Russia's Big Caucasus Win - August, 2008

Finally, the political West is waking up to a harsh new reality on the ground.
Arevordi

 

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Russia's Big Caucasus Win


August, 2008

In less than a week of military operations sparked by Georgia's assault on its breakaway province of South Ossetia, Moscow is emerging as the immediate winner. A still-stunned West is looking for ways to censure Russia for its "disproportionate" incursion into Georgia that has reshaped the strategic game in the Caucasus and beyond to Russia's great advantage. "If the Russians stop hostilities now, they will have redrawn the whole strategic situation in the Caucasus, to the detriment of the Americans," says François Heisbourg, special adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. "No one will invest in Georgia, in oil pipelines, in new ventures [there] now.... The game is over.

In the new version of the Great Game, the Russians can cash in." The scope of the "victory" is substantial: Moscow controls territory and leverage, has incapacitated the Georgian military, denied Tblisi its much-hoped-for NATO status, and put the Georgian leader it despises – Mikheil Saakashvili – into a tough position. It has issued a symbolic warning to Ukraine's westward leanings, asserted clout in oil and gas pipeline futures, denied Georgia the possibility of reclaiming breakaway provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and affirmed a deeply Russian set of hard-line political values regarding the disputed front lines of the old cold war. Moreover, by agreeing to halt its military on Tuesday, working with French mediator Nicolas Sarkozy, and only "recommending" that Mr. Saakashvili step down, Moscow is arguing it has reasonably protected its interests and not overthrown a sovereign state.


Moscow also appears to be slam-dunking the cease-fire details. The truce, which Saakashvili blamed Russia for breaking Wednesday, contains a "nonuse of force" clause that forbids Georgia to take action inside South Ossetia, a terrific concession. Nor are international peacekeepers coming soon; Russia gained an "additional security role" that formalizes its peacekeeping role in South Ossetia despite US calls for a more independent force in the region. Russia is pushing for international talks on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which could lead to eventual backing of referendums that would allow those republics to formally separate from Georgia. Both US President George Bush and Saakashvili cited reports of Russian miltary actions "inconsistent" with the truce Wednesday. But inside Russia, the venture is boosting pride and morale – part of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's mission to cast off the humiliation of losing the cold war, and reestablish a perception of Russia as a great power. "At the moment it appears that Russia will have gotten positive benefits from the use of force across its border," says a Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Despite Mr. Putin's clear assertion of personal authority in directing the Russian military, at least one Russian analyst describes it as a victory for new president Dmitri Medvedev. "For Medvedev, the outcome [is] a war that's been won. It's his personal victory," says Gleb Pavlovsky, a longtime Kremlin adviser and head of the Effective Policy Foundation in Moscow. But Andrei Kolesnikov, editor of the liberal New Time newsweekly in Moscow, disagrees. "The image of Medvedev is the biggest casualty. We, and the West, were hoping that Russia at last had a young, liberal, reforming leader. Now, after these events, he comes off looking like a tough guy, and there is an impression that he's totally dependent on Putin." On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to the Russian resort town of Sochi to meet with Medevdev – considered an important diplomatic trip because of Germany's good ties with Russia.


Diplomats and foreign-policy experts say that history may record 8-8-08 as the beginning of consequential changes in the global system, which Moscow suggests has been compromised by the US-led war in Iraq and NATO intervention in Kosovo. It may prefigure a "tri-polar" world, with the US, Russia, and China as heavyweights. Russian tanks and China's Olympic "coming-out party" offer the relevant symbols. For the West, the implications are still being tabulated, and "a lot of work is being done on this," says one Western diplomat. "This moment could well mark the end of an era in Europe during which realpolitik and spheres of influence were supposed to be replaced by new cooperative norms and a country's right to choose its own path," argued former Clinton administration officials for Europe, Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus, in a German Marshall Fund statement. "While no one wants a return to Cold War-style confrontation, Moscow's behavior poses a direct challenge to European and international order."

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs in Moscow, agrees Russia's position has changed. But he finds a different meaning: "A Russia that has the means of force and is ready to use it spells a whole new situation," he says. "All neighboring countries will have to take this into account.... Much depends on how Russia behaves.... If it tries to dictate terms, that will have a very negative effect. But my impression is that Russia was quite restrained, and carefully calculated each move.... It seems likely that NATO will be paralyzed...." Moscow will face downsides, to be sure. Europe and the US are refocusing on ways to censure or isolate Russia. On Wednesday, President Bush, who is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and then to Tbilisi, stated that the US would begin a "vigorous and ongoing" humanitarian mission to Georgia. He said he expected Russia to "meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia," as well as to withdraw all forces that entered the country in recent days.

Economic sanctions are not being considered seriously; the UN will not act, given Russia's veto on the Security Council. But eastern Europe – the leaders of the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine visited Tbilisi this week in support – are searching for punitive measures. Western states concerned about the thwarting of democratic reforms in Eurasia are discussing methods to isolate Moscow. One idea is to cancel or ban the 2014 Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi. Another, mentioned by diplomats and by Svante Cornell, a Caucusus expert, in the New York Times, is to drop or suspend Russia's membership in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations. G-8 status is based on ideals of international norms like transparency, consensus, negotiation, diplomats say. Other ideas include quickly granting NATO status to Macedonia – as a strong signal to Moscow.

Source: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0814/p01s01-woeu.html


Russia digs in 20 miles from Georgian capital


Twenty-four hours after Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, flew into Georgia and demanded the immediate departure of Russian troops, they were on the move yesterday. However, instead of retreating north into South Ossetia, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting to break away from Georgia, the Russians headed south towards the capital, Tbilisi. They came to a halt only 20 miles outside the city. A convoy of two Russian tanks, several armoured personnel carriers mounted with heavy machineguns and Russian flags and a few trucks filled with troops took up positions along the main road from Tbilisi to Gori, Stalin’s home town near the South Ossetian border. The incursion was the deepest into Georgia proper since hostilities began 10 days ago. The troops dug foxholes along a hill only 30 minutes’ drive from the capital, watched by heavily armed Georgian soldiers and police. Men from the rival camps who had been shelling one another a few days earlier suddenly found themselves too close for comfort.

At first, the soot-covered Russian soldiers sat idly on their vehicles, cradling AK47s under the heat of a searing sun. Then a Georgian soldier in US-issued camouflage walked up to them carrying his national flag. Within minutes the two sides were chatting and exchanging cigarettes and water. “It’s beautiful here,” said one Russian officer as he stepped out of a jeep with tinted windows. “This is a place where one should come on holiday, not war.” The bonhomie was misleading, however. Some of the Georgian soldiers were visibly stunned to see a foreign army so deep inside their country. They seemed alarmed that Russian military operations still had not ended four days after President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he had halted them. The previous day Rice had all but forced Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president, to sign a ceasefire that sealed his defeat. Yesterday Medvedev added his signature. The document, drafted under the supervision of President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and amended by the Kremlin, allows the Russian military to remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions that Saakashvili had vowed to return to Tbilisi’s control.

Even more damaging for the Georgian leader’s political prospects, it gives the Russians the right to remain several miles inside Georgian territory to await an international peace-keeping force - which could take weeks to assemble. Since the defeated and demoralised Georgian army pulled out of South Ossetia last week, the Russians have secured or destroyed its military installations and arms dumps. By yesterday afternoon they had moved back towards South Ossetia but were still positioned on the outskirts of Gori and in the Black Sea port of Poti, where they have blown up several Georgian coastguard vessels. South Ossetian paramilitaries were also still active in the west of the country where they were reported to be looting Georgian villages. They have been accused of ethnic cleansing, of torching villages and, in several cases, of abducting young women.

The Kremlin gave its strongest signal yet that both South Ossetia and Abkhazia would be integrated into Russia. Saakashvili’s future as president seemed far less certain. He was vilified by the Kremlin as a US stooge before hostilities broke out. The Russians are now bent on seeing him removed from power. Moscow has dispatched investigators from the prosecutor’s office to South Ossetia to gather testimony that it hopes to use in a criminal case against the president. In Tbilisi many last week thought Saakashvili’s fate was already sealed. While he is credited with turning round Georgia’s economy and modernising the small state, he is expected to face a furious backlash over the failed military action.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle4547797.ece


Yerevan Reaffirms Support For CIS


Armenia reaffirmed its “long-term” commitment to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on Wednesday following neighboring Georgia’s decision to leave the Russian-led grouping of 12 former Soviet republics in protest against Russia’s military operations on its soil. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced the move during a big rally in Tbilisi on Tuesday. "We are leaving the CIS for good and propose that other countries leave this body run by Russia," he said, again accusing Moscow of unleashing a military aggression against his nation. None of the other CIS countries, including those with uneasy relations with Russia, has headed Saakashvili’s call so far. “The issue of leaving the CIS can not be on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gegham Gharibjanian said in a written answer to a question from the official Russian Itar-Tass news agency. Armenia’s membership in the loose grouping formed during the collapse of the Soviet Union is the result of a “long-term political choice,” he said in comments that underlined his country’s close political, military and economic ties with Russia. Gharibjanian declined to comment on Georgia’s announced pullout from the CIS, reflecting Yerevan’s desire maintain neutrality in the Russian-Georgian military conflict. But another Armenian official called Tbilisi’s move a “mistake.” “[Membership in] the CIS, which Saakashvili has branded a ‘Soviet club,’ gave Georgia good opportunities to settle relations with its northern neighbor,” Avet Adonts, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on European integration, told the Regnum news agency. Adonts also implied that Armenia has no choice but to stick with the Russian-dominated alliance. “Accession to NATO is on Georgia’s foreign policy agenda but is not on Armenia’s,” he said. “This issue will not be considered [by Armenia] at least in the near future, considering the situation in the region and relations with our immediate neighbors.” “We should develop ties with NATO, there is no question about that, but leaving the CIS is a luxury which we can’t afford,” added the lawmaker.

Source: http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeni...908A9FC339.ASP


Sarkisian Discusses Georgia Crisis With Russia’s Medvedev

Breaking his silence on the crisis in neighboring Georgia, President Serzh Sarkisian telephoned his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday to discuss the dramatic developments of the past week. “During the phone conversation President Dmitry Medvedev briefed Serzh Sarkisian on the course of negotiations aimed at finding a way out of the situation,” the Armenian leader’s press office said in a statement. “The presidents of the two countries agreed to hold, if need be, additional consultations on further developments.” A separate statement by the Kremlin also gave few details of the phone call. “The heads of state stressed the importance of taking all necessary measures in order to prevent a repeat of what happened and to ensure a quick normalization of the situation in the region,” it said without elaborating. The statement added that the conversation took place “at the imitative of the Armenian side.” Sarkisian’s office did not say if he plans to have a similar discussion with Georgia’s embattled President Mikheil Saakashvili, whose attempt to restore Tbilisi’s control over South Ossetia triggered a harsh Russian retaliation. Moscow has said Saakashvili is personally responsible for the deadly conflict and made clear that it will not negotiate with him. Sarkisian was in Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games when fighting in South Ossetia broke out last Thursday. He chose not interrupt his continuing vacation in China, prompting strong criticism from Armenia’s main opposition groups led by former President Levon Ter-Petrosian.

Source: http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeni...299C1EF04B.ASP


Russia Blockades Port in Georgia and Seizes Soldiers


(Georgians with their eyes covered sit atop of a Russian armored personnel carrier while being detained by Russian troops in the Black Sea port city of Poti, western Georgia, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008. Russian troops entered the port of Poti on Tuesday, to detain people and to loot US military equipment left behind after a joint Georgian, US military exercise. The movements of Russian forces in Georgia raised questions about whether Russia was fulfilling its side of the cease-fire intended to end the short but intense fighting between Georgians, Russians and its allies.)

KARALETI, Georgia — Russian soldiers in armed personnel carriers blockaded the main commercial port in the Black Sea town of Poti on Tuesday and took Georgian soldiers prisoner. An explosion could be heard from the port, where Russian troops sank Georgian ships earlier this week. An Associated Press report said 22 Georgians were being held. The situation was evolving, but if Russian forces have seized control of the port it is further evidence of continued Russian military activity on Georgian territory despite reassurances that they would withdraw. The situation was tense, with a ring of Georgian police officers surrounding the port. Russian forces have patrolled the area regularly since entering Georgia from the west 10 days ago. Since the Kremlin claimed on Monday to have begun withdrawing troops from Georgia, there has been little evidence of change on the ground. Further east from Poti, Russian soldiers continued digging in to positions along the highway approaching the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, showing no sign of pulling back from the severest confrontation between Russia and the West since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In addition, Russian troops were building new checkpoints on Tuesday a few miles north of the central Georgian city of Gori, using backhoes to cut deep trenches at the edge of the town of Karaleti and using cranes to stack concrete blocks into barricades. The checkpoints in Karaleti seemed to be in line with information the Russians released a day earlier, which clarified the scope of their proposed withdrawal. A 1999 document written up by the Joint Control Commission, an international body that monitored tensions in South Ossetia, gives peacekeepers access to a long piece of land that extends about nine miles into Georgian territory, and right through Karaleti. The Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, has said Russian peacekeepers would pull back from other Georgian territory but remain inside that area. In Moscow, a high-ranking security official said Tuesday that he had received intelligence about Georgian-planned terrorist attacks on Russian soil.

The official, Alexander Bortnikov, the Federal Security Service chief, said he had ordered tightened security at transportation hubs, industrial facilities and densely populated areas in Russia’s southernmost district, whose border stretches from Ukraine, through Georgia and as far as Kazakhstan, Interfax reported. There are still many remaining questions about Russia’s intentions in Georgia. Russia’s state news agency, the Russian Information Agency, reported Monday that one of its correspondents had seen small convoys of 5 to 10 tanks moving north through the Roki tunnel toward Russia. But in Washington, Defense Department and military officials said there was no evidence of Russian forces’ complying with pledges to pull back. “We have not seen any significant Russian movement out of Georgia today,” one senior Pentagon official said Monday. On the ground in Georgia, about 25 miles outside the capital along the main highway, four Russian armored personnel carriers passed a Russian checkpoint at the village of Igoeti on Monday and headed in the other direction, toward Tbilisi. Soldiers were piled on top, cradling Kalashnikov rifles.

As they drove by, one old man, Koba Gurnashvili, stepped into the road and yelled at them, “Where do you think you’re going!” One of the soldiers yelled back, “To Tbilisi.” But they did not, instead turning up a side road leading to a village near the border with South Ossetia. They stopped at an intersection blocked by Georgian police cars. The Russian commander climbed off his tank and began arguing with the Georgian police officers. He said he had orders to move up the road; a Georgian officer said he had orders to remain on the road, and asked to call his superiors for guidance. The Russian said, “You have three minutes to move your cars.” The two argued for a few minutes more. Then the police officers stepped away from their cars, stone-faced, with their keys. The tank smashed aside the cars and kept going. In Crawford, Tex., where President Bush is vacationing, a White House spokesman said Monday that the United States was closely watching whether Russia honored its agreement to withdraw. The spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said it was too soon to say whether the Russians were in compliance.

But he said that any military equipment or forces sent into the region during the fighting needed to be withdrawn under the cease-fire agreement. “If it rolled in after Aug. 6, it needs to roll out,” Mr. Johndroe told reporters, referring to the day before the conflict started. Mr. Medvedev on Monday cautioned that any force used against these soldiers would provoke a response. “Obviously, if anyone thinks he can kill our citizens, our soldiers and officers who are serving as peacekeepers, and go unpunished, we will never allow this,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Anyone who tries this will receive a devastating response. For this, we have all the means — economic and political and military. If anyone had illusions about this some time ago, then they must part with those illusions now.” He added: “We do not want to aggravate the situation, but we want to be respected, and our government to be respected, and our people to be respected, and our values.” France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the deal, has clarified that it does not allow Russia to block the main highway, or for Russian soldiers to occupy the strategically important central city of Gori, astride the east-west highway; nonetheless, tanks were on the highway on Monday.

On a visit to Tbilisi on Sunday, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, reiterated this position and said Russian forces should pull back immediately. She cautioned that foreign ministers from NATO countries would be watching the withdrawal on Tuesday at an emergency meeting in Brussels. The cease-fire accord agreed to by both sides allows Russia to conduct vaguely defined “security operations” outside the separatist regions where the conflict began, a point the Russians have cited as a justification for occupying a large swath of Georgian territory. At the checkpoint nearest Tbilisi, about 25 miles away, Russian soldiers were carrying round river rocks and stacking them in tires to form a barricade across the road. One soldier, shirtless in the heat, took a break and crouched near a pond, splashing the back of his neck with water. On the Tbilisi-Gori highway, Russian soldiers showed no signs of pulling back Monday. They lounged on their tanks, slept in the shade of trees beside the road or were apparently busy improving their fighting positions.

Outside the village of Natsreti, soldiers used a small, white front loader to pile dirt beside the road in front of a tank; the gun poked just over the top, aimed at the road. Beside the road, soldiers sat in the shade under the awnings of bus stops, eating rations. The road between Tbilisi and Gori runs 45 miles along the southern rim of an agricultural valley, framed by ridges of the Caucasus Mountains, with many small villages dotting the plain. Along the road were patches of fields and trees burned by fire started in the fighting. Outside one village, a number of Russian tanks and trucks were parked in a field on Monday. Through binoculars, more tanks were visible out on the plain, parked behind tree lines and below the crests of small hills. At their checkpoints, the Russian soldiers cast aside green plastic bags of military rations, including pouches of sugar, applesauce and tea bags all marked with a small red star. From the checkpoint at the entrance to Gori, explosions could be heard Monday reverberating through the city from time to time; their origin was unclear. Through the day, armored personnel carriers and fuel trucks rolled both ways along the highway, toward Tbilisi and back again, with no apparent purpose. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stressed the need for more international monitors. The organization has proposed increasing the number of monitors up to 100 as soon as possible. Efforts to finalize the arrangements for such a deployment are under way in Vienna. Journalists witnessed a prisoner exchange Tuesday of 15 Georgians for 12 Russians in Igoeti. Several people were unloaded from Russian helicopters and carried out on stretchers, Reuters reported. One of the prisoners exchanged was a Russian pilot shot down by Georgian forces, the report said.

Source: http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?o...6193&Itemid=65


Russia Seems to Be Hunkering Down in Georgia


Russia claimed that it had begun withdrawing its troops from Georgia on Monday, but there was little evidence of it on the ground: Russian soldiers continued digging in to positions along the highway approaching the capital, Tbilisi, showing no sign of pulling back from the severest confrontation between Russia and the West since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Along one major road, four Russian armored personnel carriers rattled a few miles closer to the capital, then plowed through parked police cars blocking the way as Georgian police officers stood by in helpless dismay. Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said his nation’s forces would begin a withdrawal on Monday to comply with a six-point peace accord signed by both sides over the weekend. Mr. Medvedev did not specify the pace or scope of the withdrawal, saying only that troops would withdraw to South Ossetia and a so-called security zone on its periphery.

In Moscow on Monday, Russia’s state news agency, the Russian Information Agency, reported that one of its correspondents saw small convoys of 5 to 10 tanks moving north through the Roki tunnel toward Russia through the day. But in Washington, Defense Department and military officials said there was no evidence of Russian forces’ complying with pledges to pull back. “We have not seen any significant Russian movement out of Georgia today,” said one senior Pentagon official. On the ground in Georgia, about 25 miles outside the capital along the main highway, the four Russian armored personnel carriers passed the Russian checkpoint at Igoeti and headed in the other direction, toward Tbilisi. Soldiers were piled on top, cradling Kalashnikov rifles. As they drove by, one old man, Koba Gurnashvili, stepped into the road and yelled at them, “Where do you think you’re going!” One of the soldiers yelled back, “To Tbilisi.” But they did not, instead turning up a side road leading to a village near the border with South Ossetia. They stopped at an intersection blocked by Georgian police cars.

The Russian commander climbed off his tank and began arguing with the Georgian police officers. He said he had orders to move up the road; a Georgian officer said he had orders to remain on the road, and asked to call his superiors for guidance. The Russian said, “You have three minutes to move your cars.” The two argued for a few minutes more. Then the police officers stepped away from their cars, stone-faced, with their keys. The tank smashed aside the cars and kept going. At the entrance to the central city of Gori, which has been in Russian hands for days, Russian soldiers sat on armored personnel carriers, smoking or napping in the heat of the afternoon. Soldiers held the main bridge and the military base, and were running checkpoints on the roads. Convoys were shuttling to Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. Some soldiers, grubby after days in the field, were swimming naked in rivers. “They are not moving,” said Temuri Yakobashvili, Georgia’s reintegration minister. He said an attempt at a prisoner exchange on Monday fell through because Georgian officials suspected that Russia was not providing a complete list of prisoners. The Russian military said that the Georgians had introduced unspecified political demands in the prisoner exchange negotiation.

In Crawford, Tex., where President Bush is vacationing, a White House spokesman said that the United States was closely watching whether Russia honored its agreement to withdraw. The spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said it was too soon to say whether the Russians were in compliance. But he said that any military equipment or forces sent into the region during the fighting needed to be withdrawn under the cease-fire agreement. “If it rolled in after Aug. 6, it needs to roll out,” Mr. Johndroe told reporters, referring to the day before the conflict started. Mr. Medvedev on Monday cautioned that any force used against these soldiers would provoke a response. “Obviously, if anyone thinks he can kill our citizens, our soldiers and officers who are serving as peacekeepers, and go unpunished, we will never allow this,” Mr. Medvedev said. “Anyone who tries this will receive a devastating response. For this, we have all the means — economic and political and military. If anyone had illusions about this some time ago, then they must part with those illusions now.”

