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Still a Russian threat

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, October 28
More than a year has passed since the Russian aggression against Georgia but the threat of repeat attack is still there. From time to time we are presented with new reports that a possible invasion is being prepared. It is difficult to say why we keep hearing these reports. Either an information war is being conducted to threaten Georgia or they really are an overture to further aggression. Alternatively they are designed to further discredit Georgia’s image as a reliable partner, or a combination of any or all of these things.

Some time ago Russian military analyst Pavel Felgengauer, in an interview with one of the Georgian newspapers, predicted the possibility of a new war with Russia. Felgengauer is a much respected and trusted expert, particularly as he had predicted the war in August 2008 well in advance. Felgengauer initially said that Russia would attack again this summer, but then US Vice President Joe Biden came to Tbilisi, Obama and Hillary Clinton visited Moscow and Russia did not take that step. Now it is autumn and nobody, or almost nobody, starts a war on the eve of winter. However Felgengauer foresees that in spring, probably some time in April, Russia will launch a full scale attack on Georgia.

Felgengauer suggests that Russia is concerned that it has no direct contacts with its ally in the South Caucasus, Armenia. Russia has an important military base in Armenia but faces serious problems with logistics and the supply of weapons. Local analysts also have started suggesting that Russia wants to attack again because Moscow’s recent allegations that Georgia is assisting Al-Qaeda gives it grounds for doing so in its own eyes. Representative of the Chechen Diaspora in Georgia Khizri Aldamov thinks that Russia will strike in the Kakheti region, where the Pankisi Gorge, alleged shelter of Chechen and other Islamic fighters, is located.

There is much concern in Georgia about the recently adopted Russian law on the use of Russian military forces outside the country, which states that if Russia perceives its citizens are being threatened, no matter which country they are in, it can use force to protect them. There is yet another recent amendment to Russia’s legislation which allows it to use nuclear weapons for preventive reasons. Nodar Natadze, once a very active political figure, is warning that this Russian law has been greeted with total silence by the international community. He has even suggested that we start building nuclear shelters in Georgia and ask our Western allies to help us do so.

The assurance of the Georgian authorities does not instill much confidence. Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Georgian Parliament Irakli Kavtaradze has stated that the international community will protect us and Russia will not do what it did last year. There might be provocations but no war. However these are mere words, there are no guarantees that the Kremlin would not try and finish what it started last August. It openly claimed then that its main target was to remove the Saakashvili administration but it did not do this, so who knows? Moscow has several times stated that it does not want Georgian soldiers to be adequately trained and prepared or equipped with modern arms and ammunition. On the other hand the USA is also openly declaring its support for Georgia. Deputy Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow has repeated that the US will assist Georgia by providing weapons and training.

Recently Joe Biden said that there are two inviolable principles the US will not compromise over with anyone, firstly that there are no spheres of influence anymore and secondly that it is the right of every sovereign country to make its own decision about joining any treaty or union. Of course Georgia and Ukraine are the first countries which will be affected by the application of this US formula at present, but whatever the US position may be Russia is unpredictable. Politicians can say what they like, but in reality, when you deal with Russia nothing can be excluded.