Encountering a Georgian Baptist archbishop
Recently the Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili, came to Oxford for a study-leave. By Georgia, I mean the one with Saakashvili and Stalin (alas), rather than the one with Jimmy Carter and CNN. That might answer your obvious question…. Further, as to why there is an Archbishop in a Baptist church, please read the church’s website. As to how to address a Baptist Archbishop in the correct style: pass. In any case: sadly, it was during his visit that the Russia–Georgia conflict broke out.
I happened to be in Finland when the formerly-frozen conflict became hot again. It was interesting to see the newish Foreign Minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, being thrusted into the limelight, trying to calm things down. Stubb used to be a Member of the European Parliament, and I have been tracking his career for some time. Though I do not agree with him on everything, I acknowledge that he was probably the most funny man in the house, to good political effect. He mediated in this conflict in his capacity as the President-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), an institution I raved about earlier in these pages. Suitably, Helsinki, Finland’s capital, is the birthplace of the OSCE.
Archbishop Songulashvili gave a talk in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, to explain the background and his views on the present conflict, and about Georgia in general – it is not a country about which most English people know a lot. Now I give my own view, in light of the Archbishop’s explanation. It appears that the whole thing was brought to a head as Georgia is attracted to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato). Some Germans (and other Europeans) are trying to explain to the Russians that Nato is no longer a confrontational organization, but is now, after the Cold War, a gentler security pact. I don’t think this cuts it: Nato is too tangled already for this kind of rhetoric to work (recall Afghanistan and ex-Yugoslavia). OSCE is a better way forward.
Gentle readers can read a transcript of a recent United Nations Security Council meeting from a cool website called UN Democracy (available also on the sidebar here), where Alex Stubb gave a briefing (Security Council meeting 5982). Notice that things might start moving again in the next few days: “Sarkozy II plan, with an aim of having the troops withdrawn by 10 October”; “What I have proposed is the formation of an international platform made up of three key organizations — the United Nations, the EU and the OSCE — as well as the stakeholders in the conflict. That platform should be convened as soon as possible. I believe a good starting point is 15 October, when an international conference is scheduled to be held in Geneva.” I hope they move in a good direction.
Notice also that Nato was never mentioned, though both Kosovo and Afghanistan were. I am not steeped in the issues enough to know whether this is a good thing or bad. Representing the United States of America, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rosemary DiCarlo mentioned another interesting fact though: “The OSCE will observe presidential elections in the United States in November, and we welcome that effort. An autonomous elections watchdog can contribute overall to strengthening democratic institutions in countries in transition and in established democracies.”
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