Saakashvili’s scenarios

Agency WPS
July 16, 2004, Friday


SOURCE: Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurier, No 26, July 14 – 20, 2004, p. 2

by Colonel Anatoly Tsyganok, Candidate of Military Sciences,
Professor of the Academy of Military Sciences


Escalation of tension in South Ossetia may reach the boiling point
any moment and a shooting war will follow. Meantime, Georgian
newspapers are full of articles on how much Moscow needs a Georgia
without stability and on how Moscow’s tactic is being executed by

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said, “Promises of the Russian
leaders to take measures have remained promises so far.” Koba
Davitashvili of the parliament of Georgia agrees with the premier.
“Russian peacekeepers are occupiers. They must immediately leave,” he
said. Interior Minister Irakly Okruashvili doubts the necessity of
the Russian contingent’s presence in the region. “Unless Russian
peacekeepers provide peace in South Ossetia, expediency of their
presence in the conflict area may be questioned,” he said.

In fact, Tbilisi has never lifted a finger to gather the lands around
it. It has Russia to thank for the process. It was Russia that
unified Georgia into an integral formation and saved it from
disintegration in the space of almost two centuries. Moscow finances
the republic all through the history of the Soviet Union. Should
Russia stops exerting political, economic, financial, and military
effort to preserve Georgia, nothing – not even the United States,
NATO, or the European Union – will save it from disintegration into
several states.

According to Western sources, Georgia is the poorest country in the
Commonwealth. Annual per capita income there amounts to only about
$400. Tbilisi’s foreign debts exceed $1.5 billion, and $150 million
of them are owed to Russia for gas and electricity. Economic
dependence of most Georgian families on Russia is colossal. Their
relatives working in Russia send over $1 billion to Georgia. All of
that makes one wonder about statements of Georgian state officials
undermining the system of existence itself of the population of
Georgia and provoking disintegration of the security framework in the
South Ossetian area.

“Peace” option by Saakashvili

Here are some facts enabling observers to judge the option (or plan).
Demonstrating his determination to unify Georgia, its president used
peace-loving rhetoric and propagandistic methods to appeal to the
residents of South Ossetia. Saakashvili spoke of the payment of
pensions as of July 1, free fertilizers and medical services (just
like in Adjaria), broadcasts in the Ossetian language. Along with
that, Georgia began reconstruction of the railroad between Gori and
Tskhinvali and of the detour road bypassing the capital of South
Ossetia and leading to the Georgian villages of Tamarisheni,
Achibeti, Kurta, Kekhvi to the north. This is where the Military
Ossetian Road (30 kilometers of it, at any rate) runs. It is possible
to isolate Tskhinvali from the rest of the world only by cutting the
road there. Three officers of the State Security Ministry of Georgia
were sent to Tskhinvali supposedly to “oversee the construction”.

Defense Ministry of Georgia disbanded its peacekeeping battalion on
January 3, 2004. It was formed again soon, and (according to South
Ossetian sources) its numerical strength increased to 1,500 men by
late May and to between 2,000 and 3,000 by the middle of June.
Battalion of the Internal Troops trained by American instructors was
included in the formation. Internal Troops backed by artillery pieces
and multiple rocket launchers were sent into the conflict area
allegedly for the purpose of a special operation against smugglers.
Additional roadblocks and checkpoints were established in the
villages and along the border with South Ossetia. Tbilisi proclaimed
the move of tank units to Gori. The town is known as the location
where repaired and chalked-off tanks are stored. On July 11, Russian
and OSCE observers noticed two attack and three transport helicopters
(MI-24 and MI-8) in the Georgian army group.

The population of Georgia is brainwashed into believing in existence
of an enemy. The implication is that Russia is the enemy. Society is
constantly updated on what Saakashvili is doing to repel the
potential aggression. TV channels regularly show the motorized
infantry battalion of the Georgian Internal Troops in brand-new NATO
uniforms. The battalion is commanded by Internal Troops Commander
General Georgy Tavtukhashvili.

Resolute and no-nonsense statements made by state officials are
broadcast again and again.

