Day: August 28, 2008

Putin: Georgia war was all about McCain

Russia’s prime minister Vladimir Putin has advanced the novel thesis that what he called “the attack by Georgia on South Ossetia” was facilitated by the United States Republican Party in order to boost Senator John McCain’s poll ratings, which had been falling behind those of his rival, Barack Obama, Lenta.ru reports.

This is clearly intended to play well with the crowds at the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorodo, this evening, when Senator Obama takes the platform. For Mr. Putin is an Obama supporter.

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Finnish Islamists back Russia

The possibility that Islamist movements in Europe and probably also further afield to some extent work in harmony with the Putin/Medvedev schemes in the field of military and foreign policy is evidenced by an interesting statement by the Finnish Islamic Party (Suomenislamilainenpuolue), which aims to represent the interests of Finland’s small Muslim minority. The statement condemns the “aggressive acts of the Georgian leadership” and gives the party’s full support to Russia. It also makes a savage attack on the president and government of Estonia, and demands that President Saakashvili be put on trial for war crimes. Although Finland’s Muslims are mostly Tatars, and have little time for fundamentalist ideology, the document is a curious and revealing indicator of the sort of sources where the Kremlin may really be deriving support in today’s world. The fact that the Hamas organization was the first to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia may not be a coincidence.

That some voices in Finland may be helping to foment a movement which they call a “Russian Intifada” among Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority is shown by this blog, which is dedicated to the subject.

There has long been a noted connection between the Kremlin and Islamist groupings, and it is no secret that, as Alexander Litvinenko pointed out before he was brutally murdered in London, Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri trained at a Federal Security Service (the former Russian KGB) base in Dagestan in 1998.

Plan for military bases

Interfax reports a “military diplomatic source” in Moscow as saying that Russia may set up three military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (my tr.):

“Military experts working with specialists from other departments are considering the possible deployment of military bases in the Abkhaz towns of Gudauta and Ochamchira, and also in Dzhava, South Ossetia,” the agency spokesman said. 

In clarification, he remarked that it would be preferable for the bases to be located in places where miliary units were stationed in Soviet times. “In Gudauta, where there’s a military airfield, a paratroop assault unit could be based,  for example, with aircraft and air defence facilities, part of the Black Sea fleet could be put in the port of Ochamchira and in Dzhava a motorized infantry brigade.”

Carl Bildt in the FT

The Financial Times has published an interview with Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt. As the foreign minister notes in his blog, “interest in what Sweden has to say about the European situation just now seems to be relatively strong.” Excerpt:

Carl Bildt told the FT: “They are opening up a Pandora’s box of questions that will be extremely difficult to answer. If you are interested in the stability of the Caucasus – and Russia is more interested in that than anyone else – you should be very careful with borders. . . They have fought two wars in Chechnya.”

Mr Bildt said Russia had sent “shockwaves of fear” throughout the region, but he argued it was likely to be the biggest long-term loser by choosing international confrontation over economic “modernisation”…

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“South Ossetian independence is a joke. We are talking about a smugglers’ paradise of 60,000 people financed by the Russian security services. No one can seriously consider that as an independent state,” he said. 

See also: Bildt: Russia has chosen confrontation

Uncovering the truth

Michael J. Totten, who is in Tbilisi, has a long, illustrated report containing numerous interviews and other features, outlining the origins and sources of the Georgia conflict. Although Totten was guided by an advisor to the Georgian government, he was also able to check many details of what he was told with an independent observer, the Caucasus expert and academic Thomas Goltz, who is quite widely quoted in the text. In particular, Totten is at pains to point out that the present stage of conflict began not on August 7, but on August 6, when an attack by Ossetian forces backed by Ingush, Chechen, Ossetian and Cossack irregulars. This in turn was a sequel to a long series of incidents of Ossetian-organized violence, which coincided with Russia holding

the biggest military exercise in the North Caucasus that they’ve held since the Chechnya war. That exercise never stopped. It just turned into a war. They had all their elite troops there, all their armor there, all their stuff there. Everyone still foolishly thought the action was going to be in Abkhazia or in Chechnya, which is still not as peaceful as they’d like it to be.