He added: “We do not want to aggravate the situation, but we want to be respected, and our government to be respected, and our people to be respected, and our values.” France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the deal, has clarified that it does not allow Russia to block the main highway, or for Russian soldiers to occupy the strategically important central city of Gori, astride the east-west highway; nonetheless, tanks were on the highway on Monday. On a visit to Tbilisi on Sunday, Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, reiterated this position and said Russian forces should pull back immediately. She cautioned that foreign ministers from NATO countries would be watching the withdrawal on Tuesday at an emergency meeting in Brussels. The cease-fire accord agreed to by both sides allows Russia to conduct vaguely defined “security operations” outside the separatist regions where the conflict began, a point the Russians have cited as a justification for occupying a large swath of Georgian territory. At the checkpoint nearest Tbilisi, about 25 miles away, Russian soldiers were carrying round river rocks and stacking them in tires to form a barricade across the road. One soldier, shirtless in the heat, took a break and crouched near a pond, splashing the back of his neck with water. On the Tbilisi-Gori highway, Russian soldiers showed no signs of pulling back. They lounged on their tanks, slept in the shade of trees beside the road or were apparently busy improving their fighting positions. Outside the village of Natsreti, soldiers used a small, white front loader to pile dirt beside the road in front of a tank; the gun poked just over the top, aimed at the road.

Beside the road, soldiers sat in the shade under the awnings of bus stops, eating rations. The road between Tbilisi and Gori runs 45 miles along the southern rim of an agricultural valley, framed by ridges of the Caucasus Mountains, with many small villages dotting the plain. Along the road were patches of fields and trees immolated by fire started in the fighting. Outside one village, a number of Russian tanks and trucks were parked in a field on Monday. Through binoculars, more tanks were visible out on the plain, parked behind tree lines and below the crests of small hills. At their checkpoints, the Russian soldiers cast aside green plastic bags of military rations, including pouches of sugar, applesauce and tea bags all marked with a small red star. From the checkpoint at the entrance to Gori, explosions could be heard reverberating through the city from time to time; their origin was unclear. Through the day, armored personnel carriers and fuel trucks rolled both ways along the highway, toward Tbilisi and back again, with no apparent purpose. Meanwhile, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stressed the need for more international monitors. The organization has proposed increasing the number of monitors up to 100 as soon as possible. Efforts to finalize the arrangements for such a deployment are under way in Vienna.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/19/wo...19georgia.html


Armenia Rules Out Support For Russian Strikes On Georgia

Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian assured a senior Georgian diplomat on Tuesday Russia did not and will not use Armenian territory for its ongoing military operations in Georgia condemned by the West. Armenia maintains close defense links with Russia and hosts a Russian military base numbering several thousand soldiers and a dozen MiG-29 fighter jets. The Defense Ministry in Yerevan flatly denied late last week Azerbaijani and Georgian media claims that some of the Russian warplanes involved in bomb raids on Georgia flew in from Armenian military airfields. A ministry spokesman rejected the allegations as an Azerbaijani “provocation” designed to damage Georgian-Armenian relations. He argued that the Russian military is not using MiG-29s in the air strikes. Georgia’s ambassador to Armenia, Revaz Gachechiladze, commented the allegations, not echoed by the Georgian government, at a meeting with Ohanian. A statement by the Defense Ministry quoted Gachechiladze as stating that the Russian military aircraft stationed in Armenia has not been involved in the Russian onslaught. “For his part, S. Ohanian assured the ambassador that Armenia’s territory will not be used as a military launch pad for hostilities against Georgia, expressing hope that ways will be found to normalize the situation in Georgia,” the statement said. Ohanian also offered his sympathy for “innocent victims” of the nearly week-long fighting, it added. The statement claimed that Gachechiladze requested the meeting in order to introduce Georgia’s new military attaché in Yerevan, Colonel Murtaz Gujejiani, to the Armenian defense chief. Armenia is treading carefully on the Russian-Georgian conflict, mindful of the two countries’ importance for its national security. The Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed on Friday serious concern about the outbreak of fighting in South Ossetia but avoided blaming any of the parties for the worst regional crisis since the early 1990s. Official Yerevan has so far not reacted on Russian forces’ subsequent advance deep into Georgian territory, which has been condemned by the United States and other Western powers. The Armenian government also refuted on Tuesday other media reports saying that it allowed a planeload of U.S. military instructors bound for Georgia to land in Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport. Deputy Foreign Minister Gegham Gharibjanian said special flights to Zvartnots have been carried out only by planes that were sent by some European governments to collect their citizens evacuated from Georgia.

Source: http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeni...A153867578.ASP


As Russia shows Georgia its iron hand, a look at the love-hate relationship it shares with Soviet Union’s former ‘republics’ since USSR’s dissolution in 1991:

Armenia

Goodwill between Armenia and Russia has deep historical roots and is sustained by Russia’s recent role as Armenia’s protector. Russia is the ace up Armenia’s sleeve against feared aggression by Turkey, Armenia’s historical enemy, and as a deterrent to a renewal of the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorny Karabakh. Armenia plays eager host to a few Russian bases and a few thousand Russian troops, who patrol Armenia’s borders with Turkey and Iran. Virtually the entire Armenian energy sector is under Russian control. The most telling picture of the relationship was a trip by President Robert Kocharyan to the Kremlin, ahead of the February 2003 presidential election, to receive the “blessings” of President Putin.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and Russia are caught in a bitter dispute over energy and labour migration, among other issues. Baku’s blunt refusal in December 2006 to import Russian gas following its energy giant Gazprom’s decision to hike gas prices for Azerbaijan marked a sharp acceleration in the worsening of relations between the two states.

Belarus

Belarus is closely allied with Moscow and forms a loose union state with Russia. The basis of the union was strengthened in 1997 with the signing of the “Treaty on the Union between Belarus and Russia”, at which time its name was changed to the Union of Russia and Belarus. Both member states seem to have lost their initial enthusiasm for the Union though, with first Russia and then Belarus restoring customs controls along their common border in 2001. Here too, Gazprom’s decision to hike gas prices has acted a spoiler.

