U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said in Brussels that NATO will defeat Russia’s aims in Georgia, AP reports. She also said that Russia is playing a “very dangerous game” with the U.S. and its allies and warned that NATO will not allow Moscow to win in Georgia, destabilize Europe or draw a new Iron Curtain through it.
Vladimir Socor, who is covering the Georgian crisis from Tbilisi, has published an analysis of Moscow’s plans for the occupation of Georgia. He believes that Russia intends to dismember the country, splitting it into several fragmented entities that are completely dependent on Moscow for their security. An excerpt:
Deep inside Georgia, Russian forces have cut the country into an eastern half and a western half by blocking railway and highway traffic. The Russians have blown up the railway bridge at Kaspi and seized the highway junction near Gori, interdicting all transport. As a result, the government in Tbilisi has lost all overland links with the west of the country and parts of central Georgia. Air links between eastern and western Georgia are also blocked by the Russians.
Russian troops control Georgia’s Black Sea harbor of Poti and adjacent areas and are discouraging commercial vessels from entering the ports of Poti and Batumi. The Russian navy, deployed off Georgia’s coast, is engaged in undeclared or semi-declared blockade measures. The maritime blockade and interdiction of overland communications from the ports to the rest of the country has largely isolated Georgia economically from the outside world.
In sum, Russia threatens to cut up Georgia, informally but methodically, on several levels: 1) in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; 2) through additional buffer zones (glacis) beyond the secessionist areas; 3) by isolating some remote chunks of territory (Svaneti); 4) by cutting off the country’s east and west from each other and isolating Tbilisi; and 5) by controlling the seaboard.
Cumulatively, these moves enable Moscow to threaten to dismember Georgia as a means to force a change of government in Tbilisi. In the next stage, Moscow may try to install local authorities in various parts of the country. Those authorities may then be forced to act without Tbilisi’s approval or even to declare insubordination to Tbilisi. Pro-Moscow groups are a very small fringe in Georgia. The Russians, however, can create supply problems and law enforcement difficulties in order to force local authorities to work with Russian occupation authorities, even if the latter refuse to work with the Georgian government.
A correspondent writes:
On looking back through my computer file on Georgia I found the following part of a Vladimir Socor EDM article relevant to recent events and to the likely delays in the departure of Russian troops:
GEORGIA’S HARD-EARNED CHRISTMAS PRESENT: RUSSIAN MILITARY OUT OF TBILISI
By Vladimir Socor EDM Tuesday, January 2, 2007
On December 25, 2006, the last personnel of Russia’s garrison in Tbilisi and the rump Headquarters of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus (GRVZ) pulled out of Georgia’s capital and of the country altogether. Their unwilling, though ultimately precipitate, withdrawal crowns 15 years of Georgian efforts toward this goal. Moreover, the evacuation brings to a close more than 200 years of the Russian garrisoning of Tbilisi. The imperial Russian army under General Ivan Lazarev occupied Tbilisi in November 1799, using an invasion route from Ossetia (Itar-Tass, December 24)…
…(the withdrawal agreement) stipulated the closure of the GVRZ’s Tbilisi Headquarters by the end of 2008, as the final step in the withdrawal process. However, the Kremlin unexpectedly decided to start and complete the pullout from Tbilisi two years ahead of schedule. Under a worst-case line of speculation, Moscow may have calculated that its Tbilisi headquarters and garrison could have become hostages in the event of hostilities and that their evacuation gives Moscow somewhat greater leeway to initiate a political-military crisis.”
Russia trains its missiles on Tbilisi
RUSSIA has deployed several tactical missile launchers and supply vehicles to South Ossetia, putting the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, within their striking range, The New York Times reported on its website yesterday.
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Before Russian deputy chief of staff Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn claimed the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia had began last night, The New York Times cited US officials familiar with intelligence reports as saying the launching positions were located north of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital.
Officials told the paper that SS-21 missile launchers, as well as supply vehicles, had driven south through the Roki Tunnel into South Ossetia in recent days and were deployed within range of much of Georgia, including its second-largest city, Kutaisi, and Tbilisi. Russian forces used the short-range ballistic missile in the Chechnya conflict, where it was believed to have caused significant civilian casualties.
Via the Telegraph:
President Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine accused his prime minister Yulia Timoshenko of committing “high treason” by not speaking out against the Kremlin during an escalating stand off with Russia.
Timeline of Events in the Russian Invasion & Occupation of Georgia
The information below is accurate to the best of our knowledge but is subject to verification.
18:30 Russian armored vehicles have moved from Igoeti to the village of Odzisi south of Akhalgori.
17:30 Russian military plane entered Georgian airspace from North near Stefantsminda (Kasbegi). It flew towards Jinvali dam, overflew it and returned.
17:30 Georgian police check point attacked by Russian Military near Igoeti. Tanks run over Police Cars.
- Russian armored vehicles began movement from Igoeti towards Akhalgori. On the checkpoint of Georgian police they crashed police cars and continued their movement towards Akhalgori.
16:00 Russian military are exploding barracks and other infrastructures of the Senaki military base.
13:00 Russian Troops start movement towards Sachkhere and Borjomi, most probably for reconnaissance purposes.
11:00 Russian Troops block roads around Kaspi .
Russian forces are not leaving Georgian territory and continue to move deeper inside the country, AFP reports. Shota Utiashvili, Georgian interior ministry representative has made a statement which includes details of Russian troop movements near the city of Borjomi.
A newly released statement by the Georgian government says that
It is absolutely obvious to the international community that the Russian Federation chose destruction of economy with the use of military force and ethnic cleansing as an instrument for implementing its foreign policy.
Read the whole document here.
As I pointed out in an earlier post to this blog, there are at least two terms currently being used by Russian military and political representatives to describe the actions of Russia’s forces in the aftermath of the recent ceasefire agreement. Otvod (sometimes translated as “withdrawal”, but more akin to “pull-back”) and vyvod (withdrawal) are clearly not the same thing. And now at his latest press conference Gen. Nogovitsyn has come out with a public statement that what his forces are involved in is an otvod – this being the only term that was used in Medvedev’s telephone conversations with Sarkozy. “I hope you have noticed the subtle distinction,” he is reported as saying to journalists. Russian media are complicating the matter further by using a third term – otkhod, which many dictionaries give as “withdrawal” in the military sense, but which really just means “leaving”, the precise direction of which is not specified.
By playing with military terminology in this way, Russia is managing to further stall the process of removing its troops from Georgian territory.
Peteris Cedrins has a thoughtful and informative post about the sympathy many people in the Baltic States feel for Georgia:
The photograph in this post is of a work by Jūlijs Straume, an artist renowned for his textiles; I thought I would avoid the photos of carnage one can find everywhere these days. Long resident in Georgia and an avid researcher in Georgian traditions, he was also the first Latvian envoy to the short-lived Democratic Republic of Georgia, proclaimed in the same year the Baltic states declared their independence. The Baltics, with all our tragedy, had better luck — like Belarus, which also declared its independence ninety years ago, Georgia was crushed before it could enjoy the two decades of nation-building we did. Twenty years, sullied by our own descent into authoritarianism and blighted by the shadows of the approaching war, might not seem like much — but our parents and grandparents remembered being free. The maps I grew up with in America almost always bore the note that the United States and most Western countries did not recognize the annexation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by the USSR. The fervent hope that we would regain our independence seemed to be an absurd dream to many even at the fall of the Berlin Wall. The maps had no such note for Georgia, Belarus, or Ukraine — though Georgia did have some success in achieving diplomatic recognition for its doomed Republic, fate and Stalin dictated otherwise.