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Senior MP warns of Russia’s new attack plans

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, February 23
Georgian officials are warning of a Russian plan to “open a new frontline” in Georgia. Speaking on Rustavi 2 TV, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security, Givi Targamadze, has said that a “new wave of aggression” is expected from Russia in spring. “A new front is approaching Georgia through the Baltic States and Ukraine, so it is very important to maintain constant contact [between these states], especially in spring,” Targamadze said.

The senior MP also gave details of the alleged plot. He said that Putin will try to “abolish the statehood” of the former Soviet states by several methods, including plotting internal unrest, using economic and energy levers and conducting military operations. Rustavi 2 has reported that Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has already allocated “a serious amount of money” to the plan.

Not everyone is buying Targamadze’s statements. Some analysts say his allegations about Russia opening a new front in spring lack any evidential base. Political commentator Soso Tsintsadze says that Targamadze made an unjustified accusation. Tsintsadze suggests that Russia is unable to start new war for specific economic and political reasons.

“Right now Russia cannot afford the luxury of starting a ‘new wave of aggression.’ Putin might desire to fight over and over until Georgia loses its statehood but now Russia has no capability to do so. Last August Russia had both the economic and political ability to start a war without looking back,” Tsintsadze said, adding that now the situation has changed a lot. “Russia has spent a lot of money to assure Europe that it is not the only one to blame for the war in August. Russia has convinced European society that both sides were equally guilty. Russia will not be able to convince Europe a second time that Georgia has started a war.”

Tsintsadze noted that Russia accomplished some of its aims through the August military conflict. “Russia has achieved some of its goals in respect of Georgia. It has weakened the country and somehow delayed the implementation of the NABUCCO project. It has also caused the rise of anti-Saakashvili sentiments in the population due to the results of the war. Now the only thing Russia has to do is to continue its PR campaign against Saakashvili and wait for further developments inside Georgia. Overall, all these arguments make me think that Russia is not planning any new military aggression. The fear of this is totally groundless,” the analyst noted.

Tsintsadze also said that he was surprised by the contradiction between the statements of Targamadze and those of President Saakashvili, as both are members of the ruling National Movement. Speaking to the Spanish media during his visit to Catalonia, Saakashvili said Russia “cannot allow itself to become aggressive” due to the acute economic crisis it is facing.

Some analysts and opposition members connect Targamadze’s words to the Georgian Government’s fear of the rising anti-Saakashvili mood in Georgian society. Political analyst Gia Khukhashvili has said that the Government is creating an enemy as usual. “The Georgian Government is interested, and always has been interested, in creating the image of an enemy and blaming all Georgia’s internal problems on that enemy. The level of protest against Saakashvili is very high. If Georgian society once again believes the Government’s allegations that the opposition is in alliance with Russian politicians, then it really deserves the Government it has now,” Khukhashvili told The Messenger.

The Georgian opposition is also skeptical about Targamadze’s prognosis, calling it “groundless and senseless.” Tina Khidasheli from the Republican Party said the Government had already used the same kind of scenario in November 2007 but “failed to convince Georgian society.” “The Government should be happy that there is no political party or force in Georgia which supports Russia,” she said.

Khidasheli said Georgian officials are taking preventive measures by making these statements. “They are trying to label everyone who dares to speak up against them as Russia’s agents. Targamadze’s statements will not become a stumbling block for the Georgian opposition’s plans,” Khidasheli stated.

Givi Targamadze did not answer The Messenger’s repeated phone calls.