Kazakhstan

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first official state visit after taking office was to Kazakhstan. It was meant to boost ties between the two cash-rich states. In January-March 2008, trade between Russia and Kazakhstan amounted to $4.13 billion. However, trouble spots remain. Russia has been eager to maintain its influence over energy transit routes in the Caspian region.

Moldova

Moldova, like Georgia, is struggling with its own frozen conflict in the predominantly ethnic-Russian region of Transdniester. Although that separatist conflict is far less volatile than either Abkhazia or Georgia’s second breakaway region of South Ossetia, Russia is considered crucial to any resolution of the Transdniester conflict, and has used its leverage to reel in Moldova’s Western ambitions. Russia is also adamantly refusing to withdraw its troops from the Transdniester region.

Tajikistan

Traditionally Russia’s closest ally in Central Asia. Russia played a major role in ending Tajikistan’s five-year civil war. Russian soldiers were stationed in the country, guarded vital facilities during the war and helped the government maintain power. But the ties between the two have been affected due to Russia’s crackdown on illegal migrants from Tajikistan. Tajikistan’s proximity to Afghanistan has also raised its profile in the West and brought coalition troops to its bases — and this is not likely to go down too well with Russia.

Turkmenistan

Relations between Russia and Turkmenistan have always been complicated. Russia has signed agreements that will help it keep control over Turkmen gas exports. Russia is capable of influencing Turkmenistan if it decides to do so. The Turkmen economy depends heavily on gas exports, and its main pipeline route goes through Russian territory.

Ukraine

Russia strongly opposes any movement of NATO into what the Kremlin calls the former-Soviet space. Ukraine has sought to free itself of Russia’s influence, integrate into the West and join NATO. There have been disputes between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices in 2005 and 2008.

Uzbekistan

Russia is by far Uzbekistan’s closest trade partner, with trade turnover totaling roughly $4 billion in 2007. Moscow, in addition, has pledged to invest more than $2 billion in the Uzbek economy in the coming years. Uzbekistan, from Tashkent’s perspective, is in retrograde. Tashkent made a number of provocative steps against Moscow, from granting hydrocarbon contracts to Russian companies’ rivals to shunning Russian officials and making decisions without consultations with the Kremlin. Russia has attempted to offer Tashkent incentives to remain loyal to the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda.

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/348026.html

Russia moves SS-21 missiles into Georgia: US defense official

Russia has moved short-range SS-21 missile launchers into South Ossetia since fighting there halted, and has yet to give any sign of a significant pullback of its troops from Georgia, US officials said Monday. Instead, there were indications that Russia was adding ground troops and equipment to its force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, strengthening its hold over the breakaway Georgian regions, the officials said. "We are seeing evidence of SS-21 missiles in South Ossetia," a US defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The SS-21's 70 to 120 kilometer range (43 to 75 miles) should put them within striking distance of Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, officials said. Later Monday, another US defense official said, "While we are still monitoring the situation and it is probably a little early, we have not seen any significant Russian movement out of Georgia today." The White House would not comment on the status of the Russian forces in the Caucasus country Monday. "But let me be clear: If it rolled in after August 6th, it needs to roll out," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "That would be in keeping with the Russian commitment on withdrawal," he said, as US President George W. Bush spent time on his Texas ranch.

Without confirming that a Russian buildup was underway in the enclaves, a Pentagon spokesman said: "Anything such as that or any other military equipment that was moved in would be in violation of the ceasefire and should be removed immediately." "The only forces that are permitted to remain under the ceasefire agreement are the forces that were in there at the August 6th timeframe" before the conflict erupted, said spokesman Bryan Whitman. In Moscow, a Russian general denied that SS-21s had been deployed in South Ossetia. "There was no need for it," General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said at a briefing for journalists. But the US defense official said several SS-21 launchers and associated equipment entered the enclave after the fighting came to a halt last week. The New York Times, which first reported on the move, said they entered South Ossetia on Friday. "We're seeing them solidify their positions in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," said the official, adding that "more troops and more equipment" were evident in the enclaves. The official said at least 10 battalions of Russian troops were in the enclaves and in Georgia, putting the number of Russian troops at close to 15,000.

It was unclear whether the SS-21s which allegedly arrived Friday were the first to enter Georgia. Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Jeffrey said a week ago that President George W. Bush, in Beijing at the time for the Olympic Games, was immediately notified August 8 "when we received news of the first two SS-21 Russian missile launchers into Georgian territory." Bush then immediately met with Russian President Vladimir Putin about it at the Great Hall of the People, Jeffrey said. Russia has launched about two dozen short-range missiles during the course of the conflict, which erupted August 7 with a Georgian military incursion into South Ossetia and escalated with an all-out Russian offensive two days later, a senior US defense official said last week. The SS-21 is the NATO designation for what the Russians call the "9K79-1 Tochka-U," which Nogovitsyn said was "widely used" by Russian forces. A tactical ballistic missile, the SS-21 can carry conventional, chemical or tactical nuclear warheads. US officials have made no suggestion that nuclear armed missiles have been deployed in this conflict.

