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Russian provocations on the horizon: who will stay in deep snow?

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 12
The Tagliavini report, or as it is called in the Georgian media the EU fact finding commission’s conclusions, was written with a high level of diplomatic professionalism, saying everything and yet leaving room for a very broad interpretation of its words, thus, in effect, saying nothing new. Every side can read it in the way which suits it.

We are now interested in how Russia reads the report and what comfort it can gain from it. The Russians were thrilled to read the line which said that the war started when Georgia launched the attack on Tskhinvali. Proceeding from this the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia stated that Georgian and foreign military instructors are training subversive groups in Georgia. This statement should alert not just Georgia but the world, because such claims and accusations are traditionally the prelude to a Russian decision to take further aggressive steps.

At the Parliamentary session of October 9 Christian Democrat member Nika Laliashvili called the comment alarming. He said that analogous statements had been made by the Russian side in previous years and had always been followed by provocations such as violations of Georgian airspace or the bombing of civilian areas. Laliashvili expressed his worry that such statements could indirectly indicate that Moscow is planning such provocations. Laliashvili also stressed that the full Georgian political spectrum should pay more attention to reinforcing and increasing support for the Georgian armed forces and ensuring it has an adequate infrastructure, rather than concentrating on the development of democratic institutions, which are of course very important but not the priority in these circumstances, in his view.

Observation confirms that Russia has various problems in the North Caucasus: Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia are boiling with terrorist and anti-Government activity. So it is very probable that Russia will start hunting for witches and terrorists from abroad in neighbouring countries to detract attention from its own problems. Given recent history, Georgia is the most obvious country in which Russia could do this. It can mastermind some wicked plot which will involve ‘finding’ evidence of Georgians carrying out ‘subversive actions’ in Russia and could launch an operation to neutralise ‘terrorist camps and bases’.

The Russian Duma has given the Russian armed forces the right to start shooting anywhere they like outside the Russian Federation if Russia says there is some threat to it in those places. Russia could easily occupy some parts of Georgia on this basis, as it is sure that Western reaction would be very mild, probably no more than an expression of ‘deep concern’. It has drawn this conclusion from the fact that responsibility for the August aggression has not been clearly assigned and Russia has not been punished for it. The Kremlin will use its traditional methods, and some pro-Russian, or rather pseudonymous Russian ‘expert’, will write that Georgians really have been planning and carrying out terrorist attacks and therefore Moscow’s every aggressive move is justified.

The Russian statement also created concern in the Georgian political leadership as well. But they have decided to rely entirely on the visit of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Moscow. Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Mikheil Machavariani has suggested that advisers will certainly inform Clinton of what was said and it will certainly be given an adequate response. “Otherwise, if Russia sees it can do whatever it wants, I am sure it will undertake more provocations,” Machavariani said.

Before the 2008 Russian aggression we would have said that as autumn was half over and winter approaching it was unlikely that the Russians would start any military operation because of the deep snow falling in the mountains. But now the Russian Army is only 40 kilometres from Tbilisi and could launch a full scale operation in any season. So it is Georgia, not Russia, which could be in deep ... snow.