There continues to be a lot of activity as of late. All indicators suggest that Moscow has finally begun its long anticipated push into the Caucasus. The question now remains is what will NATO, USA and Turkey in particular, do as a reaction. In my opinion, other than political posturing, there is not much that they can do at this point. This is an ideal time for Moscow to implement its regional agenda. With US/NATO troops bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and with several other tinder boxes across the world that can draw western involvement at any moment, this is a good time for Moscow to make its move in the Caucasus.
Abkhazia says it downed two Georgian surveillance drones
'Georgian army set to invade Abkhazia': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6SGp0H34DY
Abkhazians welcome Russian peacekeepers: http://en.rian.ru/video/20080505/106618535.html
Russian peacekeepers greeted with flowers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1PGq5TTMHs&feature=user
Russian-Georgian War In Abkhazia (Georgian documentary about the war in the 90s when Tbilisi lost control over Abkhazia. The Armenian "Bagramyan Battalion" is also referred upon): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P391m...eature=related
Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia shot down over its territory on Sunday two Georgian surveillance drones, an Abkhaz presidential envoy told RIA Novosti. "The planes were flying at an altitude of 7,000 meters [23,000 feet] and were downed by our air defense system," Ruslan Kishmariya said. Abkhazia's defense minister, Merab Kishmariya, confirmed that two planes had been shot down. He previously said that only one drone had been downed. "Considering the altitude of the aircraft, their fragments will be scattered within a radius of between eight and 12 kilometers [5-7 miles]," the presidential envoy said, adding that a group of experts was already working at the crash site of the first drone and a search was underway for the crash site of the second. The Georgian Foreign Ministry called Abkhazia's claims "absurd," and said they were aimed at escalating tensions in the region. The breakaway republic also claimed on Sunday that Georgia had deployed almost 7,500 troops on its border with Abkhazia. The breakaway republic's defense minister said the troops were on a state of alert, adding that Abkhazia had also put its troops on standby. Sergei Shamba, the foreign minister of Abkhazia, said the troops in the republic were put on an alert on order from President Sergei Bagapsh, but it did not mean that the unrecognized republic was preparing for a war. "Putting army on high alert is just a first stage, but it does not mean that we [Abkhazia] have begun full-scale preparations for a war," Shamba said. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement later on Sunday that Georgia will be responsible for raising tensions in the conflict-stricken region as it again sent in its surveillance drones to Abkhazia. "By resorting to the adventurism of sending in surveillance drones and stepping up military preparations in the conflict zones, Tbilisi has knowingly embarked upon the path of raising tensions in the region," the ministry said. "The responsibility for the consequences of such a course lies with Georgia."
Georgia pulls out of air defense treaty with Russia
Georgia has formally notified Russia that it is withdrawing from a bilateral air defense cooperation treaty, a Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday. The treaty was signed between the two countries' defense ministries on April 19, 1995. Tbilisi's move comes after two Georgian reconnaissance planes were allegedly shot down over the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia's airspace on Sunday. Irakli Torondzhadze, director of the Foreign Ministry Russia Department, handed Andrei Smag, Russia's envoy to Georgia, official notice. A Georgian deputy defense minister said his country had seen no practical benefit from the treaty with Russia. "Georgia has long stopped participating in any defense or military-technical cooperation programs within the CIS," Batu Kutelia said, adding he hoped the Russian side would treat the announcement "with understanding." Russia's Embassy in Tbilisi confirmed that it had received formal notice from Georgia. Embassy press attache Alexander Savinov said the note "has been transferred to Moscow via official channels," but that "no instructions have been received from Moscow yet." Asked whether the note had set out the reasons for Georgia's decision to withdraw from the agreement, he said: "At this stage we are not in a position to comment." The CIS unified air defense system includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Georgia previously withdrew from the CIS Defense Ministers Council although it formally remained in the CIS unified air defense system.
Abkhazia says some 7,500 Georgian troops amassed in border area
Georgia has deployed almost 7,500 troops on its border with Abkhazia, the defense minister of the breakaway republic said on Sunday. Merab Kishmaria said should a military operation begin, some 3,000 troops will apparently be used to seize the Kodori Gorge, in the northeast of Abkhazia. "We are watching the movement of troops in the Kodori Gorge. According to our intelligence, up to 7,500 Georgian troops on the Georgian-Abkhaz border are on alert, with 3,000 of them to be used in attempting to take the Kodori Gorge," he said. He added that the Abkhaz armed forces had also been put on combat alert and that there would be enough forces and military equipment to repulse any "Georgian aggression." Georgia's Foreign Ministry has responded with a sense of humor to recent Russian media reports concerning an imminent Georgian military operation in Abkhazia. "The Georgian leadership advises the anonymous representatives of the Russian security agencies...to take a few drops of valerian. However, Georgian doctors believe that valerian will not be potent enough...and they would be better off taking Valium," Georgia's acting foreign minister, Grigol Vashadze, was quoted as saying by a ministry spokesman. A Russian federal security source said on Saturday that Georgia, "with the participation of foreign experts," had prepared a plan for "armed action" against Abkhazia, which would be carried out within the next few days. He said the plan envisions "the seizure of vital installations in Abkhazia's coastal area," adding that "a number of foreign embassies in Georgia" were preparing to evacuate their staff from Tbilisi. Abkhazia, alongside another Georgian breakaway republic, South Ossetia, broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and some 3,000 in Georgian-South Ossetian hostilities. Georgia is looking to regain control over the two de facto independent republics.