Source: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5...n9OQBVKp9ofSig



ISKANDER-E: Missile System Of The 21st Century


The Kolomna Engineering Design Bureau is the leading developer of precision-guided tactical and theater missiles for the Ground Forces. In creative cooperation with leading research and design organizations and plants of the defense industry as well as the Defense Ministry Research Institute, the KBM Engineering Design Bureau has created a number of missile systems (division-level Tochka (SS-21) with a range of up to 70 km, army-level Oka (SS-23) with a range of up to 400 km, corps-level Tochka-U with a range of up to 120 km) that superseded the first generation missile systems of the Ground Forces (9K72 with 8K14-1 liquid-propellant missile, 9K52 with the 9M21unguided solid-propellant missile,ensuring effective engagement only if nuclear-tipped). The particular features of the aforementioned systems are: high accuracy of fire, a short time of readiness for launch, independence of combat assets, a high degree of prelaunch preparation automation and sufficiently high effectiveness of conventional warheads. That was evidently the reason to include the Oka missile system in the Soviet-American treaty on the elimination of their intermediate range and shorter range missiles, although its maximum guaranteed range was only 400 km. The conclusion of the 1987 INF Treaty and the decision not to use theater nuclear weapons set a number of principally new requirements for modern missile systems:

- use of non-nuclear destruction weapons only;


- precise accuracy of fire;

- control throughout the entire flight path;

- broad range of effective warheads;

- availability of battle management automation and information support systems, including preparation of standard information for correction and terminal guidance systems;

- possibility of integration into global satellite navigation systems (GSNSs), such as GLONASS and NAVSTAR;

- ability to engage hardened targets;

- increase in the number of engaged targets per unit of time;

- ability to penetrate air and missile defenses;

- capability to engage moving targets.

To meet the above requirements, the KBM Engineering Design Bureau has created the Iskander-E missile system. The Iskander-E missile system has embodied the best scientific, technical and design achievements in the field of theater missile systems; in terms of its design and high combat effectiveness it is an absolutely new-generation weapon which outperforms existing Scud-B, Tochka-U, Lance, ATACMS, Pluto and other missile systems.

The Iskander-E missile system is designed to engage:


- hostile fire weapons (SAM and missile batteries);

- fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft at parking areas;

- air and missile defense facilities;

- command posts and communications nodes;

- vital pinpoint and area targets;

- critical civilian facilities.

Owing to the implementation of terminal control and guidance methods, control throughout the entire flight path, a broad range of powerful warheads and integration of the onboard control system with various correction and homing systems as well as a high probability of combat mission accomplishment in heavy hostile jamming environments, type targets are engaged by one or two Iskander-E missiles, which in terms of effectiveness is equivalent to the use of a nuclear munition. For the first time in the world a missile system with a firing range not exceeding 300 km is capable of accomplishing all combat missions using conventional warheads and having two missiles on a launcher, which substantially increases the fire power potential of missile units.

Iskander-E missile system's features ensure:


- highly precise and effective engagement of various types of targets;

- possibility of concealed preparation, combat duty and delivery of effective missile strikes;

- automatic computation and input of a missile flying mission by the launcher devices;

- high probability of combat mission accomplishment in heavy hostile jamming environments;

- high probability of trouble-free missile operation during launch preparation and in flight;

- high tactical maneuverability due to cross-country combat vehicles mounted on all-wheel drive, chassis, and strategic mobility owing to transportability of the missile system by all types of transport facilities, including transport aircraft;

- automation of missile unit battle management, immediate processing of intelligence data and their dissemination to appropriate command levels;

- long service life and ease of operation.

In terms of performance characteristics, the Iskander-E missile fully complies with the provisions of the missile technology non-proliferation agreement. This is a deterrent weapon for local conflicts and a strategic weapon for countries with limited living space. A long firing range, permitting the use of the system from the depth of own troops location, and a short time of stay on a launch site make the system virtually invulnerable to conventional destruction weapons. The research conducted by specialists of leading Russian military research centers has demonstrated that in terms of the effectiveness-cost ratio the Iskander-E missile system outperforms the best foreign counterparts by five to eight times.

The system structure, its control systems, automated battle management and information support make it possible to promptly meet to new requirements without substantial modification of combat assets and, as a result, to guarantee a long lifespan. Provision is made for the modernization of the Iskander-E system to improve the accuracy of missile strike, reduce missile expenditure to one piece per target and adapt the system to the transportation and electronic facilities of a potential customer. Continuous (or periodic) maintenance of system components by highly qualified Russian specialists is also possible.

The composition of the missile system makes it possible to ensure the full cycle of its combat employment, including battle management, information support, maintenance, and crew training, without additional expenditures. The composition can be specified in a contract in compliance with customer's requirements. In addition, at foreign customer' request, missiles can be outfitted with various warheads. In terms of the attained combat potential level, the Iskander-E missile system, which is at the final stage of flight tests, is unrivaled in the world and is a 21st century weapon.

Source: http://www.enemyforces.com/missiles/iskander.htm

Azerbaijan, Georgia: BP's Export Options Narrow Again


Summary

Oil firm BP announced Aug. 18 it had halted oil exports from Azerbaijan through Georgia by railway, following claims that Russia had bombed the rail lines west of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Along with the shutdown of two major oil pipelines, this interruption means BP will have no choice but to ship its oil through Russia. The Kremlin is undoubtedly pleased.

Analysis

Oil supermajor BP announced Aug. 16 that it had stopped shipping oil from its offshore production sites in Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea via Georgian railways. A bridge on this rail line has been severely damaged just 28 miles west of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, at a point before the rail splits into three branches heading for the Black Sea coast. Georgia claims the Russians bombed out the bridge, but Moscow vehemently denies having done so. Repairs on the railroad are expected to take only 10 days, and a parallel unidirectional line could allow shipments to resume even sooner — but in the meantime, BP and Azerbaijan have reduced production in their Caspian oil fields to 250,000 barrels per day (bpd), less than one-third of the 800,000 bpd average. BP recently has suffered a series of setbacks, as the primary export routes for Azeri crude have been shut down one by one. For the moment, the only remaining option for BP and Azerbaijan to send their oil to market lies through Russian territory. The trouble began Aug. 5 when a fire erupted on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, which carries 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Azerbaijan’s capital to the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The fire, which occurred at Refahiye on the Turkish section of the line, lasted until Aug. 11. Repairs could take another four weeks, and meanwhile the line will remain defunct. The militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the fire, but Turkish operator Botas denied the claim.

