is still asking for an investigation—but there is not response.

In October 2005, Chad Nagle's article appears in the Canadian Magazine Global Research that gives at least some answer to the question.  In his article about Zhvania's death he wrote:

On the eve of Zhvania’s killing an international tender was announced, the winner of which would receive the right to manage the airport for 10 years to recoup investments. On May 16th the winner was announced: a consortium that included “A&J” (US), “GTS” (Luxembourg), and “Çelebi Holding” (Turkey). Perevozkina reports that Zhvania had opposed this consortium, and that Bendukidze, present at the negotiations, described “Çelebi” as “not serious,” more like a “shell,” without the means to build anything. On September 6th, a new contract was signed with two other Turkish companies—“Tav” and “Urban”—and the contract with the Çelebi group was annulled. The The Çelebi group is currently contesting the decision in the International Chamber of Commerce, but the question remains: how did the “unserious” Çelebi win the tender to begin with? According to Perevozkina, former functionaries and assistants of Premier Zhvania who attended meetings of the Cabinet say that an uncle of Mikheil Saakashvili, Temur Alasania, had personally lobbied the interests of the Çelebi consortium. Alasania, brother of Saakashvili’s mother, Turkic Studies Prof. Giuli Alasania, had brought American businessman Eric Goudis to Premier Zhvania. Goudis, head of A&J, conducted the negotiations in Group’s name. One of Goudis’s New York properties, Perevozkina reports, houses the women’s club of the US Republican Party, to which Laura Bush supposedly stops in from time to time.

Alasania, who occupies no official post, is often present at Georgian Security Council meetings, and it is rumored that the security service chiefs cannot decide a single question without him. He worked on the UN Committee for Disarmament and International Security in the 1990s, eventually becoming a senior adviser on the UN Secretariat. According to Perevozkina, Alasania’s acquaintances from his days at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MSIIR) include Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov. Ivanov has become a familiar face during western-backed coups d’etat, jetting in to counsel heads of state to acquiesce to US-financed mobs and step down (October 2000, Belgrade; November 2003, Tbilisi; May 2004, Batumi (Adjara)). Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Georgian Labor Party, described Alasania to Perevozkina as “a KGB officer working with the American intelligence agencies.” Perevozkina’s sources allege that Alasania has a house in America and that his sons have US citizenship.

When he first came to America in the early 1990s, Saakashvili lived with Uncle Temur, who apparently arranged a job for the future president at the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler in New York. In December of last year, Alasania and his wife moved to Tbilisi to be close to their nephew. Indeed, Alasania’s connections in Moscow, New York and Washington may explain the strange malleability of the Kremlin on issues of vital importance to Russia, including withdrawal of bases from Georgia. The bases are to be withdrawn exactly at the time when Saakashvili is to stand for a second term, thus boosting his image with the chauvinist-nationalists currently dominating Georgia’s political elite. Saakashvili has appointed several of his family members to lucrative posts in government, giving one of his brothers a position as chief adviser on domestic issues to the Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline project, backed by British Petroleum and other oil multinationals.

This Russian-American 'Joint-Venture' that has also included phony Turkish companies was trying to negotiate an airport deal with the Georgian government headed by Mr. Zhvania.  According to one of the sources in December of 2004 Goudis has proposed to Zhvania to sell the airport without Tender to his consortium.  Zhvania refused and this led to the conflict between this very influential clan and him. The same source told the independent investigation that shortly before his death, he has complained that relatives of the Georgian President with strong KGB past are pressuring him to accept an illegal deal to sell incredible amounts of arms to different developing countries of the world.  He has said that the 'Head of this Mafia' has a high position at the UN and is even more powerful than the Georgian President.  He was clearly worried about his safety and unfortunately his anticipation proved to be true.

According to Ilnar Gorelishvili from the "Ambebi" news agency, Alasania's clan became the most powerful business group in Georgiait managed to defeat another Russian tycoon Boris Berezovski and then "invest" the profits in different spheres of Georgian economy.  While still working at the UN, the head of the Georgian Arms Mafia, Mr. Alasania has delegated most of his properties in Georgia and other countries to his son, sister and other relatives.    By today, in 2011 this clan officially and unofficially is controlling big parts of Georgian economy.  Its members are Georgian, Russian, American, US, Turkish and other nationals.  According to sources this multinational group is not serving any government but is capable of influencing many different governments, including of those in big countries.  They are capable of hiring lobbyists in Washington, DC, Moscow, Brussels, and other cities of the world.  They have people who could get access to nuclear technologies.

In 2008, the war broke out between Georgia and Russia.  But even the war did not impede the operation of this 'business'—since selling arms is a 'business of war'—on the contrary since the war the Arms Mafia in Georgia has prospered.

What is really interesting from this case is that arms business is such a multinational corporation that it is multiplying its profits even when their own nations are at war.  While the whole world was watching the war between Georgians and Russians—the business went as usual—maybe even better than usual.

One of the most depressing realities in 20 years after the Cold War is that Property became more important than Life.  There must be a reason why great American President, Thomas Jefferson wrote "Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness' in that order.

The words of another great American President, Dwight Eisenhower come to my mind:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

The world is becoming smaller and there are not just different states that have nuclear weapons—there are some powerful non-state actors that are capable of acquiring and selling deadly arms.  Death is privatized after the Cold War.  We shall stop this if we want our children to live a happy life.

Irakli Zurab Kakabadze's picture

Irakli Kakabadze has been a leading figure in the nonviolent movement for social change in Georgia for more than two decades. 

A member of the Civic Disobedience Committee in 1989 and during the Rose Revolution in 2003, he has since been harassed and detained repeatedly by authorities. 

He is the author of five books and hundreds of essays in English, Georgian, and Russian. His play Candidate Jokola controversially depicted a love story between a Georgian presidential candidate and an Abkhaz woman. He is also an author of lyrics for “Postindustrial Boys,” and, together with Zurab Rtveliashvili, practices a literary performance style called Polyphonic Discourse. 

He taught art and peacebuilding at Cornell University from 2008-2012 and currently teach at the Georgian-American University in Tbilisi, Georgia..