Turkey in tight spot between Russia and NATO - September, 2008

Russia's recent crushing of Georgia changed the whole geopolitical character of the Caucasus region and beyond, and it has also resulted in elevating Armenia's political status in the Caucasus. Armenia today is in a very unique position. Turkey gets most of its energy supplies from Russia. Until recently, Turkey only alternative source of energy was from Azerbaijan via a strategically crucial western funded pipeline traversing Georgia. These source of energy is now out of service as a result of the war and their future, as well as the future of Georgia itself, seems uncertain. Moscow is seeking to monopolize the distribution of Central Asian energy assets and finally drive out western interests from the region. As a result of the short but intense war against Tbilisi, Moscow now fully controls the political and economic climate in the Caucasus.

Therefore, Moscow's war against Georgia has in effect severed Turkey's strategic access to Central Asian energy making Ankara totally dependent on Russian energy, and it has also negatively impacted Ankara's economic trade with Russia. It's important to note here that Russia and Turkey have a very lucrative multi-billion dollar annual bilateral trade. Naturally, Ankara desperately needs reliable access to oil and gas as well as its lucrative trade with Russia. So, Turkey is being compelled to turn its back on Washington and look to Moscow for survival.

Since Iran is a major regional player and a serious competitor to Turkey, not to mention under a constant threat of war, Ankara will not put itself in a position where it has to depend on Tehran. Therefore, by default, this leaves Armenia as the only nation in the region that securely holds the eastern gates, so-to-speak. And since Ankara cannot threaten Armenia militarily due to the strong Russian presence in the country, Ankara is in a sense forced to approach Yerevan with a peace proposal.

Signs that Moscow is behind the warming of relations between Yerevan and Ankara are quite clear. It perfectly fits Moscow's regional agenda. It seems as if Moscow is attempting to drive a wedge between the West and Turkey and one of the tools they seem to be using currently is Armenia, with the others being energy supplies and trade. Let's remember that Armenia's President Serj Sargsyan reached his hand out to Ankara right after his meetings with RF President Medvedev, during a public speech he gave while in Moscow recently. Moreover, Turkey proposed the Caucasus Union/pact in the immediate aftermath of the war in Georgia, a war during which Ankara, a long time ally of Georgia supported Russia's actions. Moreover, Washington, Turkish nationalists and Azeris are signaling their displeasure about Ankara's proposal. Moreover, Moscow has been clearly signaling that it is in favor of the proposal and is now in fact all for the opening of the Armenian-Turkey border - this after years of remaining silent about it.

Due to the war in Georgia and due to the existing high tensions in the Black Sea region, Ankara and Moscow have found that Armenia would be a good and logical alternative route for their trade. Due to geographic factors, I believe they will eventually attempt to drag Azerbaijan into this as well. I don't believe any of this will have a negative impact on the status quo in Nagorno Karabakh. Nonetheless, they are currently trying to prepare the playing field in Armenia. How well will Yerevan use this unique situation for Armenia's benefit, we don't yet know. It's best to pray and remain hopeful.


Turkey: An Historic Presidential Day Trip

September, 2008


The president of Turkey is planning a day trip to Armenia, the first such trip by a leader of Turkey since the time of the Ottomans. There is a lot of baggage in this relationship, and improving relations will be no easy task. It may help that Armenia, a Russian client state, could be interested in getting back on Washington’s good side, and Turkey could offer an introduction.


Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he will make a day trip Sept. 6 to Armenia where he will meet for a few hours with Armenian President Serge Sarkissian. Later the two will attend a soccer match. Gul’s visit to Armenia will be the first by the leader of Turkey since the days of the Ottoman Empire, which collapsed in the early 1920s. Normally such contact between Ankara and Yerevan would not be taking place. In fact, Turkey would be very happy to isolate Armenia for reasons ranging from a deep historical bitterness over claims of genocide to Armenia’s status as a client of Russia and friend of Iran to Yerevan’s hostile relations with Azerbaijan. Turkey’s tightest ally is Azerbaijan for historical, ethnic and geographic reasons (geographic because Azerbaijan brackets Armenia and checks Russian and Iranian expansion). Turkey stays chummy with Georgia for similar reasons, but Georgia is primarily only important as a connection to Azerbaijan. The fact that Azerbaijan ships loads of oil and natural gas to Turkey (and to world markets through Turkey) is just geopolitical gravy. In short, other than a border with Iran, Armenia’s borders are completely locked down economically and politically with Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia threw all of this out the window. In the process of invading Georgia, Russia demonstrated that it could sever Turkey’s connection to Azerbaijan without breaking a sweat. An alternative to Georgia is required. Iran can be ruled out almost immediately. It is a regional power in its own right and is perfectly pleased to stand by and let Turkish power in the Caucasus suffer. That leaves Armenia — and only Armenia. Options for bringing Armenia into a more productive relationship are also limited. Turkey has been in a bit of a geopolitical coma since the Ottoman period and simply is out of practice in terms of threatening or invading neighbors, so outright conquering Armenia is out of the question. Turkey’s internal turmoil — between the Islamic-lite ruling party and the military-backed secularists — also precludes anything (such as a military campaign) that would require unflinching national unity. Ergo Gul’s attending a soccer match to at least attempt the difficult task of normalizing relations.

Stratfor does not mean to belittle the obstacles facing any Armenian-Turkish response — people do not blithely toss around words like genocide for amusement, and Armenia and Azerbaijan contest control of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh enclave — but it is not only Turkey that is eyeing better relations. Armenia used to boast one of the strongest foreign lobbies in the United States, a feature that sent vast amounts of American aid Armenia’s way. But this policy twist was only possible as long as Washington thought Armenia was a backwater state. As Azerbaijani oil output increased and Russian power resurged, Washington took a greater and greater interest in Caucasus policy. Realizing Russia had a firm hold politically, socially, economically and militarily in Armenia, Armenia’s influence with the United States withered. So while Armenia is legitimately thrilled that its security guarantor — Russia — is becoming more active, Yerevan also knows that Russian protection is dependent on the Kremlin’s attention span. If Armenia is to survive in the pressure cooker that is the Caucasus, it will have to find a way to better manage its neighborhood. The best way to do that, as Armenia knows from experience, is to get on Washington’s good side. That is rather hard for a Russian client state to do. It is much easier if you can get an American ally to make the introduction. Turkey anyone?

Source: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/tur...ntial_day_trip

Additional perspective:

Turkey in tight spot between Russia and NATO

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev meet in Moscow for talks, February 13, 2009.

NATO-member Turkey is treading a fine line between its loyalty to the alliance and its economic interests in its Black Sea neighbor Russia, with some fearing Ankara could find itself at the frontline of a new Cold War. Evidence of Turkey's dilemma in the standoff between the West and Russia over its action against Georgia was on display last week, when two U.S. ships sailed through the Istanbul Strait on their way to the Black Sea. Russia has accused the West of stirring tensions with a NATO naval build-up in the Black Sea following a brief war between Russia and Georgia. A close U.S. ally which aspires to join the European Union, Turkey is the passage way to the sea. During the Cold War, Turkey was NATO's southern flank, an isolated bulwark on Soviet frontiers. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has become Turkey's top trade partner, supplying the majority of Turkey's energy needs. "(Current tensions) put Turkey in a very tight spot because it is under pressure from Russia and its Western allies," said Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst at the political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. "Turkey is again a frontline state like in the Cold War, but the difference now is that its dependency on Russia is much bigger," he said. Turkey fears it is already feeling signs of a possible fallout with Moscow affecting their $38 billion trade. Ankara has protested to Russia over trade restrictions as 10,000 Turkish trucks are being held at various Russian border crossings. Russia says inspections on Turkish trucks are due to a new customs law, but Turkish officials see darker motives. Turkish businesses are concerned Turkey could lose $3 billion in the short term if the delays continue, and Turkey's Foreign Trade Minister responded to the move in harsh terms. "If you harass us, we will you," Turkish newspapers reported Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen as telling Russian officials.


Turkey, which neighbors Georgia, has kept a low profile since the outbreak of a brief war between Moscow and Tbilisi earlier this month. Unlike its Western allies, it has refrained from condemning Russian actions. But NATO members may want a more strident supporter on its eastern frontline. "(Turkey) must act like a NATO member ... if it wants its place in Trans-Atlantic relations. It became a member years ago, and that means Turkey has to support the steps that NATO takes," a high-level U.S. official was quoted by Sabah daily as saying. Analysts have also said the United States may want Turkey to change the terms of the Montreux Convention, which regulates shipping traffic through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul. Turkey's dependence on Russian gas and coal, however, may make it difficult for Ankara to take those steps. Last year Russia provided more than 60 percent of Turkey's imported natural gas through two pipelines as well as 56.4 percent of Turkey's thermal coal, used in the country's power and booming construction sectors. Turkey asked Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom to increase its supplies to Turkey after Iran turned off its gas to Turkey to meet its own domestic needs last year. Potential problems with Russian gas or coal supplies would create large problems for Turkey in the winter. "On the pipeline there may arise 'technical problems' which means we have real problems ... that means for industry, for consumers, your economy will be harmed," said energy analyst Necdet Pamir. Turkey has worked hard since the fall of the Soviet Union to become an energy hub delivering Caspian gas and oil to European markets, and the country often boasts of its important geostrategic position. But if tensions continue to build in the Caucasus, Turkey may not find its position so appealing. "Turkey's geostrategic importance can sometimes be a liability and this case is an example," said Piccolli.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/reute...BrandChannel=0

Turkey Plays to Russia in Caucasus

Russia and Turkey have set to fulfilling the program of creating the Caucasus Cooperation and Stability Platform. Past weekend, Turkish President Abdullah Gul endeavored to persuade his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkisian of the need to set up a new alliance. The same issue was discussed when Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mamediyarov visited Moscow. The alliance will strengthen the Caucasus standing of Moscow and Ankara and weaken the position of Washington there. Gul that arrived in Armenia Saturday was the first Turkish leader to set foot in that country. The highlights of the meeting were the improvement of bilateral relations and the chances to create the Caucasus Cooperation and Stability Platform. Erevan backed up the initiative of Ankara, and President Sarkisian assured that Armenia had been always welcoming the dialogue and had always stood for enhancing the confidence, security and cooperation in the region. The presidents will proceed with the talks when Sarkisian visits Ankara by invitation of Abdullah Gul. For Erevan, the emergence of the platform means its relations with Turkey will become normal, the border will open and the goods of Armenia will flow to the markets of Turkey. Azerbaijan didn’t hail that visit of Turkish president, which, however, will hardly prevent Baku from joining a new alliance initiated by Turkey should it wish to do so, of course. Although Azerbaijan has been manifesting the strive for cooperating with the West and for joining the NATO, the war for South Ossetia might have made some changes. As to Moscow, it may offer two weighty arguments to Azerbaijan in an attempt to win its support and abandon the western collaboration. Both of them relate to settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while Georgia will serve as a negative example. That state failed to deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia all support of the United States notwithstanding.

Source: www.kommersant.com

Russia's Window of Opportunity - September, 2008

Russia's Window of Opportunity

September, 2008

All U.S. presidents eventually become lame ducks, though the lameness of any particular duck depends on the amount of power he has left to wield. It not only is an issue of the president’s popularity, but also of the opposition’s unity and clarity. In the international context, the power of a lame duck president depends on the options he has militarily. Foreign powers do not mess with American presidents, no matter how lame one might be, as long as the president retains military options. The core of the American presidency is in its role as commander in chief. With all of the other presidential powers deeply intersecting with that of Congress and the courts, the president has the greatest autonomous power when he is acting as supreme commander of the armed forces. There is a remarkable lot he can do if he wishes to, and relatively little Congress can do to stop him — unless it is uniquely united. Therefore, foreign nations remain wary of the American president’s military power long after they have stopped taking him seriously in other aspects of foreign relations.

There is a school of thought that argues that President George W. Bush is likely to strike at Iran before he leaves office. The sense is that Bush is uniquely indifferent to either Congress or public opinion and that he therefore is likely to use his military powers in some decisive fashion, under the expectation and hope that history will vindicate him. In that sense, Bush is very much not a lame duck, because if he wanted to strike, there is nothing legally preventing him from doing so. The endless debates over presidential powers — which have roiled both Republican and Democratic administrations — have left one thing clear: The courts will not intervene against an American president’s use of his power as commander in chief. Congress may cut off money after the fact, but as we have seen, that is not a power that is normally put to use. Yet for all this, Bush is a lame duck commander in chief. He has the inherent legal power, but his military power is so limited that any action he might take — in Iran, for example — would be shaped and constrained by those limitations, and therefore, unlikely to achieve a meaningful goal. The problem for Bush, of course, is that he is fighting two simultaneous wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. These wars have sucked up the resources of the U.S. Army to a remarkable degree. Units are either engaged in these theaters of operation, recovering from deployment or preparing for deployment. To an extraordinary degree, the United States does not have a real strategic reserve in its ground forces, the Army and the Marines. A force could probably be scraped up to deal with a limited crisis, but U.S. forces are committed and there are no more troops to scatter around.

The Air Force and Navy could be used against Iran, such as a naval blockage of Iran’s ports. But this assumes that foreign powers such as the Chinese, Russians or Europeans would respect the blockade. Would the United States be prepared to seize or sink third-power ships that run the blockade? In addition, for a blockade to work, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan would have to collaborate and the Iraqi and Afghan border would have to be sealed. The United States has no troops for that mission. Airstrikes are, of course, a possibility, though air campaigns have not been particularly successful in forcing regime change historically — and there are no follow-on ground forces with which to invade. Most important, if the United States went after Iran, not only would the U.S. Army and Marines be tapped out, the United States would be throwing all of its chips on the table, with few reserves left. With all U.S. forces engaged in a line from the Euphrates to the Hindu Kush, the rest of the world would be wide open to second-tier powers. This is Bush’s strategic problem — the one that shapes his role as commander in chief. He has committed virtually all of his land forces to two wars. His only reserves are the Air Force and Navy. If they were sucked into a war in Iran, it would limit U.S. reserves for other contingencies. In all likelihood, the president will not attack Iran, gossip notwithstanding.

Thus, Bush is a lame duck commander in chief as well. Even if he completely disregards the politics of his position, which he can do, he still lacks the sheer military resources to achieve any meaningful goal without the use of nuclear weapons. But his problem goes beyond the Iran scenario. Lacking ground forces, the president’s ability to influence events throughout the world is severely impaired. Moreover, if he were to throw his air forces into a non-Iranian crisis, all pressure on Iran would be lifted. The United States is strategically tapped out. There is no land force available and the use of air and naval forces without land forces, while able to achieve some important goals, would not be decisive. The United States has entered a place where it has almost no room to maneuver. The president is becoming a lame duck in the fullest sense of the term. This opens a window of opportunity for powers, particularly second-tier powers, that would not be prepared to challenge the United States while its forces had flexibility. One power in particular has begun to use this window of opportunity — Russia. Russia is not the country it was 10 years ago. Its economy, fueled by rising energy and mineral prices, is financially solvent. The state has moved from being a smashed relic of the Soviet era to becoming a more traditional Russian state: authoritarian, repressive, accepting private property but only under terms it finds acceptable. It also is redefining its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and reviving its military.

For example, a Russian aircraft recently fired a missile at a Georgian village. Intentionally or not, the missile was a dud, though it clearly was meant to signal to the Georgians — close allies of the United States and unfriendly to Russian interests in the region — that not only is Russia unhappy, it is prepared to take military action if it chooses. It also clearly told the Georgians that the Russians are unconcerned about the United States and its possible response. It must have given the Georgians a chill. The Russians planted their flag under the sea at the North Pole after the Canadians announced plans to construct armed icebreakers and establish a deepwater port from which to operate in the Far North. The Russians announced the construction of a new air defense system by 2015 — not a very long time as these things go. They also announced plans to create a new command and control system in the same time frame. Russian long-range aircraft flew east in the Pacific to the region of Guam, an important U.S. air base, causing the United States to scramble fighter planes. They also flew into what used to be the GIUK gap (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) probing air defenses along the Norwegian coast and in Scotland.

Most interestingly, they announced the resumption of patrols in the Atlantic, along the U.S. coast, using Blackjack strategic bombers and the old workhorse of the Russian fleet, the Bear. (The balance does remain in U.S. favor along the East Coast). During the Cold War, patrols such as these were designed to carry out electronic and signal intelligence. They were designed to map out U.S. facilities along the Eastern seaboard and observe response time and procedures. During the Cold War they would land in Cuba for refueling before retracing their steps. It will be interesting to see whether Russia will ask Cuba for landing privileges and whether the Cubans will permit it. As interesting, Russian and Chinese troops conducted military exercises recently in the context of regional talks. It is not something to take too seriously, but then they are not trivial. Many of these are older planes. The Bear, for example, dates back to the 1950s — but so does the B-52, which remains important to the U.S. strategic bomber fleet. The age of the airframe doesn’t matter nearly as much as maintenance, refits, upgrades to weapons and avionics and so on. Nothing can be assumed from the mere age of the aircraft. The rather remarkable flurry of Russian air operations — as well as plans for naval development — is partly a political gesture. The Russians are tired of the United States pressing into its sphere of influence, and they see a real window of opportunity to press back with limited risk of American response. But the Russians appear to be doing more than making a gesture.

The Russians are trying to redefine the global balance. They are absolutely under no illusion that they can match American military power in any sphere. But they are clearly asserting their right to operate as a second-tier global power and are systematically demonstrating their global reach. They may be old and they may be slow, but when American aircraft on the East Coast start to scramble routinely to intercept and escort Russian aircraft, two things happen. First, U.S. military planning has to shift to take Russia into account. Second, the United States loses even more flexibility. It can’t just ignore the Russians. It now needs to devote scarce dollars to upgrading systems along the East Coast — systems that have been quite neglected since the end of the Cold War. There is a core assumption in the U.S. government that Russia no longer is a significant power. It is true that its vast army has disintegrated. But the Russians do not need a vast army modeled on World War II. They need, and have begun to develop, a fairly effective military built around special forces and airborne troops. They also have appeared to pursue their research and development, particularly in the area of air defense and air-launched missiles — areas in which they have traditionally been strong. The tendency to underestimate the Russian military — something even Russians do — is misplaced. Russia’s military is capable and improving.

The increased Russian tempo of operations in areas that the United States has been able to ignore for many years further pins the United States. It can be assumed that the Russians mean no harm — but assumption is not a luxury national security planners can permit themselves, at least not good ones. It takes years to develop and deploy new systems. If the Russians are probing the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic again, it is not the current threat that matters, but the threat that might evolve. That diverts budget dollars from heavily armored trucks that can survive improvised explosive device attacks, and cuts into the Air Force and Navy. The Russians are using the window of opportunity to redefine, in a modest way, the global balance and gain some room to maneuver in their region. As a result of their more assertive posture, American thoughts of unilateral interventions must decline. For example, getting involved in Georgia once was a low-risk activity. The risk just went up. Taking that risk while U.S. ground forces are completely absorbed in Iraq and Afghanistan is hard for the Americans to justify — but rather easy for the Russians.