After the BTC rupture, BP and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic still had non-Russian alternatives to export reduced amounts of Caspian oil: the newly repaired Baku-Supsa oil pipeline and a railway from Baku to three Georgian Black Sea ports, including Batumi and Poti. There was also third option — a pipeline from Baku to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk — but that was seen as a last resort because the whole intent behind the BTC pipeline was to avoid Russian territory for political reasons. Then conflict broke out in Georgia and Russia invaded. In response to the war, BP turned off the valves on the Baku-Supsa line and the South Caucasus Pipeline, which carries natural gas. It also stopped operations at the Shah Deniz natural gas field off Azerbaijan’s coast. BP and its Azeri partners did not know what to make of the war, or how to proceed with oil exports through Georgian territory. With the pipelines shut down, BP relied on the Baku-Batumi railway for transport, with a capacity of about 70,000 barrels per day — but now that, too, has become unusable. While the railroad remains under repair, BP’s sole means of getting its Azeri crude to market lies through the 100,000 bpd pipeline leading to the Russian port of Novorossiysk. This amount is a small proportion of Azeri output, but it is better than nothing. Still, the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline is a humiliating last resort for both Baku and BP. Azerbaijan emphatically does not want to return to dependence on Russian infrastructure for its energy exports (with the high fees and political costs that dependence entails).

Meanwhile, BP will have to swallow its pride as it seeks help from the Russians in transporting its oil. The company’s relations with Moscow have already gone sour of late, amid attempts by the Kremlin’s energy champion Gazprom to take over BP’s assets in the joint venture TNK-BP. With the shutdown of Georgian export routes, Russia has dealt an enormously costly blow to BP at the height of the squabble over TNK-BP’s assets. Most importantly, Russia has come closer to redirecting the flows of oil from the Caspian Sea back onto its own territory for the near future. Even if the Georgians can technically get the rail line up and running, or make use of a parallel one-way line, they will need Russia’s tacit approval to continue with business as usual. The pipeline to Novorossiysk still offers the best route for exports, given BTC’s problems and the shutdown of the Baku-Supsa line. Moscow’s success in gaining control over oil distribution in the Caucasus is one of the biggest perks of its military actions in Georgia last week. Regardless of Russia’s military withdrawal, Moscow will dictate the terms under which oil exports from Azerbaijan resume.

Source: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/aze...s_narrow_again

Paul Goble's Window on Eurasia - August 18, 2008


Moscow Expert Admits Russian Interest in Blocking Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline

A leading Moscow State University expert on the post-Soviet states argues that the Russian Federation’s main goals in Georgia did not include blocking the flow of oil through the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, but she says that “the possibility cannot be excluded” that Moscow was pursuing “other goals” including that. In an interview to MGU’s Information-Analytic Center on the CIS countries, Natalya Kharitonova, the general director of that body, said that “considering the love” Russian and Western experts have for focusing on energy issues, “one ought to have expected” that there would be a discussion of oil in the Georgian conflict. Many experts, she points out, connected the August 6 PKK attack on the pipeline which stopped the flow of oil and the beginning of the military conflict, with some of them implying if not saying outright that either the one led to the other or that the two together were part of a general plan to force Azerbaijan to seek alternative routes for the export of its oil.

“Baku, forced to significantly reduce the pumping of oil, immediately stopped using the Baku-Batumi and Baku-Kulevi rail lines again in connect with military actions in Georgia.” The Baku-Supsa line had already been stopped for “technical reasons,” Kharitonova says, but “in official versions are being invoked almost exclusively political reasons.” Now as a result, Azerbaijani hydrocarbons are flowing through Russian territory on the Baku-Novorossiisk line, but because Baku can export only 7 to 8 percent as much via this pipeline as via Baku-Ceyhan, she added, “Turkey intends to buy additional supplies from Russia and Iran” to compensate. Not surprisingly, given the impact all this is having on both the economic well-being and geopolitical relations in the region, the Moscow scholar says, Tbilisi has accused the Russian government of planning to disrupt such flows as part of its military effort, although such suggestions have been dismissed by Russian and Western specialists.

But now other explanations are springing up. Some, Kharitonova notes, are saying that the disruption was the “work of Georgian provocateurs” who were looking for something to blame Russia that would attract the attention of the West, while others are saying this is yet another effort to disrupt the NABUCCO program. Most of those making these suggestions, however, offer little or no evidence to back up their claims, but the Moscow specialist points out that there are two obvious things going on. On the one hand, Iran is getting more active and is now talking about building a Neka-Dzhask pipeline to compete with Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and thereby increase Tehran’s influence. And on the other, Russia has two clear motives for an interest in the stopping of the BTC pipeline.

First of all, it has never wanted to see the construction and operation of oil and gas pipelines that bypass Russian territory. And second, it has an interest in “forcing Western countries to put pressure on Georgia” to draw back so that the oil can flow. “There are a large number of versions” of why this has happened, Kharitonova notes, and she “suggests that one ought not to ignore any of them,” although she adds that it would be a mistake to fail to see that what has happened in Georgia and with the BTC may be nothing more than “a simple coincidence.” But she ends by acknowledging that “there are too many interests” intersecting in this part of the world to ignore the ways in which those who produce oil, those who transport it and those who consume it are in geopolitical competition. Indeed, she says, it is time to talk about “geo-economics” when it comes to oil, gas and politics in the Caucasus.

Source: http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?o...6183&Itemid=65

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