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Why is Moscow against NATO trainings in Georgia?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 6
Russian hysteria over the NATO trainings to be held from May 6 until June 1 in Georgia is still disfiguring the landscape. Moscow knows perfectly well that these exercises, scheduled around a year ago, do not threaten any country and Russia received an official invitation to attend them. However the Kremlin has created a great fuss about them.

We think Moscow is aiming at two targets. Its big initial target was to force NATO to retreat and either cancel or relocate the exercises, which fortunately has not happened. If it could not hit this one, it aimed by trying to do so to surreptitiously hit the second, reinforcing its illegal presence in Georgia by signing agreements with its puppet regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to control their administrative “borders” with Georgia. The latter goal has been achieved as a result of the fuss Russia has caused: NATO will stand firm against the demand to cancel the exercises, but show it is magnanimous by allowing the agreements to be signed without qualm.

Last year the Kremlin humiliated NATO twice. In April some leading members of the alliance, hopefully not deliberately, retreated under Russian pressure and refused to grant Membership Action Plans to Georgia and Ukraine, thus indirectly acknowledging Moscow’s influence over NATO decisions. Russia is not of course a member of NATO. Then in August Russia invaded Georgia knowing beforehand that the Alliance had a special relationship with this country and would definitely condemn the aggression. Moscow ignored the condemnation, thus demonstrating NATO’s powerlessness in the face of real, tangible threats.

Now Russia wants to demonstrate once again who is the master of ceremonies in the South Caucasus. Thank God its schemes have not fully worked out this time. But nobody can now predict what will follow. What type of punitive action will Russia take, and against whom?

Russian politicians, including President Medvedev, have used very strong language straight out of the Cold War vocabulary against NATO in reference to these exercises. The long-dead Cold War is still crippling what are supposed to be formal relations between NATO and Moscow. It is significant that Medvedev called NATO trainings “open provocations.” Unsurprisingly but ironically this statement was made at the ceremony where Medvedev signed the agreement on protecting the “borders” of the so- called ‘independent states’ of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the leaders of these puppet regimes. The best form of defence is attack, and therefore Medvedev complained of provocations while signing the most provocative of documents, which challenge international law and aggressively enforce Russia’s occupation of the territory of sovereign Georgia, effectively annexing the occupied land under the guise of fake neutrality.

Moscow ignores international legislation and builds up its military presence in the occupied regions of Georgia. It continually talks about possible Georgian provocations, knowing very well that Tbilisi will not commit another such error, or at least Georgians hope it won’t. Moscow simply wants to prove to the world that this region is its exclusive sphere of interest and influence. Although Moscow started presenting Georgia as an aggressor the Western world does not believe this. Holding the NATO exercises here is proof that Georgia is not understood as an aggressor and the West does not intend to abandon it.

Moscow meanwhile attacks the NATO trainings with different insulting epithets. The Russian representative in NATO Dimitri Rogozin has called the North Atlantic Alliance a blind rhinoceros which creates problems for the countries around it. Having not stopped the trainings Russia is putting pressure on the countries planning to participate in them. Six countries out of the 19 slated to participate have succumbed to this pressure and refused, giving different reasons. These countries are Moldova, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all of whom were formerly Russian-dominated.

Russia is unpredictable and could therefore act in all directions. Moscow has recently started speculating about a possible threat from the Pankisi Gorge, once again part in Georgia, in which it is alleged that Chechen boeviks are being trained and sent to Russia. This allegation could be seen as another facet of Russian aggression, and an excuse Russia might use for more serious action against Georgia, something which the world which allowed the occupations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia has already seen.

If the world does not respond seriously to Russia’s conduct it could provoke any kind of military clash with Georgia, increasing the area of its aggression. How far is too far? How late is too late?