Tbilisi: A bear in bear’s clothing

Messenger.com.ge, Georgia
Aug 26 2004

A bear in bear’s clothing

On Tuesday Georgian mass-media and the political establishment
shuttered to see amateur video footage showing a huge concentration
of Russian armed-forces, including soldiers, tanks, armed vehicles,
helicopters, and artillery allegedly in North Ossetian territory
immediately bordering the Roki Tunnel into South Ossetia – the only
artery in the separatist region connecting Georgia to Russia.

The chair of the Defense Committee of the Georgian Parliament Givi
Targamadze stated that from now on Georgia must be prepared to defend
itself from Russian intervention being planned by ‘Russian
imperialists.’ Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze openly asked the
Russian administration to explain the appearance of Russian military
forces so close to the Georgian border without any obvious reason.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant confirmed a large military presence
in Sernovodsk (North Ossetia) where a training of Russia’s 57th army
is underway. According to the paper, it involves more than 2,000
personnel and more than 100 units of tanks and armored vehicles.

At the same time there are preparations underway for another training
with more than 5,000 reservists are expected. Elsewhere in Armenia
Russian and Armenian forces are planning a joint training, that
includes fighter and bomber aircraft and in the Abkhazian conflict
zone Russian peacekeepers are also conducting trainings.

It is important to note, especially after the mysterious crashes of
two Russian passenger jets late Tuesday, that Russia nervously is
watching events before and after the August 29 elections scheduled
for Chechnya. With such a jittery stance, Russia is more likely to
react with unbridled brute force than with a thought-out plan if it
encounters disturbances anywhere in the Caucasus.

Several Georgian politicians mentioned that although full-scale war
most probably has been avoided in the Tskhinvali region, the
prospects of Russian intervention are still very serious. They add
this could be done if not directly through implementing Russian
regular troops, then otherwise by sending military forces into the
region under a guise.

In his statement late on Tuesday, President Saakashvili highlighted
that the direct confrontation has been avoided in the region and
although Georgia should be very cautious towards the developments
with Russia, there should be no possible way for the further
escalation of the confrontation and in particular there should be no
comparison with the events ongoing in Chechnya.

Saakashvili mentioned that Georgia respects the territorial integrity
of Russia and it is not part of Georgia’s intentions to think of a
confrontation with Russia. However, Russia should itself realize and
respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and prove this in deed.

Saakashvili also stressed upon the fact that he is in permanent
contact with President Putin of Russia but it was likely that
President Putin sometimes does not control the entire situation in
his country.

President Saakashvili’s next decision to attend the government
session which had been moved to Adjara gave confidence to the
Georgian population that things are not that dramatic. However,
Georgian law-enforcement is on alert in particular around the
conflict zone.

All Georgian leaders and political figures and political analysts are
unanimous that only through the internalization of the peacekeeping
process in the region could Georgia avoid future complications in the
conflict zone. Therefore Georgia tries to attract as much attention
from international organizations such as the European Union, the
Council of Europe, OSCE and friendly countries including neighboring
Turkey and of course the United States.

Several times Saakashvili mentioned a deeper and full-scale
involvement of the OSCE in monitoring the conflict zone and even
conducting a peacekeeping mission. The headlines of Georgian
newspapers on Wednesday clearly stated that the conflict has not been
resolved yet and the current situation is very far from a peaceful

Unlike twelve years ago, it is difficult to turn a blind eye to
events in Georgia, particularly interference by political groups and
officials based in Russia. The Rose Revolution made it impossible for
countries to turn the other way as they did in the early 1990’s and
throughout the crisis in Chechnya. Moreover, with numerous
achievements under its belt, the young Georgian government has earned
the backing of supporters in Europe and beyond.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress