Washington Assures Support Of Georgia's Sovereignty


April, 2008

The Bush administration on Wednesday conveyed its commitment in supporting Georgia's sovereignty in the light of fresh tension between Georgia and Russia over the shooting down of a spy plane in the region recently. The commitment was made U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who met with Georgia's foreign minister David Bakradze. She said Washington was "very concerned" over Russia's move to forge closer ties with two breakaway regions in Georgia that threatens its sovereignty. The United Nation Security Council is set to disclose tension between Russia and Georgia at a closed-door session. "Our commitment to Georgia and to its territorial integrity is firm," Rice told reporters in Washington after emerging from a meeting with Bakradze. Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said his government would forge closer ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions in Georgia. On Monday, Georgia accused Russia of launching a MiG 29 fighter jet to shoot down its spy plane over Abkhazia. Georgia described the action as an "open aggression," and called on the U.N. and the international community for support. But Russia denies involvement in the shooting down of the plane saying Abkhan rebels shot down the drone.

Source: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7010744675

Georgia: U.S. Exercises and Russian Strength


Summary

A large U.S. force reportedly will be a prominent feature in an international military exercise in Georgia in July. While Moscow is sure to notice this, the exercises could have the most effect on how Russian power is perceived farther afield.

Analysis

U.S. and Georgian forces will participate in a joint military exercise outside Tbilisi in July, according to an April 15 RIA Novosti report, citing the Georgian Defense Ministry. Dubbed “Immediate Response 2008” (previous iterations were held in Poland and Bulgaria), the exercise reportedly will amass some 2,000 personnel from the United States, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine in the former Soviet republic. At this point, the exercise appears to be the largest-ever deployment of U.S. troops to Georgian territory. Militarily, this is only the next step in a progression of training and military cooperation between the United States and Georgia. Tbilisi sustains two battalions in Iraq and has cycled through more than 3,000 of its own troops already. Since 2000, when a few U.S. Army doctors conducted mass casualty exercises with Georgian doctors (a fairly innocuous evolution, even from Russia’s perspective), there has been a systematic series of training efforts and military exercises:

* The Georgia Train and Equip Program in 2002-2004;
* Georgia Security and Stability Operations in 2005-2006;
* Naval exercises in the Black Sea in 2005;
* “Cooperative Archer,” a multilateral exercise in 2007 that included several NATO members; and
* Bilateral exercises with the United States in 2007.

Most of these exercises involved maybe 100 U.S. Green Berets or other military personnel. The 2005 naval exercises involved several hundred U.S. sailors, but took place offshore. The 2007 bilateral exercise was reportedly undertaken at the battalion level. The 2008 exercises are set to involve at least one U.S. battalion and possibly two; that announcement has not yet been made. While the history of U.S. military support and training logically builds toward an exercise of this larger scale, it is taking place on Georgian territory — and it is hard to find a corner of the former Soviet Union that Moscow is more sensitive about. Furthermore, the exercise comes on the heels of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which Russia adamantly opposed. So even though the Pentagon has slowly cultivated a relationship with Tbilisi and nurtured the Georgian military for more than half a decade and Immediate Response 2008 is the next logical step in that relationship, something far more significant is under way.

The Kremlin’s opposition to Kosovar independence — and the recognition thereof — was a very clear line in the sand, yet Moscow has not launched any major, hard-hitting retaliation. A late-breaking White House push for Georgian and Ukrainian admittance into the NATO Membership Action Plan (even if only symbolic) was another slap in the face. And Washington is now poised to conduct what looks to be its largest exercises yet on Georgian territory. Whatever the finer points of reality are, a series of events — Immediate Response 2008 will be the third such event this year — is building, representing overt challenges to what Russia has repeatedly publicly identified as its core national interests. Should this trend continue (the next logical step would be pushing against Moscow in Ukraine or Kazakhstan), the perception of Russian power in the wider international community will begin to shift.

Each time Moscow draws a line in the sand and then makes itself appear powerless by not responding as the West shuffles across said line, the perception of Russia’s ability to respond erodes. And that perception is absolutely essential to Russia’s foreign policy in general — and the maintenance of its influence in its peripheral states in particular. Those states contain a mixture of pro-Western sentiment and pro-Russian sentiment. Every time the West moves and Russia fails to react, those who are pro-Western are emboldened, and those who are pro-Russian are forced to contemplate jumping ship in order to protect their own interests. Further complicating matters for the Russians is the fact that they might well be unable to act right now. Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to manage an internal transition of power, and the associated changes have enticed various Kremlin factions to make grabs for power and assets with a fury that rivals Russia’s oligarchic wars of the 1990s. Bogged down in internal struggles, Russia seems to be limited to little more than bellicose rhetoric and half-measures as the West nibbles away at Russia’s periphery. Russia’s responses are exactly the sort of weak actions that only encourage that periphery to crumble all the more.

Source: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/geo...ssian_strength

In other news:

RUSSIA AND ITS ALLIES CONDUCT EURASIAN AIR DEFENSE DRILL


NATO’s eastwards expansion plan, articulated earlier this month at a summit in Bucharest, has firmed up Kremlin opposition to the alliance’s interest in former Soviet republics, particularly Georgia and the Ukraine, which over the last year has taken the form of military power projections beyond Russia’s frontiers. Last August Russia revived its practice of sending out strategic bombers on long-range patrols, and in February two Russian bombers over-flew the USS Nimitz carrier while it was on maneuvers in the Pacific, the first time that such an incident had occurred in four years. On February 8, in a nationally televised speech to the State Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his audience that NATO’s aggressive tactics were threatening to unleash a new arms race and that "In effect, we are forced to retaliate, to make corresponding decisions. Russia has, and always will have, responses to these new challenges”. On April 22 eight member nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) Joint Air Defense Force conducted a massive Air Defense System (PVO) exercise involving 110 aircraft and helicopters across the breadth of the participating nations, with more than 10 missile, air defense, anti-aircraft, and electronic warfare units involved in training exercises to protect Moscow and the Central Federal District’s air space alone.

Deputy Commander of the Russian Air Force Lieutenant-General Vadim Volkovitskii said, "Over 20 scenarios will be rehearsed, designed at strengthening the air space of CIS countries--Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan" (RIA-Novosti, April 22). The head of the Russian Air Force’s information and public relations department Colonel Aleksandr Drobyshevskii said, "Over 110 aircraft and helicopters--MiG-29 (NATO designation “Fulcrum”), MiG-31 (“Foxhound”), and Sukhoi Su-27 fighters (“Flanker”), Sukhoi Su–24 bombers (“Fencer”), Tupolev Tu-22 (“Blinder”), and Tupolev-95 (“Bear”) strategic bombers, Beriev A-50 Shmel (“Mainstay”) AWACS planes, as well as Mil Mi-8 (“Hip”) and Mil Mi-24 (“Hind”) helicopters are involved in the exercise". Russian Air Force Commander Colonel-General Aleksandr Zelin directed the exercise from the central command post of the Russian Air Force.

The breadth of the exercise is striking, as it ranges from Central Europe to the border with China and includes aircraft from Ukraine, a NATO aspirant whose potential membership particularly infuriates the Kremlin. The exercise involved a series of bilateral exercises. Russian and Kazakh MiG-31 interceptors operated from Kazakhstan’s Karaganda airfield, coordinating aerial interception operations with Russian fighters operating from airstrips in Tolmachevo and Bolshoe Savino. Farther west, more than 25 Belarusian and Russian Su-24 and Su-27 aircraft operating from Belarus facilities at Siverskiy and Russia’s Ross airfield conducted joint exercises. According to Drobyshevskii, aircraft from the Russian Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan also participated. Besides aircraft, Armenia contributed personnel to the PVO command staff exercise training.

The exercise took place two days after a Georgian reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) was shot down over the secessionist territory of Abkhazia, reportedly by a Russian Air Force fighter. Moscow strongly denies the charge. Georgia's air force commander subsequently played footage for reporters that allegedly shows a Russian aircraft downing the Georgian drone. The operation is reminiscent of one held in April 2004, when 100 CIS aircraft participated in a similar PVO exercise. U.S. aircraft from the nearby American base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, shadowed the participating Russian fighters based in Kant. The 2004 exercise was directed against a simulated terrorist attack, but with tension rising between Russia and NATO, the recent exercise had a rather different emphasis.

Despite the public relations reports that the CIS PVO exercise went swimmingly, there are nevertheless indications that Russia’s Central Asian military presence creates local unrest in a similar way as the U.S. airbase in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. On December 6, 2006, a U.S. soldier there shot and killed a Kyrgyz citizen, leading to calls in Parliament to expel American forces from the base. In a fracas similar to the Manas incident, an encounter between Kyrgyz Interior Ministry (MVD) forces and Russian soldiers based at Kant resulted on April 20 in Lieutenant Maxim Zotov being shot after a jeep carrying troops sped through a stoplight. Zotov was wounded and sent to hospital with two broken ribs and bullet wounds to his lung and spleen. Seeking to quell the media reports about the incident, the MVD noted that “unfounded heightened speculation does not contribute to strengthening the collegial and allied relations of Kyrgyzstan with the Russian Federation against the background of the increasingly positive image of Russia in the world and in CIS countries."

If the American pressure to expand NATO eastwards does not abate, then one can expect to see additional CIS PVO exercises and, should Russia wish to burnish its “increasingly positive image” with its neighbors, similar operations with its Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) partners as well.

Source: http://jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2373004

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