The messenger logo

Some aspects of Russia’s current aggressiveness

By Messenger Staff
Friday, November 13
Russian policy towards Georgia has recently become more aggressive. Let us lift the mask of hypocrisy and not mention the separatist regimes – the confrontation concerning them is between Russia and Georgia.

The Russian media is quite actively speculating about a possible further military assault on Georgia. Official Moscow is conducting a very loud campaign to discredit Georgia and create a situation in which every Russian move, even an aggressive one, can be justified. A Georgian Foreign Ministry statement on November 9 acknowledged this and openly expressed its confidence in where the real threat comes from, not only for Georgia but regional and European security.

Why is Russia so aggressive towards Georgia? Realistically the main reason for the 2008 Russian aggression was not rescuing the South Ossetian population, because even if this had been the case Moscow’s conduct would still have been inappropriate and excessive. As some Russian politicians stated openly, the invasion of Georgia was designed to destroy Georgia’s statehood. Although Moscow managed to separate two regions from Georgia it did not deprive Georgia of its independence so its victory is not complete. The Georgian state exists and is still a headache for the Kremlin.

But here a new issue emerges. Will Russia stop here or continue moving towards its initial goal, either destroying Georgia completely or forcing it back under Russian influence? By declaring and recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states backed up by a Russian military presence Moscow is trying to influence internal political processes in Georgia. It is also attempting to make the pro-Russian forces here more active.

This aggression has also been encouraged by the small price Moscow has had to pay for last year’s aggression. It did not meet great military resistance from the Georgian armed forces, as the Georgian leadership did not expect the Kremlin to launch that level of assault, and thus incurred few losses of either soldiers or military hardware. But more importantly the reaction of the West was tepid. Sarkozy’s intervention merely stopped the fighting, it did not prevent Russia occupying the disputed Georgian territories, recognising them as separate states and transforming them into Russian military strongholds. No sanctions were applied, nor was any serious pressure other than verbal condemnation. In fact Russia put pressure of its own on the international community, torpedoing the UN and OSCE observer missions in South Ossetia by vetoing them and being allowed to get away with this. Now even EU mission monitors are not allowed to enter the Russian-occupied territories, despite the fact Russia is not a member of this organisation and should therefore be unable to make decision affecting this mission.

Russia’s long term goal is to subordinate all the post-Soviet countries. To an extent it has achieved this, as most of the CIS countries were scared into silence by the August 2008 events and the West’s very moderate response to them. If Russia can do this to Georgia, which claims to have a close relationship with NATO countries and is a strategic ally of the USA, how can other countries protect themselves now that Russia has passed legislation allowing it to attack any country if a single Russian tourist is robbed in the street there by a local bandit.

Russian experts predict new military activity in Georgia in spring. Meanwhile Moscow unleashing a black PR attack of global proportions, alleging that Georgian special forces have contact with Al Qaeda and the country is building up its military potential, receiving arms from the US and other countries, in order to try and recover its lost territories by force. No Georgian official has ever said such a thing, and it is unlikely they have thought it, either.

But before Russia moves against Georgia again it has to resolve its Ukrainian problem. Presidential elections there are scheduled for January and Moscow hopes to introduce a pro-Russian Ukrainian President. It is taking all possible and impossible steps to achieve this. We may hope for our own selfish reasons that Ukrainian issues will delay a further Russian onslaught, but they will detain a country almost the size of Russia forever.