In short, no effort is spared to make the population believe that the
government of Georgia has its own opinion on how the South Ossetian
problem should be tackled, that the government has determination and
a powerful (by standards of the Caucasus) army that would not balk at
anything for the sake of territorial integrity of the country.

The impression is that Georgia is trying to test the level of
Russia’s support (first), gauge the level of Russian peacekeepers’
tolerance (second), and change single-handed the format of the 1992
Dagomys Accords (third). In accordance with them, the
Georgian-Ossetian conflict area should be manned by international
peacekeeping forces comprising Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian
battalions 500 men each. The Russian battalion should include two
MI-8 helicopters.

Along with everything else, Tskhinvali is irritated by neglect of the
accord to dismantle additional police and customs roadblocks and
checkpoints by Georgia. And that Georgia still retains South Ossetian
vehicles that ferried goods to Georgia.

Nocturnal marches of 200 Georgian servicemen commanded by interior
and state security ministers in South Ossetia may be regarded as a
provocation. These servicemen forced the Russian convoy to pull over
under the threat of weapons. This particular episode persuades some
observers that official Tbilisi deliberately aggravates the situation
in the hope to settle the old conflict to its satisfaction as soon as

Moscow’s point of view

As far as Russia is concerned, a peaceful solution to the South
Ossetian problem is only possible on the basis of the previous
accords. First and foremost, the matter concerns the 1992 (July 24)
Dagomys Accords on settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.
Within their framework, the involved parties should discuss the terms
of gradual reduction of the numerical strength of peacekeeping
contingents. Restoration of trust between the warring sides will play
a significant role in the peace process. In March, the European Union
initiated the program of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area
rehabilitation. The program realization protocol was signed by
Georgia, South Ossetia, North Ossetia – Alania, OSCE, and European
Union. The European Union allotted 2.5 million euro for the program
and Georgia began receiving the few installments.

The situation being what it is, pugnacious statements of Georgian
leaders perplex observers. Particularly since the new foreign
minister of Georgia is called by her former colleagues a seasoned

Over 10,000 people left South Ossetia for North and almost 30,000
Ossetians left Georgia in the war of the early 1990’s. The new
shooting war will probably bring about some similar results. As far
as Russia is concerned, a calm border in the Ossetian direction is a
priority in development of relations with countries of the Caucasus.
If Georgia proceeds in the direction of a forceful annexation of
South Ossetia, state interests of Russia and Georgia will certainly
part company because the war will both deteriorate the situation in
the border regions and echo all over the Caucasus. It is also
important for Moscow that most residents of South Ossetia are
citizens of the Russian Federation.

For the time being, the situation is only beginning to deteriorate
into an armed confrontation. As before, 12 years ago, cars carrying
women and children leave South Ossetia for Russia.

The worst outcome

Does Tbilisi really count on victory in the hostilities? If it thinks
so, it had better think again.

Firstly, the rugged terrain typical of South Ossetia will certainly
cut down combat capacities of the offensive and particularly
efficiency of armored vehicles. Relatively small units – properly
trained, knowing the terrain, camouflaged, and wielding modern
weapons – can hold narrow roads in the foothills for a long time.

Secondly, Tskhinvali is bare kilometers from the southern border of
the republic that is denied recognition by the international
community and its location is not favorable for defense. All the
same, drawing on the experience of the previous war, South Ossetians
will probably emplace their artillery pieces on the tops of the
nearby mountains currently controlled by them. It follows that the
capture of the capital of South Ossetia will take a lot of effort and
losses. Moreover, nobody can give any guarantees that the city will
be held afterwards.

Moreover, even despite Russia’s official statement on non-involvement
in the armed conflict, Ossetians will not abandon their brothers in
the south. They will help offering shelter, providing weaponry,
treating the wounded, and helping families of combatants with

In any case, the use of force will inevitably split Georgian society
– even despite the brainwashing campaign. Not all Georgians will
support the escapade. It stands to reason to assume that instead of
rallying all of Georgia, the war will accelerate processes of
decentralization in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and even the
Armenian-populated Samtskhe-Dvavakhetia, and Azerbaijani-populated
areas. It will generate instability not even Saakashvili or his
predecessors will manage to do away with in decades.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress