Writing in North Caucasus Analysis, Valery Dzutsev discusses the plight of Syria’s relatively large (anywhere from between 50,000 to 150,000) ethnic Circassian community. In spite of the Kremlin’s continued support for the Assad regime, in recent months some 350 Circassians have relocated to Russia’s North Caucasus region, and amid the growing humanitarian crisis in Syria it looks as though this number may soon increase.
Apart from the foreign policy dilemmas, the Syrian crisis clearly has domestic implications for Moscow. In particular, some Russian analysts believe that relocating Syrian Circassians to the North Caucasus and the corresponding increase of the Circassians’ influence in the areas adjacent to the city of Sochi could obstruct the 2104 Winter Olympic Games. Moscow is worried that its direct rival in the region, Georgia, is also supportive of Circassian initiatives – in particular, their opposition to the 2014 Olympics. The Kremlin is reportedly also afraid to yield to any popular demands from “below,” at the regional level, since it is regarded as “encouragement of separatism.”
In particular, Dzutsev believes,
It will be harder now for the Kremlin to ignore calls from the North Caucasus to allow the repatriation of Circassians and other North Caucasians from Syria. It will also be difficult to put a cap on the number of Circassians who want to return to their historical land, since the vast majority of people of North Caucasian descent in Syria are ethnic Circassians. Moscow’s effort to keep the North Caucasus isolated from the world may prove to be increasingly untenable.
According to a Russian Army General, former First Deputy Defence Minister and Chief of the General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky, a decision to invade Georgia was made in May 2008, several months before the events of August that year. Baluyevsky makes the claim in a 47-minute documentary that has been released on YouTube, part of which can be watched here.
According to Pavel Felgenhauer,
Putin’s press service immediately confirmed the “Lost Day” as a genuine documentary. After a meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, in the Kremlin, Putin confirmed to journalists the accuracy of some of the “Lost Day” allegations. According to Putin, the plan to invade Georgia was prepared in advance and “the Russian side acted within the framework of that plan.” The General Staff of the Armed Forces prepared the plan of military action against Georgia “at the end of 2006, and I authorized it in 2007,” continued Putin.
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 13 Aug.’10 / 18:30
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said she was "concerned" about Russia’s announcement that it had deployed S-300 air-defense system in Abkhazia "without the consent of the government of Georgia."
"The deployment of such a weapon system in Abkhazia would be in contradiction with the six-point ceasefire agreement as well as implementing measures [agreement signed on September 8, 2008] and would risk further increasing tensions in the region," she said in a statement on August 13.
"I call on Russia to fully implement all its obligations under the ceasefire agreement. The EU reiterates its firm support for the security and stability of Georgia, based on full respect for the principles of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, recognised by international law."
The Independent’s William Dunbar reports from Tbilisi that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed firm support for Georgia, using the word “occupation” to describe the presence of Russian troops there.
The Economist writes in an editorial that thanks to Poland, the NATO alliance will defend the Baltics:
When the war in Georgia highlighted NATO’s wobbliness on Russia, Poland accelerated its push for a bilateral security relationship with America, including the stationing of Patriot anti-missile rockets on Polish soil in return for hosting a missile-defence base… the Baltic states will get their plans, probably approved by NATO’s military side rather than its political wing. They will be presented as an annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension. That leaves room for Sweden and Finland (not members of the alliance but increasingly close to it) to take a role in the planning too. A big bilateral American exercise already planned for the Baltic this summer is likely to widen to include other countries.
Hat tip: Marius