This brings us back to the discussion of the commander in chief’s options in the Middle East. The United States already has limited options against Iran. The more the Russians maneuver, the more the United States must hold what forces it has left — Air Force and Navy — in reserve. Launching an Iranian adventure becomes that much more risky. If it is launched, Russia has an even greater window of opportunity. Every further involvement in the region makes the United States that much less of a factor in the immediate global equation. All wars end, and these will too. The Russians are trying to rearrange the furniture a bit before anyone comes home and forces them out. They are dealing with a lame duck president with fewer options than most lame ducks. Before there is a new president and before the war in Iraq ends, the Russians want to redefine the situation a bit.

Source: http://www.stratfor.com/russias_window_opportunity

In other news:

Russia plans to sell $6.1 bln worth of weaponry in 2008

Russian arms exports may reach at least $6.1 billion by the end of 2008, a senior official at Rosoboronexport, Russia's largest state arms exporter, said on Friday. Russia has doubled annual arms exports since 2000 to $7 billion last year, becoming the world's second-largest exporter of conventional weapons after the United States. "We expect our arms exports to reach at least $6.1 billion this year," Mikhail Zavaliy said. Russia exports arms to about 80 countries. Among the key buyers of Russian-made weaponry are China, India, Algeria, Venezuela, Iran, Malaysia, and Serbia. The most popular types of weaponry bought from Russia are Sukhoi and MiG fighters, air defense systems, helicopters, battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles. Russia also maintains traditionally strong positions in the sales of small arms, anti-tank and air-defense missile systems. Zavaliy said that combat aircraft remain the key component of Russia's arms sales, followed by naval weaponry. Experts believe, though, that the priority may shift toward naval equipment in the near future. The Rosoboronexport official also said that the competition between Russia and the United States on the global arms market could become more intense following the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. "In the light of the recent events I believe that the U.S. could act more aggressively on the global arms market, although we are used to Washington's attempts to 'play without rules," Zavaliy said. In the past, Washington imposed sanctions on Rosoboronexport and other Russian companies several times, including over the sale of TOR-M1 air defense systems to Iran, despite the fact that the deals did not contradict any international agreements.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080905/116580478.html

Russia may push forward with S-300 sales to Iran

Russia may proceed with plans to sell advanced S-300 air defense systems to Iran under a secret contract believed to have been signed in 2005, a Russian analyst said on Monday. Commenting on an article in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper saying Russia is using the plans as a bargaining chip in its standoff with America, Ruslan Pukhov, director of Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said: "In the current situation, when the U.S. and the West in general are stubbornly gearing toward a confrontation with Russia after the events in South Ossetia, the implementation of a lucrative contract on the deliveries of S-300 [air defense systems] to Iran looks like a logical step." The U.S. and Israel were alarmed by media reports, which started circulating as early as 2005, on the possible delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, as these systems could greatly improve Iranian defenses against any air strike on its strategically important sites, including nuclear facilities.

The advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 150 kilometers (over 100 miles) and can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making the system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes. The issue was again raised in December last year when Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said Russia had agreed to deliver to Iran an unspecified number of advanced S-300 air defense complexes under a previously signed contract. However, Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said the issue of the delivery of S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran was not a subject of current or past negotiations. Israeli defense sources, however, said in July that Iran was expected to take delivery of Russian S-300 air defense systems by the end of 2008. Pukhov said: "This may be true. While Russia and the West were on good terms, the contract could have been 'frozen' for the time being. But now may be the perfect time to move forward with the fulfillment of the S-300 contract."

According to the Russian analyst, S-300 missiles and previously delivered Tor-M1 missiles would help Iran build a strong network of long- and medium-range 'defensive rings' to thwart any attempts to destroy key nuclear facilities in the country. Moscow supplied Iran with 29 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems in late January under a $700-million contract signed in late 2005. Russia has also trained Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders. "Anyone attempting to threaten Iran with aerial bombardment would have to consider the possibility of strong and effective resistance," the expert said. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi denied on Monday reports that Tehran had bought S-300 air defense systems from Russia. "Our missile and technical capability completely depends on the efforts of Iranian scientists," he said.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080901/116446535.html

Russian Army Gets New Drones

The Vega Radio Engineering Corp. has begun delivery of Tipchak unpiloted recognizance complexes to the Russian armed forces, Vega general director Vladimir Verba told Interfax. The first complex will be on duty this year and may be used in “hot spots.” The Tipchak complex was developed by the Luch Design Bureau in Rybinsk. It is intended for recognizance at any time of day with the goal of the discovery, recognition determination of the coordinates of a target in real time within a range of 40 km. from its launch point. Every complex consists of six drones, a transport and launch vehicle, antenna, guidance apparatus and maintenance equipment. The drone is launched by a pneumatic catapult and lands with the use of a parachute. The 50-kg. unit has a piston that is able to propel it at speeds up to 55 km. per hour. It is capable of flights lasting up to two hours. It carries a high-resolution camera that working in normal and infrared light.

Source: http://www.kommersant.com/p-13159/we..._recognizance/

Geopolitical Diary: Turkey's Options - September, 2008

Yerevan should not be afraid of approaching Ankara. There has been a major geopolitical shift in the region and Armenia needs to adjust to it, lest it ends up last in the line again. Had the recent warming in relations between Yerevan and Ankara been attempted before the recent crisis in the region, I would have been against it for many reasons. Recent political developments between Ankara and Yerevan would not have occurred had there not been a major crisis between the West and the Russian Federation and had Moscow not been able to crush the West's political agenda in Georgia. Let's make no mistake about it, this is the dawning of a new era in regional politics. As a result, Ankara is finally realizing that it needs better relations with Yerevan despite strong complaints from Turkish nationalists and Baku. Yerevan is also realizing that it has to at least be open to Ankara and seriously discuss issues at hand. None of this means that all issues are solved and that there are no problems anymore. This is just an initial, or preliminary, trial stage. Moreover, and more importantly, none of this means that our Hai Dat or the status of Nagorno Karabakh will have to be compromised. There is no talk about abandoning Armenian Genocide recognition and there is no talk about pulling the Armenian military out of Nagorno Karabakh and there won't be.

I want to mention here that the Hai Dat, in particular, needs to be looked upon by all Armenians as a 'political tool' which must used for the benefit of the Armenian Republic. Nonetheless, we need to better understand ourselves (better understand Armenia's strengths and weaknesses) as much as we need to better understand the enemy. Let's never underestimate the enemy and let's never overestimate ourselves. Doing so, as we have experienced in the past, is suicidal. For small fledgling nations like Armenia, there is a time to fight and there is a time to back down from a fight. We need to pick our fights wisely. These are very complicated times in politics. We need to approach these matters in an unemotional manner, we need to approach them in a pragmatic manner and with Armenia's future in mind. I personally had a hard time watching the Turkish national anthem being sung in Yerevan, not to mention losing the game to them, but in the big geopolitical picture I am willing to swallow my pride (for Armenia's sake) and hope that our politicians in Yerevan don't screw this one up in the long-term...

Nonetheless, Moscow is behind (or actively supporting) the warming of relations between Yerevan and Ankara, in my opinion. President Sargsyan first reached his hand out to Ankara soon after his meeting with President Medvedev and during a public speech while in Moscow. Moreover, Turkey proposed the so-called Caucasus Pact in the immediate aftermath of the war in Georgia, a war during which Ankara, a long time ally of Georgia, indirectly supported Russia's actions. Moreover, Turkish nationalists and Azeris are signaling their strong displeasure about this proposal. Moreover, Moscow has been clearly signaling that it is in favor of the proposal and is now in fact all for the opening of the Armenian-Turkey border - this after years of remaining silent about it. The fact of the matter is, Moscow and Turkey want to continue their very lucrative trade. Due to the war in Georgia and due to the high degree of tension in the Black Sea region, Moscow and Ankara have found that Armenia would be a good/logical alternative route for this trade. This is a long-term plan, or an alternative plan, for the two capitols. Eventually Azerbaijan would be dragged into this as well.

Nonetheless, they are currently trying to prepare the playing field in Armenia. This is not something that will happen overnight, this will take some time to manifest itself. Nonetheless, nothing of this significance could have occurred in Yerevan without Moscow being behind it. What does all this mean for Armenia? I don't know. These are those types of situations where there is not much a small, dependent, landlocked and impoverished nation like Armenia can do but to hope and pray. The following are additional geopolitical perspectives undermining Abrahamyan's stance regarding Ankara.



Geopolitical Diary: Turkey's Options

September, 2008

With Cold War tensions building in the Black Sea, the Turks have gone into a diplomatic frenzy. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan had his phone glued to his ear on Thursday speaking to his U.S., British, German, French, Swedish and Finnish counterparts, as well as to the NATO secretary-general and various EU representatives. The Turks are also expecting Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili to arrive in Istanbul on Aug. 31. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to arrive for a separate meeting with Turkish leaders early next week. The Turks have a reason to be such busy diplomatic bees. A group of nine NATO warships are currently in the Black Sea ostensibly on routine and humanitarian missions. Russia has wasted no time in sounding the alarm at the sight of this NATO buildup, calling on Turkey — as the gatekeeper to the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits between the Black and Mediterranean seas — to remember its commitment to the Montreux Convention, which places limits on the number of warships in the Black Sea. As a weak naval power with few assets to defend itself in this crucial frontier, Russia has every interest in keeping the NATO presence in the Black Sea as limited and distant as possible.

