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Controversy: anti-missile systems in the Caucasus

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, September 22
The US refusal to deploy the previously promised anti-missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the presumption that they will therefore be put somewhere in the Caucasus, have aroused widespread discussion and speculation, particularly here in Georgia.

So far, the threat from Iran has been purely virtual for Georgia but the threat from Russia realistic, and we saw last year. The Georgian population has assessed this US step as an extra concession to Russia and is not very happy about it. Members of the Georgian administration are trying to sugar the pill by talking about “reinforcing international security system” and suchlike but this does not make people more enthusiastic about the US policy being changed. Furthermore the idea that the anti-missile systems might now be deployed in or near the Caucasus is raising additional concern. Although it has not yet been specified whether they will be put somewhere in the Black Sea, Turkey or another country the Caucasus was directly mentioned as a possible site for these systems, the only possible location specifically given by the US official at a recent press conference on the subject.

There is no doubt that President Obama is conducting his ‘reset’ policy and more concessions may be made to Russia in order to obtain its support on Afghanistan and Iran issues. Western European leaders welcomed the US decision, official Prague and Warsaw met it with understanding but the essence of the problem was clearly presented by the New York Times. Poland and the Czech Republic have no problems with Iran, they are afraid of Russia. US anti missile systems and American soldiers meant security to those countries. Now America has to propose some alternative way to protect Central European countries from the possible Russian threat. The Obama administration’s decision was criticised by US Republican Party members and maybe some ordinary Americans as well, which is hardly surprising as all Americans were brought up on anti-Soviet rather than anti-Iranian rhetoric.

The Georgian administration has welcomed the US decision. Davit Darchiashvili, head of the Committee for European Integration of the Georgian Parliament, has stated that the US’s intentions are consistent with the drive to ensure international peace and stability and also meet Georgia’s own requirements and needs. This is what is essential, where and how these systems are deployed being of lesser importance. Analysts however challenge this and have expressed the utmost interest in where the systems will be stationed. Soso Tsiskarishvili suggests that Turkey or Azerbaijan will host them as Georgia is too small and has too many internal problems. Giorgi Tavdgiridze thinks it possible that some of these systems might be deployed in Georgia territory, while Ramaz Klimiashvili suggests that Israel is the most likely place. Georgia’s former Foreign Minister during the Shevardnadze administration, Irakli Menagarishvili, thinks that most of the East European countries want firm guarantees against possible Russian aggression and last year’s attack on Georgia made the feeling of being under threat more acute in those countries. However he disagrees with the notion that the Americans have retreated and let those countries down. “Russia is not a country you can bargain and do deals with. Everybody knows very well the value of Russian promises,” Menagarishvili thinks.

There is another opinion, shared by many of the Georgian opposition and members of the public, that the deployment of an anti-missile defence system will not provide any additional guarantee for Georgia but on the contrary it will create a further threat by making the Caucasus a target for intercontinental missiles. On this basis Georgians, like the Czechs and Poles, should start protesting loudly about the deployment of these systems in our country. However it is likely that, although this issue arouses many passions, these will decrease as soon as the US makes up its mind where it wants to put these anti-missile devices.