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Threat of repeat attack

Tuesday, October 28
Despite the high scale financial and moral support, and peacekeeping observers, Georgia is receiving from the West there is high speculation locally that Russia might repeat its attack on Georgia.

Both Russia and the EU talk about the fulfillment of the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement but their interpretations of it are different. Russia is still trying to cheat the world, highlighting its withdraw from the buffer zones and pretending this is a fulfillment of the abovementioned plan. The plan stipulated that the sides return to their prewar positions, which has clearly not been done as yet. But the West has very light-mindedly turned a blind eye to this, to avoid complicating its own rather difficult relations with Moscow, and asserted that the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement has been ‘partially’ fulfilled, and therefore the process is being completed successfully.

It is noticeable that Western diplomats and politicians don’t talk about this ‘positions prior to the 7th of August’ condition when they make this claim. Indeed, there are other reasons why it is difficult to believe there is any basis for it. The Kremlin shows not the slightest intention of pulling out of Akhalgori or the Kodori Gorge/Upper Abkhazia. It will not allow IDPs to return, ethnic cleansing goes on and the EU observers are perpetually criticized by the Russian-backed puppet leaders of the separatist regimes. The observers are humiliated and not allowed to enter the territories of these so-called sovereign countries, and on October 26 the South Ossetian leadership announced it had detained EU observers for crossing the South Ossetian state border(?!)

There is little hope that the November 18 Geneva conference will yield any positive results and most likely it will be sabotaged as the October 15 negotiations were. Moscow is doing its best to somehow legitimize the illegal regimes, another breach of another clause of the ceasefire agreement. The Kremlin hastily builds military bases in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia. Georgian intelligence says that more soldiers are entering the disputed territories from Russia. The EU is rejoicing because the Russians withdrew from the buffer zones. But this is a mere fraction of what the ceasefire agreement, and therefore EU intervention, was supposed to achieve.

Could anything prevent Russia from repeating its attack on Tbilisi? Provocations occur every day. Separatists and Russians kill each other and blame Georgia. Any such incident could be used, according to Russian logic, as a reason to attack Georgia once again. Russian tanks and soldiers are 50 kilometres from Tbilisi. If Russia wants to, and it does, it can launch a serious attack on the capital. In just 2-3 hours Russian troops could enter it, many hours before Europe could respond in any meaningful way.

The August war was described by the Russians as the ‘forceable restoration of peace’ and a Council of Europe resolution states that Georgia started the war by its assault on Tskhinvali. Of course Saakashvili was trapped, but Georgia did not start the war. It did not enter Russian territory, and everything that happened should be investigated very carefully before blame is apportioned and labels affixed in this way.

Russia is preparing something nasty. An ideological war has begun. Its media perpetually spouts misinformation about Georgia’s ‘aggressive steps’ and possible terrorist attacks from Georgian Special Forces, either around the conflict zones or within Russia itself, including its big cities. This has also put the Georgian opposition in a very difficult position. It urges the authorities to be more careful and not get trapped again, but any serious public manifestations of discontent could trigger aggressive action by Russia, which is not what the opposition is seeking to achieve.

Of course Georgia cannot stop Russian aggression alone, but so far no forces have shown they can or will seriously assist this small country. Maybe Russia will not launch a new attack but will continue keeping Georgia in suspense, fearful and thus unstable, while it tries to discredit Georgia’s image in the world by talking about “Tbilisi’s militaristically vengeful” spirit. Whatever happens, it is unlikely that anything will change positively before the results of the US elections are known and a new US administration starts functioning, a timeframe Russia is well aware of. Nothing will change, either, until the December NATO Ministerial meeting delivers its verdict and there is some stabilization of the economic situation.