Turkey is in an extremely tight spot. As a NATO member in control of Russia’s warm-water naval access to the Black Sea, Turkey is a crucial link in the West’s pressure campaign against Russia. But the Turks have little interest in seeing the Black Sea become a flashpoint between Russia and the United States. Turkey has a strategic foothold in the Caucasus through Azerbaijan that it does not want to see threatened by Moscow. The Turks also simply do not have the military appetite or the internal political consolidation to be pushed by the United States into a potential conflict — naval or otherwise — with the Russians. In addition, the Turks have to worry about their economic health. Russia is Turkey’s biggest trading partner, supplying more than 60 percent of Turkey’s energy needs through two natural gas pipelines, as well as more than half of Turkey’s thermal coal — a factor that has major consequences in the approach of winter. Turkey has other options to meet its energy needs, but there is no denying that it has intertwined itself into a potentially economically precarious relationship with the Russians. And the Russians have already begun using this economic lever to twist Ankara’s arm. A large amount of Turkish goods reportedly have been held up at the Russian Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk, Sochi and Taganrog over the past 20 days ostensibly over narcotics issues. Turkish officials claim that Turkish trucks carrying mostly consumer goods have been singled out for “extensive checks and searches,” putting about $3 billion worth of Turkish trade in jeopardy. The Turks have already filed an official complaint with Moscow over the trade row — with speculation naturally brewing over Russia’s intent to punish Turkey for its participation in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and to push Ankara to limit NATO access to the Black Sea.


Source: http://www.stratfor.com/geopolitical...urkeys_options

Turkey, Iran: Ankara's Priorities Shift


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two-day trip to Ankara ended Aug. 15. While the Iranian government and state media have touted his trip as proof that Iran and Turkey are close allies, the Turkish government is far more concerned with containing the current situation in the Caucasus, which could have major implications for Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrapped up a two-day trip to Ankara on Aug. 15. The Iranian government and state media have been hyping Ahmadinejad’s visit to Turkey for days in an attempt to showcase to the world the Iranian belief that Iran and Turkey, as the two principle non-Arab regional powerhouses, are close and natural allies. But while Iran is eager to forge closer ties with Turkey, the Turks do not have much time for Ahmadinejad right now. Ankara has bigger things on its mind, namely the Russians. Turkey is heir to the Ottoman Empire, which once extended deep into the southern Caucasus region where Russia just wrapped up an aggressive military campaign against Georgia. Turkey’s geopolitical interests in the Caucasus have primarily been defensive in nature, focused on keeping the Russians and Persians at bay. Now that Russia is resurging in the Caucasus, the Turks have no choice but to get involved. The Turks primarily rely on their deep ethnic, historical and linguistic ties to Azerbaijan to extend their influence into the Caucasus. Azerbaijan was alarmed, to say the least, when it saw Russian tanks crossing into Georgia. As far as Azerbaijan was concerned, Baku could have been the next target in Russia’s military campaign.

However, Armenia — Azerbaijan’s primary rival — remembers well the 1915 Armenian genocide by the Turks, and looks to Iran and especially Orthodox Christian Russia for its protection. Now that Russia has shown it is willing to act on behalf of allies like South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the Caucasus, the Armenians, while militarily outmatched by the Azerbaijanis, are now feeling bolder and could see this as their chance to preempt Azerbaijan in yet another battle for the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region— especially if it thinks it can look to Russia to militarily intervene on its behalf. The Turks and their ethnic kin in Azerbaijan are extremely wary of Russia’s intentions for the southern Caucasus beyond Georgia. Sources told Stratfor that Azerbaijan has learned that the Russian military jets that bombed Gori and Poti were based out of Armenia. This development not only signaled a significant expansion of Russia’s military presence in the southern Caucasus, but it also implied that Armenia had actually signed off on the Russian foray into Georgia, knowing that Russian dominance over Georgia would guarantee Armenian security and impose a geographic split between Turkey and Azerbaijan. If the Armenians became overly confident and made a move against Azerbaijan for Nagorno-Karabakh, expecting Russian support, the resulting war would have a high potential of drawing the Turks into a confrontation with the Russians — something that both NATO member Turkey and Russia have every interest in avoiding.

The Turks also have a precarious economic relationship with Russia. The two countries have expanded their trade with each other significantly in recent years. In the first half of 2008, trade between Russia and Turkey amounted to $19.9 billion, making Russia Turkey’s biggest trading partner. Much of this trade is concentrated in the energy sphere. The Turks currently import approximately 64 percent of the natural gas they consume from the Russians. Though Turkey’s geographic position enables it to pursue energy links in the Middle East and the Caucasus that can bypass Russian territory, the Russians have made it abundantly clear over the past few days that the region’s energy security will still depend on Moscow’s good graces. Turkey’s economic standing also largely depends on its ability to act as a major energy transit hub for the West through pipelines such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which was recently forced offline due to a purported Kurdish militant attack and the war in Georgia. Turkey simply cannot afford to see the Russians continue their surge into the Caucasus and threaten its energy supply.

For these reasons, Turkey is on a mission to keep this tinderbox in the Caucasus contained. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spent the last couple of days meeting with top Russian leaders in Moscow and then with the Georgian president in Tbilisi. During his meetings with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitri Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Erdogan pushed the idea of creating a Caucasus union that would include both Russia and Georgia. Though this organization would likely be little more than a talk shop, it is a sign of Turkey’s interest in reaching a mutual understanding with Russia that would allow both sides to maintain a comfortable level of influence in the region without coming to blows. The Iranians, meanwhile, are sitting in the backseat. Though Iran has a foothold in the Caucasus through its support for Armenia, the Iranians lack the level of political, military and economic gravitas that Turkey and Russia currently hold in this region. Indeed, Erdogan did not even include Iran in his list of proposed members for the Caucasus union, even though Iran is one of the three major powers bordering the region.


Source: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/tur...iorities_shift

Russia supports Turkey’s Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday accused NATO countries of arming Georgia, while at the same time praising the stance of Turkey - itself a member of the alliance, the Turkish Daily News reports. Although Lavrov admitted that Turkey and Russia have different approaches with regards to Georgia’s territorial integrity, he nevertheless voiced support for the Turkish proposal for a regional cooperation mechanism. On a one day visit to Istanbul, Lavrov offered concrete proposals to solve the problems facing Turkish exporters by Russian customs. In a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan, Lavrov denied that stricter Russian controls on Turkish imports are politically motivated. The checks resulted in hundreds of Turkish trucks being stranded at Russian border posts over the past few weeks. They raised questions about whether Russia was punishing NATO member Turkey for allowing U.S. warships carrying aid to Georgia to pass through the Bosporus. Lavrov said some countries had breached customs regulations, prompting Russian authorities to take more stringent measures. “We are not discriminating against Turkey,” assured Lavrov. “We offered a more simplified method for Turkish goods,” he said, adding that the custom authorities will meet soon to discuss the issue. Despite his criticism of NATO countries arming Georgia, Lavrov said Turkey’s alliance commitments were not an obstacle for Turkish-Russian relations. “Turkey never used its NATO membership at the expense of violating international principles. While being loyal to its NATO commitments it does not forget its commitments to the UN or OSCE,” said Lavrov, also expressing satisfaction with Turkey’s position on the maritime regime in the Bosporus and the Black Sea.


Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=26899

U.S. cold to Ankara's Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform

The United States is cold to the idea, saying it had not been informed in advance and that the approach does not include a major Western component, the Turkish Daily News reports. "I was surprised by this announcement of a Caucasus stability pact by the Turkish government," said Matt Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. "I hadn’t been briefed that that was going to happen. We have a partnership with Turkey on the Caucasus, and I presume that we’ll be able to work together very closely now with our allies in Turkey since we do have clearly shared interests, not to mention values, throughout the Caucasus with our Turkish ally." Another U.S. diplomat said later, "We don’t think that the effort is realistic, plus our strategic partnership [with Turkey] should normally require closer consultations with us." Following the hostilities in South Ossetia, Ankara offered a Caucasus stability pact that could unite Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Georgia.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=26901

In related news:

Georgia-Russian war devalued international law and territorial integrity, Baku says

The point is that the defeat of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on the South-Ossetian and Abkhazian fronts reduced to mere theory Azerbaijan’s plans to re-take the lands by use of force,” Rasim Aghayev said. “Georgia has compromised the very strategic formula of Azerbaijan in the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict based on international law. After the Georgian-Russian war, international law and territorial integrity seem to be neglected.” “Serzh Sargsyan, who demonstrates self-assertion after the events in Georgia, takes into account these nuances and even so more he sees the amenability of the Turkish leadership, which is making open steps for unblocking the border with Armenia and establishing normal relations with it. As result, we see that Armenia’s policy, which stakes on ignoring the international law and openly demonstrates territorial claims to all neighbor states, is more suitable in conditions of the established geopolitical realities in our region. This allows Serzh Sargsyan to put pressure on Azerbaijan,” he said, adding that if political and economic rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey takes place, Azerbaijan should create a new bloc to deal with the resolution of territorial disputes. “Moreover in exchange for Armenia’s disavowal of territorial claims to Azerbaijan, official Baku may start unblocking borders with Armenia,” Aghayev resumed, Day.az reported

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/news/eng/?nid=26945

Israel’s role in the Russia-Georgia war - September, 2008

I guess American, Islamic, European and Turkish interests were not the only things that suffered a serious setback in the Caucasus as a result of the comprehensive beating Georgia recently suffered at the hands of the Russian Bear. It was well known that the Zionist state also had significant strategic interests in Georgia. It was also well known that the Saakashvili dictatorship was infested with Jews. The blood-drenched claws of Zionism, in conjunction with pan-Turkists, Islamic radicals and Western imperialists, had reached deep into the Caucasus. What wasn't known, however, was that Russian forces may have actually targeted Israel's military presence in Georgia during the war. Needles to say, the Zionist/Turkish/Western/Islamic experiment in Georgia backfired miserably. And now, Tel Aviv is gravely concerned. The Russian Federation is truly living up to its expectations of being the last front against American imperialism, NATO expansionism, Globalism, Zionism, Islamic fundamentalism and pan-Turkism.



