DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
May 19, 2004, Wednesday
BLACK SHADOW ABOVE BATUMI
SOURCE: Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurier, No 17, May 12 – 18, 2004, pp. 1,
by Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, Vice President of the Academy of
COLONEL GENERAL LEONID IVASHOV ON NEGATIVE GEOPOLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
OF ASLAN ABASHIDZE’S WITHDRAWAL FROM GEORGIAN POLITICAL LIFE
The conflict between Tbilisi and Batumi appears to be settled, by
peaceful means and with the help of Russian diplomacy.
We may like it that bloodshed was avoided but should nevertheless
thoroughly analyze the processes under way in the Mideast and near
East, the Caspian – Caucasus region.
The first question that automatically leaps to mind is this: why Igor
Ivanov did not facilitate the negotiations between Tbilisi and Batumi
(like Yuri Luzhkov did) but came to the Adjarian leadership with an
ultimatum (like Viktor Chernomyrdin to Slobodan Milosevic once)? Do
Russia’s interests in the region boil down to replacement of the
Of course, we can always explain what happened the way officials of
the US Administration, NATO leaders, and pro-Western Russian
politicians explain them. That it was expansion of the territory of
democracy, free market, and security. Is it all there is to it?
Splitting the Caucasus and Caspian region from Russia is what the
United States is after.
Abkhazia, Adjaria, South Ossetia, Djavakhetia – these are the bases
of the pro-Russian vector on the territory of Georgia. In fact, other
regions of Georgia retain sympathies with Russia. It is the
populations of Adjaria, Djavakhetia, and Abkhazia that welcome
Russian military presence and protest against withdrawal of the
Russian military bases.
For the time being, Abkhazia is more than Saakashvili and his masters
across the ocean can bite off and swallow. Aslan Abashidze himself
was more than they could swallow when steer strength of arms was
relied on. When these attempts failed, the old and tested way was
resorted to – another special envoy of the president of Russia. Five
years ago, special envoy Chernomyrdin speaking on behalf of Russia
persuaded Milosevic to capitulate and effectively paved way to the
American occupation of Yugoslavia. Ivanov helped the Americans and
their puppets in the episode with Eduard Shevardnadze. Moscow must
have decided to use the old weapon again, this time to oust
Abashidze. The weapon was used, and produced the coveted results.
The question of how the recent foreign minister of Russia managed it
is asked nowadays. His prowess as a great diplomat is extolled. I saw
in Yugoslavia how deals like that are pulled off. I can tell you
right here and now that Ivanov merely denied Abashidze support. It
does not take a genius to guess that the Adjaria leader could not
face all of that alone. Not Georgia, by the way. He was facing a
united front of the United States, Russia, and united Europe –
without a single ally. Resistance was all the more impossible because
the country the leader of Adjaria counted on as an ally turned up in
the enemy camp.
Withdrawing from the Caucasus of its own volition, Moscow eliminates
all sympathies with it in the region, burns all bridges as though in
a war. It is doing to prevent anybody, first and foremost Washington
and Brussels, from thinking that it intends to come back to the
region one fine day.
The May 9 explosion in Grozny should have brought the Russian
political elite to its senses. This is an indirect echo of the
“diplomatic success” in Batumi. Region of the Mideast and Near East,
of the Caspian Sea, and Caucasus is an integral geopolitical zone.
The events in Iraq, Chechnya, Dagestan, or Georgia are intertwined.
Meeting with failure in the Mideast, the United States in a hurry to
set up a base in the Caucasus because the Caucasus is a key to
Caspian, Iranian, and Kazakh oil, a bridgehead from which pressure
may be put on Iran, Central Asia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia.
The situation in the Russian Caucasus directly depends on the degree
of Russian clout with the Caucasus. Moreover, the military-political
dominance there is a must for Russian national security.
Abashidze’s withdrawal from the Georgian political arena will have
thoroughly negative consequences for Russia.
1. It should be mentioned that loud protestations against the former
leader of Adjaria and the exuberant crowds supporting his resignation
are mostly the scum incited by foreign secret services paid for in
dollars and promises of economic aid.
The majority of the Abkhazians are shocked by Ivanov’s deed, because
Adjaria was practically the only safe haven in the post-Soviet
territory, particularly against the background of the rest of
Georgia. Abashidze never permitted anybody to drag Adjaria into a
conflict. It was Moscow’s support that guaranteed this internal
stability. These days, the population of Adjaria no longer trusts
Moscow, its fairness, or the hopes pinned on Moscow.
For Russia, it means a loss of yet another sympathizing area in the
2. From the military-strategic point of view, Russia is losing the
system of its military presence in the region. The military base in
Batumi will be isolated from similar bases in Akhalkalaki (Georgia)
and Gyumri (Armenia). It will take Washington and Tbilisi bare months
to start clamoring for its withdrawal. The Batumi port will probably
be closed for Russian ships. And since a pipeline from Baku will run
near Adjaria, an operational military base of NATO or the United
States may appear in the region soon enough.
3. The American-Georgian triumph in Adjaria paves way for revolutions
of roses (i.e. creeping turnovers) in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
These formations cannot – and do not – count on the Kremlin anymore.
It means that Saakashvili’s hands are all but untied. The world does
not pay any attention to statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry
concerning its “worries”. And by the way, the same turn of events in
Armenia is not exactly ruled out either.
Current leaders will be worried by Ivanov’s visits to any CIS country
as of now.
As for the hopes of populations of the Caucasus states for
independent development and prosperity, here are two quotes. Perhaps,
they will help somebody see the light.
“The people of Greece is unmanageable, so its cultural roots have to
be struck at. It may help it see the light then. In other words, we
have to strike at its language, religion, its spiritual and cultural
legacy to neutralize any chance of development. We have to conquer
Greece to prevent it from standing in our way in the Balkans or East
Mediterranean, in the Mideast, or anywhere else in the
conflict-ridden region that has the colossal strategic importance for
us and for the American policy in general,” said unforgettable Henry
Kissenger in September 1994 about one of Washington’s allies from
I’d say that the prospects are quite clear for Georgia, Armenia, and
Russia. Just put any other name instead of Georgia. By the way, the
US Ambassador to Georgia Miles is Kissenger’s ardent pupil and
There is another quote, dated much earlier. Lord A. G. Balfur,
Foreign Secretary of Great Britain (1916 – 1919) said, “The railroad
by which oil is shipped from Baku is the only thing that concerns me
in the Caucasus. If the locals cut one another into pieces, I do not
give a damn.”