Abkhazian Minister Gives Russia Control
Abkhazia is prepared to let Russian take it under military control in exchange for a guarantee of security, the unrecognized republic's foreign minister, Sergey Shamba, stated in an interview published Tuesday in Izvestia newspaper. “We are proposing the very broadest military cooperation with Russia,” Shamba said. “Those 200 kilometers, the distance between the Psoi and Inguri Rivers, is all of Abkhazia. We agree to Russia's taking the territory under military control. But in exchange we demand a guarantee of our security.” Shamba considers Russia's recent initiatives in regard to Abkhazia “the beginning of the establishment of interstate relations between our countries.” Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the government to develop measures to provide aid to the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and to cooperate with the de facto authorities of the unrecognized republics. Prior to that, Russia declared that it was withdrawing from the CIS agreement on sanctions against Abkhazia. Shamba said that Abkhazia does not intend to become part of Russia. “There is no need for that yet,” he said. After the collapse of the USSR, Abkhazia, which was part of the Georgian SSR, declared its independence. In August 1992, Georgia sent troops into Abkhazia, where they were met with armed resistance. As a result, Georgia lost control over Abkhazia in an armed conflict that lasted until August 30, 1993. Abkhazia has been seeking recognition of its independence since then, but has yet to be recognized by any country. Georgia is offering it broad autonomy within that country. Peace is maintained in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone by the CIS Collective for the Support of Peace, which is made up of Russian soldiers. Negotiations on a settlement of the conflict broke off in 2006.
Possible outcomes of a Georgian-Abkhazian war
Analysts are actively debating the possible outcomes of an armed conflict between Georgia and self-proclaimed Abkhazia that seceded from Georgia in 1992. Without looking into the most pessimistic scenarios envisioning a nuclear conflict between Russia and NATO, let's try and predict the possible outcomes of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. In late 2007, the Georgian Armed Forces had about 33,000 officers and men, including a 22,000-strong army that comprised five brigades and eight detached battalions.
These units had over 200 tanks, including 40 T-55 and 165 T-72 main battle tanks that are currently being overhauled. The Georgian Army also had 180 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, as well as 20 other armored vehicles, 120 artillery pieces with a caliber of 122-152 mm, 40 multiple-launch rocket systems and 180 mortars, including 60 120-mm mortars and 120 mortars with an 82-mm caliber. Although the Georgian Air Force has 10 to 12 Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack jets, only 4-5 of them are operational. It also has 15 Czech-made L-29 and L-39 combat trainers that can be converted into light-weight attack planes and 30 helicopters, including 8 Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships. The Georgian Navy has 10 motor boats of different types, including two guided-missile boats. One of them is similar to the French-made Le Combatant and carries four Exocet anti-ship missiles. And the Soviet-made Project 206-MR boat has two P-15M missiles. However, their combat readiness is in doubt.
The Georgian military faces a 10,000-strong Abkhazian Self Defense Force wielding 60 tanks, including 40 T-72s, and 85 artillery pieces and mortars, including several dozen with a 122-152-mm caliber and 116 armored vehicles of different types. The Abkhazian Army also has numerous anti-tank weapons ranging from RPG-7 rocket launchers to Konkurs-M anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). Additionally, the break-away republic has one or two Su-24 Fencer tactical bombers, one MiG-23 fighter, five combat-ready Su-25 ground-attack jets, 3-4 L-39 combat trainers and 3-4 helicopters. Although some sources allege that Abkhazia has 1-2 Su-27 Flanker fighters, this seems unlikely. The Abkhazian Navy has over 20 motor boats armed with machine-guns and small-caliber cannons. The experience of the 1992-1993 Georgian-Abkhazian conflict shows that even small units can resist superior enemy forces in mountainous areas for a long time. Consequently, the outcome of any hypothetical conflict would depend on the aggressors' level of military training and the influence of third parties, primarily Russian units from the Collective CIS Peacekeeping Force.
Analysts have long noted the inadequate combat readiness of Georgia's Armed Forces. Although the United States has trained several crack Georgian units in the last few years, the fighting effectiveness of all other elements is uncertain. According to American instructors who helped train Georgian units, the country's officer corps is riddled with corruption. There are no trained sergeants, and troop morale is running low. Only about 50% of the military equipment is operational, and coordinated operations in adverse conditions are impossible. The Abkhazian Armed Forces pack a more devastating punch because they would resist an aggressor that has already tried to deprive the republic of its independence. Abkhazian units are commanded by officers trained at Russian military schools. Many of them fought in the early 1990s. Analysts agree that the combat-ready Abkhazian Army does not suffer from corruption. Moscow has recently beefed up the local peace-keeping contingent. Neighboring Caucasian nations, including North Ossetia, are siding with Abkhazia and are ready to square accounts with Georgia.
Chechen volunteers, who had fought in Abkhazia in 1993, could also join a hypothetical conflict and minimize Tbilisi's chances still further. The Georgian Army would be quickly defeated if Tbilisi tries to settle the conflict by force. The situation could change in case of foreign intervention. For instance, the United States could provide weapons, reconnaissance and other intelligence information to Georgia. New NATO members, such as Poland and the Baltic countries which are close U.S. allies, could even send their units to the conflict zone. The possible outcome could be succession from Abkhazia of its eastern and southern parts. Although NATO peacekeepers would be stationed there, military involvement is highly unlikely because its unsuccessful outcome would undermine the alliance's reputation. Brussels and Washington realize this, and are in no mood to conduct another protracted counter-insurgency operation.