Russian units raid Georgian airfields for use in Israeli strike against Iran – report

September, 2008

The raids were disclosed by UPI chief editor Arnaud de Borchgrave, who is also on the Washington Times staff, and picked up by the Iranian Fars news agency. The Russian raids of two Georgian airfields, which Tbilisi had allowed Israel to use for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, followed the Georgian offensive against South Ossetia on Aug. 7. Under the secret agreement with Georgia, the airfields had been earmarked for use by Israeli fighter-bombers taking off to strike Iran in return for training and arms supplies. DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report that flying from S. Georgia over the Caspian Sea to Iran would sharply trim the distance to be spanned by Israeli fighter-bombers, reducing flying time to 3.5 hours. Northern Iran and the Tehran region, where most of the nuclear facilities are concentrated, would be within range, with no need to request US permission to pass through Iraq air space. Russian Special Forces also raided other Israeli facilities in southern Georgia and captured Israeli spy drones, says the report. Israel was said to have used the two airfields to “conduct recon flights over southern Russia as well as into nearby Iran.” The US intelligence sources quoted by UPI reported that the Russian force also carried home other Israeli military equipment captured at the air bases. Our sources say that if the Russians got hold of an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle complete with sophisticated electronic reconnaissance equipment, they will have secured some of the IDF’s most secret devices for spying on Iran and Syria. When this happened before, Russian military engineers quickly dismantled the equipment, studied it and passed the technology on to Tehran and Damascus.

Source: http://www.debka.com/index1.php

USA ISRAEL September Surprise for Attack on Iran


While the rest of the pundits opine about the meaning and implications of Sarah Palin's ascension from small town mayor to prospective vice president – and whether or not her daughter's private life is fair game for any media outlet other than the National Enquirer those of us whose job it is to stand watch on the ramparts and report the real news are wondering when – not if – the War Party will pull a rabbit out of the proverbial hat. For months, I've been warning in this space that an American attack on Iran is imminent, and now I see that the Dutch have reason to agree with my assessment. Their intelligence service reportedly has pulled out of a covert operation inside Iran on the grounds that a U.S. strike is right around the corner – in "a matter of weeks," according to De Telegraaf, a Dutch newspaper. As the story goes, the Dutch had infiltrated the purported Iranian weapons project and were firmly ensconced when they got word that the Americans are about to launch a missile attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. They wisely decided to close down the operation and pull out. Remember, the Israelis have been threatening to strike on their own for months: what's changed is that now, apparently, the U.S. has caved in to what is a blatant case of blackmail and has agreed to do the job for them. We haven't heard much about Iran lately, at least compared to the scare headlines of a few months ago, when rumors of war were swirling fast and furious. The Russian "threat" seems to have replaced the Iranian "threat" as the War Party's bogeyman of choice. What we didn't know, however, is that the two focal points are intimately related.

According to this report by veteran Washington Times correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave, the close cooperation of the Israelis with the Georgian military in the run-up to President Saakashvili's blitz of South Ossetia was predicated on a Georgian promise to let the Israelis use Georgia's airfields to mount a strike against Iran. The main problem for Tel Aviv, in making its threats against Iran at all credible, has been the distance to be covered by Israeli fighter jets, which would have a hard time reaching and returning from their targets without refueling. With access to the airfields of "the Israel of the Caucasus," as de Borchgrave – citing Saakashvili – puts it, the likelihood of an Israeli attack entered the world of real possibilities. De Borchgrave avers: "In a secret agreement between Israel and Georgia, two military airfields in southern Georgia had been earmarked for the use of Israeli fighter-bombers in the event of pre-emptive attacks against Iranian nuclear installations. This would sharply reduce the distance Israeli fighter-bombers would have to fly to hit targets in Iran. And to reach Georgian airstrips, the Israeli air force would fly over Turkey.

"The attack ordered by Saakashvili against South Ossetia the night of Aug. 7 provided the Russians the pretext for Moscow to order Special Forces to raid these Israeli facilities where some Israeli drones were reported captured." Reports of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 Israeli "advisers" in Georgia do not bode well for the situation on the ground. With the Israelis already installed in that country, the logistics of carrying out such a sneak attack are greatly simplified. Israeli pilots would only have to fly over Azerbaijan, and they'd be in Iranian airspace – and within striking distance of Tehran.

Faced with this fait accompli – if the Dutch are to be believed – the Americans seem to have capitulated. In which case, we don't have much time. Although de Borchgrave writes "whether the IAF can still count on those air bases to launch bombing missions against Iran's nuke facilities is now in doubt," I don't see why the defeat of the Georgians in Saakashvili's war on the Ossetians has to mean the plan to strike Iran via Georgia has been canceled. Indeed, reading de Borchgrave's riveting account of the extent of the Tel Aviv-Tbilisi collaboration, one finds additional reasons for all concerned to go ahead with it: "Saakashvili was convinced that by sending 2,000 of his soldiers to serve in Iraq (who were immediately flown home by the United States when Russia launched a massive counterattack into Georgia), he would be rewarded for his loyalty. He could not believe President Bush, a personal friend, would leave him in the lurch. Georgia, as Saakashvili saw his country's role, was the 'Israel of the Caucasus.'" Saakashvili, a vain and reckless man, now has even more reason to go behind Uncle Sam's back and give the Israelis a clear shot at Tehran. With this sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of the Americans, the rationale for a more limited, shot-across-the-bow strike by the U.S. becomes all too clear.

After all, if the Israelis attacked, the entire Muslim world would unite behind the Iranians. If, on the other had, the U.S. did Israel's dirty work, with Tel Aviv lurking in the background, it would conceivably be far less provocative, and might even generate sub rosa support among the Sunni rulers of America's Arab allies. It's going to happen anyway, goes the rationale, and so we might as well do it the right way, rather than leave it to the Israelis, who have threatened – via "independent" commentators like Israeli historian and super hawk Benny Morris – to use nuclear weapons on Iran's population centers. In terms of American domestic politics, the road to war with Tehran was paved long ago: both major parties and their presidential candidates have given the War Party a green light to strike Tehran, McCain explicitly and Obama tacitly, albeit no less firmly. The stage is set, rehearsals are over, and the actors know their lines: as the curtain goes up on the first act of "World War III," take a deep breath and pray to the gods that this deadly drama is aborted.

Source: http://www.daily.pk/world/worldnews/7112.html?task=view

What Israel Lost in the Georgia War


"It is important that the entire world understands that what is happening in Georgia now will affect the entire world order," Georgian Cabinet Minister Temur Yakobashvili said last weekend. "It's not just Georgia's business, but the entire world's business." Such sentiments would have been unremarkable but for the fact that Yakobashvili was expressing himself in fluent Hebrew, telling Israeli Army Radio that "Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers." However, the impression that Israel had helped bolster the Georgian military was one the Israeli Foreign Ministry was anxious to avoid. Last Saturday it reportedly recommended a freeze on the further supply of equipment and expertise to Georgia by Israeli defense contractors. (Israel doesn't supply foreign militaries directly, but its private contractors must get Defense Ministry approval for such deals.) The Israelis decided to refrain from authorizing new defense contracts, although those currently in effect will be fulfilled. Israel stressed that the contracts are to provide equipment for defensive purposes. But if the Israelis were looking to downplay the significance of military ties, they weren't helped by comments like Yakobashvili's — or by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's enthusing at a press conference earlier this week that "the Israeli weapons have been very effective." 

Nor did the Russians fail to notice. "Israel armed the Georgian army," grumbled General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian military, at a press conference in Moscow earlier this week. An Israeli paper had, last weekend, quoted an unnamed official warning that Israel needed "to be very careful and sensitive these days. The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria, and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons." As if on cue, on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Moscow hoping to persuade Russia to sell him sophisticated air-defense systems — and reportedly offering the Russian navy the use of one of its Mediterranean ports. Late on Wednesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had spoken on the phone to clear the air over the Georgia conflict and Russian arms sales to Syria.

The extent of involvement in Georgia by Israeli defense contractors may be overstated, and most of the equipment used by the Georgian military comes from the U.S. and other suppliers. Still, Israeli companies had been sufficiently involved in supplying specialized equipment and advanced tactical training to the Georgian military that the connection — and Russia's perception of it — created a ripple of anxiety in Israeli government circles. Israeli officials say that, in anticipation of a showdown between Georgia and Russia, Israel began to scale back the involvement of Israeli companies in Georgia as early as the end of 2007. Georgia's Yakobashvili charged this week that Israel, "at Russia's behest," had downgraded military ties with Georgia, a decision he branded a "disgrace." Israel's weapons sales, just like Russia's, are driven by the commercial interests of domestic arms industries. Israeli military exports to Georgia are driven more by the logic of business than by a strategic choice to back Tbilisi against Moscow — indeed, the Israeli response since the outbreak of hostilities is a reminder that, on balance, even a relatively cool friendship with Russia may be more important to Israel than a close alliance with tiny Georgia. Despite Israel's pecuniary imperative, Georgia has used these commercial military ties to press closer ties on Israel. 

President Saakashvili has noted that both his minister responsible for negotiations over South Ossetia (Yakobashvili) and his Defense Minister, Davit Kezerashvili, had lived in Israel before moving to post-Soviet Georgia. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Georgian leader this week enthused that in Tbilisi, "both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews." Working through the Georgian Defense Ministry (and with the approval of its Israeli counterpart), Israeli companies are reported to have supplied the Georgians with pilotless drones, night-vision equipment, anti-aircraft equipment, shells, rockets and various electronic systems. Even more important than equipment may have been the advanced tactical training and consultancy provided, as private contractors, by retired top Israeli generals such as Yisrael Ziv and Gal Hirsch, the man who commanded Israeli ground forces during their disastrous foray into Lebanon in 2006. (Never one to resist an opportunity to mock his enemies, Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah quipped in a speech this week, "Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia, and they too lost because of him.") Not necessarily: Russia applied overwhelming force against the tiny Georgian military, which, according to Israeli assessments, still managed to punch above its weight.

The Russians were piqued by Israel's military trade with Georgia even before the latest outbreak of hostilities — Moscow expressed its annoyance over the pilotless drones supplied by an Israeli company to the Georgians, three of which were downed by Russian aircraft over South Ossetia in recent months. Obviously mindful of the need to avoid provoking Russia, Israel declared off-limits certain weapons systems the Georgians had asked for, such as Merkava tanks and advanced anti-aircraft systems. "We have turned down many requests involving arms sales to Georgia, and the ones that have been approved have been duly scrutinized," a Defense Ministry official told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahoronot amid concerns raised over a possible fallout from the Israeli ties to the Georgian military. The extent of damage to the Israeli-Russia relationship — if indeed there is any — remains to be seen. Despite General Nogovitsyn's comments, Israeli officials say they have received no formal complaints from Russia over ties with Georgia.

Israel's strategic priority now is countering the threat it sees in Iran's nuclear program, and on that front, Russian cooperation is essential. If the Israelis are to achieve their objective of forcing Iran to end uranium enrichment through diplomatic coercion, they will need Russian support for escalating U.N. sanctions — a course of action for which Russia has thus far shown little enthusiasm. And if Israel were to opt for trying to destroy Tehran's nuclear facilities through a series of air strikes, then the presence of the sophisticated Russian S-300 missile system in Iran would considerably raise the risk to Israeli pilots. Unfortunately for Israel, however, there may be little it can do to shape Moscow's Iran policy for the simple reason that Israel is not a major factor in Russia's strategic outlook. Moscow's actions on Iran are less likely to be determined by Israel supplying a few drones to Georgia than they are to be shaped, for example, by the deployment over extreme Russian objections of U.S. interceptor missiles on Polish soil.

Source: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1834785,00.html

Israel’s role in the Russia-Georgia war

From the moment Georgia launched a surprise attack on the tiny breakaway region of South Ossetia, prompting a fierce Russian counterattack, Israel has been trying to distance itself from the conflict. This is understandable: with Georgian forces on the retreat, large numbers of civilians killed and injured, and Russia’s fury unabated, Israel’s deep involvement is severely embarrassing. The collapse of the Georgian offensive represents not only a disaster for that country and its U.S.-backed leaders, but another blow to the myth of Israel’s military prestige and prowess. Worse, Israel fears that Russia could retaliate by stepping up its military assistance to Israel’s adversaries. “Israel is following with great concern the developments in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and hopes the violence will end,” its foreign ministry said, adding with uncharacteristic dovishness, “Israel recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia and calls for a peaceful solution.” Tbilisi’s top diplomat in Tel Aviv complained about the lackluster Israeli response to his country’s predicament and perhaps overestimating Israeli influence, called for Israeli “diplomatic pressure on Moscow.” Just like Israel, the diplomat said, Georgia is fighting a war on “terrorism.” Israeli officials politely told the Georgians that “the address for that type of pressure was Washington”.

While Israel was keen to downplay its role, Georgia perhaps hoped that flattery might draw Israel further in. Georgian minister Temur Yakobashvili -- whom the Israeli daily Haaretz stressed was Jewish -- told Israeli army radio that “Israel should be proud of its military which trained Georgian soldiers.” Yakobashvili claimed rather implausibly, according to Haaretz, that “a small group of Georgian soldiers were able to wipe out an entire Russian military division, thanks to the Israeli training” Since 2000, Israel has sold hundreds of millions of dollars in arms and combat training to Georgia. Weapons included guns, ammunition, shells, tactical missile systems, antiaircraft systems, automatic turrets for armored vehicles, electronic equipment and remotely piloted aircraft. These sales were authorized by the Israeli defense ministry. The Israeli connection,” Ynet, 10 August 2008). Training also involved officers from Israel’s Shin Bet secret service -- which has for decades carried out extrajudicial executions and torture of Palestinians in the occupied territories -- the Israeli police, and the country’s major arms companies Elbit and Rafael.

The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis appears to have been cemented at the highest levels, and according to YNet, “The fact that Georgia’s defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation.” Others involved in the brisk arms trade included former Israeli minister and Tel Aviv mayor Roni Milo as well as several senior Israeli military officers. The key liaison was Reserve Brigadier General Gal Hirsch who commanded Israeli forces on the border with Lebanon during the July 2006 Second Lebanon War. (Yossi Melman, “Georgia Violence -- A frozen alliance,” Haaretz, 10 August 2008). He resigned from the army after the Winograd commission severely criticized Israel’s conduct of its war against Lebanon and an internal Israeli army investigation blamed Hirsch for the seizure of two soldiers by Hezbollah. According to one of the Israeli combat trainers, an officer in an “elite” Israel army unit, Hirsch and colleagues would sometimes personally supervise the training of Georgian forces which included “house-to-house fighting.” The training was carried out through several “private” companies with close links to the Israeli military.

As the violence raged in Georgia, the trainer was desperately trying to contact his former Georgian students on the battlefront via mobile phone: the Israelis wanted to know whether the Georgians had “internalized Israeli military technique and if the special reconnaissance forces have chalked up any successes” (Jonathan Lis and Moti Katz, “IDF vets who trained Georgia troops say war with Russia is no surprise,” Haaretz, 11 August 2008). Yet on the ground, the Israeli-trained Georgian forces, perhaps unsurprisingly overwhelmed by the Russians, have done little to redeem the image of Israel’s military following its defeat by Hezbollah in July-August 2006. The question remains as to why Israel was involved in the first place. There are several reasons. The first is simply economic opportunism: for years, especially since the 11 September 2001 attacks, arms exports and “security expertise” have been one of Israel’s growth industries. But the close Israeli involvement in a region Russia considers to be of vital interest suggests that Israel might have been acting as part of the broader U.S. scheme to encircle Russia and contain its reemerging power.

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has been steadily encroaching on Russia’s borders and expanding NATO in a manner the Kremlin considers highly provocative. Shortly after coming into office, the Bush Administration tore up the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty and, like the Clinton administration, adopted former Soviet satellite states as its own, using them to base an anti-missile system Russia views as a threat. In addition to their “global war on terror,” hawks in Washington have recently been talking up a new Cold War with Russia. Georgia was an eager volunteer in this effort and has learned quickly the correct rhetoric: one Georgian minister claimed that “every bomb that falls on our heads is an attack on democracy, on the European Union and on America.” Georgia has been trying to join NATO, and sent 2,000 soldiers to help the U.S. occupy Iraq. It may have hoped that once war started this loyalty would be rewarded with the kind of round-the-clock airlift of weapons that Israel receives from the U.S. during its wars. Instead so far the U.S. only helped airlift the Georgian troops from Iraq back to the beleaguered home front.

By helping Georgia, Israel may have been doing its part to duplicate its own experience in assisting the eastward expansion of the “Euro-Atlantic” empire. While supporting Georgia was certainly risky for Israel, given the possible Russian reaction, it has a compelling reason to intervene in a region that is heavily contested by global powers. Israel must constantly reinvent itself as an “asset” to American power if it is to maintain the U.S. support that ensures its survival as a settler-colonial enclave in the Middle East. It is a familiar role; in the 1970s and 1980s, at the behest of Washington, Israel helped South Africa’s apartheid regime fight Soviet-supported insurgencies in South African-occupied Namibia and Angola, and it trained right-wing U.S.-allied death squads fighting left-wing governments and movements in Central America. After 2001, Israel marketed itself as an expert on combating so-called ”Islamic terrorism”.

Georgia’s government, to the detriment of its people, may have tried to play the role of a loyal servant of U.S. ambitions in that region -- and lost the gamble. Playing with empires is dangerous for a small country. As for Israel itself, with the Bush Doctrine having failed to give birth to the “new Middle East” that the U.S. needs to maintain its power in the region against growing resistance, an ever more desperate and rogue Israel must look for opportunities to prove its worth elsewhere. That is a dangerous and scary thing.

Source: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=175564

Russian official reveals Israeli military assistance to Georgia


General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian Military revealed Tuesday the extent of the military assistance Moscow claimed Jerusalem had given Georgia. "Israel armed the Georgian army," he told reported at a press conference held in the Russian capital. According to Nogovitsyn, Israel provided Georgia with "eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for the clearing minefields." Since 2007, he continued, Israeli experts have been training Georgian commando troops; and Israel had planned to supply Georgia with heavy firearms, electronic weapons and tanks, but that plan was eventually scrapped. Nogovitsyn stressed that despite reports to the contrary, Russia began pulling its troops form Georgia on Monday, claiming further that the withdrawal will be accelerated on Wednesday. Georgia, he added, was in breach of the ceasefire agreement, since is had not pulled its troops to the positions they held prior to the conflict.

Source: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7...584829,00.html

Israeli Arms Sales Raise New Concerns


With the eruption of fighting between Russia and Georgia, Israel has found itself in an awkward position as a result of its arms sales to Georgia, caught between its friendly relations with Georgia and its fear that the continued sale of weaponry will spark Russian retribution in the form of increased arms sales to Iran and Syria. After fighting broke out late last week between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Israel's foreign ministry over the weekend recommended suspending the sale of all weapons and defence-related equipment to Georgia, the daily Haaretz newspaper reported. The paper quoted an unnamed senior official saying that Israel needed "to be very careful and sensitive these days. The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons."

Israel's immediate concern is that Russia will proceed with the sale of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, which would help it defend its nuclear installations from aerial attack. Israel, like the U.S., believes that Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing a bomb, and Israeli leaders have refused to rule out the possibility of a pre-emptive strike aimed at derailing Iran's nuclear aspirations. Israel recently conducted a major aerial exercise over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece that was widely viewed as a rehearsal for a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations. But with the U.S. and Europe resorting to diplomatic pressure in the form of sanctions to deter Iran, Israel is loathe to anger Russia, which until now has opposed harsher sanctions on Tehran. Israel's relations with Georgia have been close, partly because there is a large Georgian Jewish community in Israel.

In recent years, ties have also taken on a military dimension, with military industries in Israel supplying Georgia with some 200 million dollars worth of equipment since 2000. This has included remotely piloted planes, rockets, night-vision equipment, other electronic systems and training by former senior Israeli officers.
"Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers," Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili, who is Jewish, told Israel's Army Radio in Hebrew shortly after the fighting erupted. Israel is not a major supplier of arms to Georgia, with the U.S. and France supplying Tbilisi with most of its weaponry. But the arms transfers have attracted media attention partly because of the role played by some high-profile Israeli figures, including former Tel Aviv mayor Roni Milo, who conducted business in Georgia on behalf of Israel Military Industries.

According to media reports, Brig. Gen Gal Hirsch, a senior commander in the 2006 Lebanon war who resigned after the release of a highly critical report on the way the war was conducted, served as an adviser to Georgian security forces. Further attention was drawn to the Israel-Georgia arms trade earlier this year when a Russian jet shot down an Israeli-made drone being operated by the Georgians. Even though weapons transfers were modest in scope, Russian diplomats began increasingly relaying to Israel their annoyance over its military aid to Georgia, including the special forces training provided by security experts. Israel decided about a year ago to limit military exports to defensive equipment and training.

New contracts weren't approved as the arms sales were scaled back. Georgia's request for 200 advanced Israeli-made Merkava tanks, for example, was turned down. There were reports in Israel that the sale of the tanks didn't go through because of a disagreement over the commission that was to be paid as part of the deal. But Amos Yaron, the former director-general of the defence ministry, insisted it had to do with "security-diplomatic considerations" - a clear reference to the sensitivity of the arms sales to Georgia. Israel, Yaron added, didn't want "to harm Russian interests too much." Asked about the motivation to initially engage in the sale of weaponry to Georgia despite concerns it might anger Russia, Yaron replied: "We did see that there was potential for a conflagration in the region but Georgia is a friendly state, it's supported by the U.S., and so it was difficult to refuse."

Source: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=43524

War in Georgia: The Israeli connection


For past seven years, Israeli companies have been helping Gerogian army to preparer for war against Russia through arms deals, training of infantry units and security advice

The fighting which broke out over the weekend between Russia and Georgia has brought Israel's intensive involvement in the region into the limelight. This involvement includes the sale of advanced weapons to Georgia and the training of the Georgian army's infantry forces. The Defense Ministry held a special meeting Sunday to discuss the various arms deals held by Israelis in Georgia, but no change in policy has been announced as of yet. "The subject is closely monitored," said sources in the Defense Ministry. "We are not operating in any way which may counter Israeli interests. We have turned down many requests involving arms sales to Georgia; and the ones which have been approves have been duly scrutinized. So far, we have placed no limitations on the sale of protective measures." Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago following an initiative by Georgian citizens who immigrated to Israel and became businesspeople. "They contacted defense industry officials and arms dealers and told them that Georgia had relatively large budgets and could be interested in purchasing Israeli weapons," says a source involved in arms exports.

The military cooperation between the countries developed swiftly. The fact that Georgia's defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation. "His door was always open to the Israelis who came and offered his country arms systems made in Israel," the source said. "Compared to countries in Eastern Europe, the deals in this country were conducted fast, mainly due to the defense minister's personal involvement." Among the Israelis who took advantage of the opportunity and began doing business in Georgia were former Minister Roni Milo and his brother Shlomo, former director-general of the Military Industries, Brigadier-General (Res.) Gal Hirsch and Major-General (Res.) Yisrael Ziv. Roni Milo conducted business in Georgia for Elbit Systems and the Military Industries, and with his help Israel's defense industries managed to sell to Georgia remote-piloted vehicles (RPVs), automatic turrets for armored vehicles, antiaircraft systems, communication systems, shells and rockets. According to Israeli sources, Gal Hirsch gave the Georgian army advice on the establishment of elite units such as Sayeret Matkal and on rearmament, and gave various courses in the fields of combat intelligence and fighting in built-up areas.

'Don't anger the Russians'

The Israelis operating in Georgia attempted to convince the Israeli Aerospace Industries to sell various systems to the Georgian air force, but were turned down. The reason for the refusal was "special" relations created between the Aerospace Industries and Russia in terms of improving fighter jets produced in the former USSR and the fear that selling weapons to Georgia would anger the Russians and prompt them to cancel the deals. Israelis' activity in Georgia and the deals they struck there were all authorized by the Defense Ministry. Israel viewed Georgia as a friendly state to which there is no reason not to sell arms systems similar to those Israel exports to other countries in the world. As the tension between Russia and Georgia grew, however, increasing voices were heard in Israel – particularly in the Foreign Ministry – calling on the Defense Ministry to be more selective in the approval of the deals with Georgia for fear that they would anger Russia. "It was clear that too many unmistakable Israeli systems in the possesion of the Georgian army would be like a red cloth in the face of a raging bull as far as Russia is concerned," explained a source in the defense establishment.

For in[stance, the Russians viewed the operation of the Elbit System's RPVs as a real provocation."It was clear that the Russians were angry," says a defense establishment source, "and that the interception of three of these RPVs in the past three months was an expression of this anger. Not everyone in Israel understood the sensitive nerve Israel touched when it supplied such an advanced arms system to a country whose relations with Russia are highly tense." In May it was eventually decide to approve future deals with Georgia only for the sale of non-offensive weapon systems, such as intelligence, communications and computer systems, and not to approve deals for the sale of rifles, aircraft, sells, etc. A senior source in the Military Industry said Saturday that despite some reporters, the activity of Georgia's military industry was extremely limited. "We conducted a small job for them several years ago," he said. "The rest of the deals remained on paper." Dov Pikulin, one of the owners of the Authentico company specializing in trips and journeys to the area, says however that "the Israeli is the main investor in the Georgian economy. Everyone is there, directly or indirectly."

Georgian minister: Israel should be proud

"The Israelis should be proud of themselves for the Israeli training and education received by the Georgian soldiers," Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili said Saturday. Yakobashvili is a Jew and is fluent in Hebrew. "We are now in a fight against the great Russia," he said, "and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House, because Georgia cannot survive on its own. "It's important that the entire world understands that what is happening in Georgia now will affect the entire world order. It's not just Georgia's business, but the entire world's business." One of the Georgian parliament members did not settle Saturday for the call for American aid, urging Israel to help stop the Russian offensive as well: "We need help from the UN and from our friends, headed by the United States and Israel. Today Georgia is in danger – tomorrow all the democratic countries in the region and in the entire world will be in danger too."

Source: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3580136,00.html

Israel’s Military on Display in Georgia

When an Israeli-made drone was shot down over the Black Sea this past spring in the run-up to the war between Russia and Georgia, it brought to the forefront a recurrent Israeli dilemma: By exporting its military know-how, is Israel endangering its diplomatic standing? Israel’s military assistance to Georgia, including the doomed drone, thrust into the spotlight two competing interests — nurturing a major source of income, and cultivating ties with major powers, such as Russia, that have long-standing military ties with archenemies such as Syria and Iran. The issue is especially sensitive in Israel, because the tight government oversight of foreign weapons sales exposes the country to the potential for diplomatic setbacks, such as the one in Georgia. “Israel is always playing a careful balancing act between pursuing its own interest and making sure it does not harm its friends,” said Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister who has been involved in recent legislative efforts to tighten arms export rules.

Israeli officials are adamant that those private sales are being carefully vetted before they are authorized by the government. But there are indications that some changes are afoot. The Israeli press has inferred that Foreign Ministry officials were becoming more influential in an oversight committee that vets all arms sales abroad. In addition, the arms export mechanism was tightened in a 2007 law that followed complaints from Washington about arms sales to “sensitive” countries, especially China. While most of Israel’s weapons deals are done by private companies, “not a single bullet leaves Israel without government approval,” according to Sneh. Georgia has stepped up its weapons requests in recent years, as its relations with Russia have soured. Despite Israel’s refusal to allow the sale of most offensive weaponry to Georgia, Jerusalem has been drawn into the conflict.

Israel and Georgia have enjoyed a friendly relationship since the former Soviet Republic gained its independence in 1991. The ties improved noticeably after the election in 2003 of the staunchly pro-Western president Mikhail Saakashvili. As he sought to reassert control over the two Russian-backed semi-autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Saakashvili began to buy weapons to bolster Georgia’s weak military. Willing partners included the United States and other Western countries, as well as Israel, which since 2000 has sold an estimated $300 million worth of weapons to Georgia. The business relationship was facilitated by two Georgian ministers who are Jewish and fluent in Hebrew: Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili and, more important, Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili, 30. While Israel did not agree to sell tanks, planes or missiles, it did authorize the sale of infantry weapons, rockets and night-vision communications, as well as the upgrade of Georgia’s Su-25 ground-attack fighters. It also allowed the sale of intelligence surveillance equipment, including Skylark and Hermes 450 unmanned planes. Those drones would soon become a major issue as tensions from Georgia’s breakaway regions simmered.

In the past six months, the pro-Moscow government of Abkhazia claims to have downed seven Georgian drones. Georgia has denied the reports, except in one instance. On April 20, one of its Israeli-made Hermes 450s was shot down off the coast from Abkhazia. Georgia accused Russia of downing it, a charge supported by a United Nations probe, but Moscow has denied this. Russia then sent Israel’s foreign minister a letter of protest, asking that it stop supplying military hardware to Georgia. The letter pointed out that Russia had sometimes heeded Israel’s requests to refrain from supplying weapons systems to states seen as threatening to Israel, according to a lengthy exposé in the weekend magazine of the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. The Foreign Ministry then asked the Defense Ministry to cancel the authorizations to sell offensive weapons to Georgia and to allow only the sale of defensive weapons, as well as military training, to proceed, Ma’ariv reported.

Israeli officials are quick to point out that they wisely rejected repeat requests for arms from Georgia in the months leading up to the outbreak of hostilities with Russia in early August. The most ambitious one involved the purchase of 200 Merkava tanks, which was vetoed by the Defense Ministry. Georgian officials, however, publicly denied that Israel had cut back on weapons sales. Moreover, they showered praise on Israel’s military help after the beginning of the hostilities last month, with Saakashvili stating at a press conference that “Israeli weapons have been very effective.” Minister Yakobashvili told Israel Army Radio that “Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers.” In the end, Georgia’s army proved to be no match for the Russian military, which has repeatedly accused Western powers and Israel of arming Georgia.

Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia’s deputy army chief, said during a press conference in mid-August that Israel was providing the Georgian military with mines, explosive charges, special explosives for clearing minefields and eight kinds of unmanned aerial vehicles. But he also indicated that some sales had been canceled. “In 2007, Israeli experts trained Georgian commandos in Georgia and there were plans to supply heavy weaponry, electronic weapons, tanks and other arms at a later date, but the deal didn’t work out,” Nogovitsyn told reporters. The Hermes drones were sold to Georgia by Elbit Systems, an Israeli manufacturer whose representatives in Georgia were former minister and Tel Aviv mayor Ronnie Milo and his brother Shlomo, a former director-general of Israel Military Industries. The Milo brothers were also reportedly involved in the sale of a rocket system called Links, which is manufactured by IMI, as well as in the aborted Merka tank deal. They have declined to comment on their Georgia dealings.

In addition, several former senior Israeli army officers have been involved in training Georgian army infantry battalions. One such officer, Gal Hirsch, resigned from the army two years ago, after being heavily criticized by an official inquiry into the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah that precipitated what is now known as the Second Lebanon War. Hirsch then set up a security company called Defense Shields and received approval from the Defense Ministry to train elite anti-terrorist units in the Georgian army. The effort was undertaken in tandem with Global C S T, a company owned by retired major general Israel Ziv, and Nirtal, a company headed by reserve officer Nir Shaul. Although the companies announced that they had completed their projects in Georgia before August 7, the date the fighting began, the presence of Israeli trainers and weaponry has been noted in Russia, among anti-Israel circles and even by Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, who described the Russian military victory over Georgia as a defeat for Israel. “Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia, and they, too, lost because of him.” He made the remarks last month in a speech marking the two-year anniversary of the Lebanon War.

In recent weeks, Israeli officials have gone out of their way to smooth the tensions with Russia over the war with Georgia. In addition to Russia’s diplomatic and economic clout, its weapons sales have been a major headache for Israel. The most immediate concern is Russia’s sale to Iran of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, which would help Iran defend its nuclear installations from aerial attacks. Likewise, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Russia in the wake of the Georgian war has fueled concerns in Jerusalem that Russia was retaliating against Israel by stepping up military support to Damascus. Despite the diplomatic backlash with Russia, Sneh believes that Israel “handled the Georgia situation properly” and that it had carefully vetted the arms sales “to ensure that they would not have strategic consequences. It just so happens that a war broke out.”

Source: http://www.forward.com/articles/14193/#ixzz18U0Awaxg

Russia threatens sale of offensive weapons to Israel's enemies


Russian security officials threatened retaliation against Israel for its weapons exports to Georgia including eight different aerial drones. Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Israel supplied at least eight different models of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Georgia. Nogovitsyn said Israel has also sold a range of weapons and sought to export main battle tanks to Georgia.Russian diplomatic sources said the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was furious over Israel's refusal to impose a military embargo on Georgia. The sources said Putin's aides had urged Israel several times to halt weapons exports. "We asked Israel not to sell offensive weapons to a hostile neighboring state, but they said they're a sovereign state," a diplomatic source said. "Well, Israel shouldn't be surprised if we sell offensive weapons to Israel's neighbors." Already, Russia, in wake of its military victory over Georgia, has scheduled a summit with Syria to discuss offensive weapons sales, the sources said. Syrian President Bashar Assad was scheduled to meet Putin in Moscow on Aug. 20.

Major Neo-Con Role in Russo-Georgian War

Caspian Sea oil pipeline, sovereignty at heart of Russia’s blowup with U.S. ally

George W. Bush and his neo-con cohorts are behind the Russo-Georgia war, inside sources on the ground in South Ossetia and in Washington have revealed. Israel is also involved on behalf of Georgia because of oil. The sources remain anonymous. Russia’s attack was in response to U.S. plans to install missile sites near its borders and to bring Georgia into NATO. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for Russia to regain its influential position in former Cold War ally Cuba, giving his country a military presence reminiscent of the 1963 Cuban missile crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. This threat emerged earlier (AFP, Aug. 4, 2008) but was blacked out by the mainstream media.

“We should restore our position in Cuba and other countries,” Putin said, while hearing a report on a recent Russian delegation’s trip to Cuba. “It is not a secret that the West is creating a ‘buffer zone’ around Russia, involving countries in Central Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic states and Ukraine,” said Leonid Ivashov, head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems. “In response, we may have to expand our military presence abroad, including Cuba.” Earlier, Russia threatened a “military technical” response to U.S. plans to put missiles in Eastern Europe near its borders. Russia strongly opposes plans of Western oil companies, including Israeli firms, to route oil and gas that transit Georgia through Turkey instead of linking them to Russian pipelines. Tel Aviv owns a heavy interest in Caspian oil and gas pipelines.

The Swiss-based Israeli investigative journalist and author Shraga Elam reports that Israel, with U.S. connivance, was behind the attack against South Ossetia by the tiny former Soviet state of Georgia. “There is an obvious Israeli involvement in the present conflict between Georgia and Russia,” he says. “There are hundreds of Israeli military advisers in Georgia. . . .” He quotes sources like military expert Yossi Melman in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz: “Melman wrote that Georgia became a real El Dorado for Israeli arms dealers and numerous representatives of the army and intelligence services. Some former generals like Israel Ziv and Gal Hersh (with his company Defensive Shield) are very active there. “Hersh and Ziv are mainly training and consulting Georgian army units. They are using the ‘chain’ method common among Israeli arms dealers: a main contractor wins a tender and employs sub-contractors—in this case Israeli officers and former Shin Bet employees,” wrote Melman.

According to him there was a project to sell Merkava tanks to Georgia, The Ma’ariv newspaper points out that the Georgian defense minister, David Kezerashvili, lived for a while in Israel and speaks Hebrew. In a lengthy article the military exports to Georgia are described. Ma’ariv estimates them to be of a value of at least $300 million. An Israeli marketing expert told Ma’ariv: “To every Israeli agent representing an Israeli defense company is attached a cousin of the defense minister, who opens the doors for him.” Also, Israeli news web site (News First Class) confirms the massive presence of Israeli advisers in Georgia and writes: “The Israeli military industries upgraded the Georgian air force, sold unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced artillery systems and trained infantry units.” U.S. “consultants” are helping the Georgian army. According to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, there are 127 U.S. military trainers there, of whom about 35 are civilian contractors.

In addition to the trainers, 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Ohio, and the U.S. state of Georgia’s Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry participated in “Immediate Response 2008.” Operation Immediate Response 2008 was held from July 15-July 30, with U.S. personnel training about 600 troops at a former Soviet base near Tbilisi, the largest city and capital of Georgia. The goal of this operation was allegedly teaching combat skills for missions in Iraq. The Marines left, but not the airmen. Georgia had sent 2,000 soldiers to Iraq, who were recalled to face the Russian invasion. Washington has provided Georgia with materiel and advisers, and so did Israel—at least until Russia pressed it to stop, reportedly in return for promises to withhold advanced weapons from Syria.

The South Ossetia separatists claim U.S. intervention, saying there are black people among the Georgian casualties. But even if some American personnel went discreetly into action, that would not suffice to deter Russia from bringing Georgia to heel, if not physically occupying the country. And then the Western loss will not be limited to the independence of a small, remote, struggling democracy. Among items Israel has been selling to Tbilisi are pilotless drone aircraft. Russian fighters shot one down in May, according to UN observers. Russia sent Israel a letter of protest after the shooting incident asking it to stop supplying military hardware to Georgia “as Russia from time to time complies with Israel’s requests not to supply weapons systems” to states seen as threatening Israel, according to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. Israel is one of the world’s leading arms exporters but does not detail the contents or value of its trade with individual countries.

In addition to the spy drones, Israel has also been supplying Georgia with infantry weapons and electronics for artillery systems, and has helped upgrade Soviet-designed Su-25 ground attack jets assembled in Georgia, according to Koba Liklikadze, an independent military expert based in Tbilisi. Former Israeli generals also serve as advisers to the Georgian military.

Howard Carson, AFP Southwest Bureau chief, travels widely and has influential contacts in Russia and other countries.

Source: http://www.americanfreepress.net/htm..._role_146.html