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War or crawling annexation?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, June 9
From time to time both the local and international media raise the issue of a further Russian aggression against Georgia being planned. Recently the Daily Telegraph published an article by Damien McElroy entitled 'Russia builds listening post, sparking fears of Georgia strike', reprinted in today's Georgia in the News section.

McElroy states that his information comes from Georgians in senior positions, whose names are of course kept confidential. He says that Moscow is waiting for the appropriate moment to launch another assault. Russia is intensively building up its military potential in the Georgian occupied territories and also, according to Georgian official sources, encouraging some Georgian opposition members to start street rallies with the aim of overthrowing President Saakashvili and his administration.

McElroy's observation is that either Moscow is waiting for the right time to strike or it is creating that right time for itself. The situation in the conflict zone along the administrative borders is pretty unstable and at any moment sufficient grounds for serious provocations, if not more, could emerge. However some analysts challenge this assertion, suggesting that Russia has got what it wanted. Georgia’s territorial integrity has been violated, it has little chance of entering NATO in the near future and the Russian-occupied territories can create political and moral instability in the country. In this view, Russia has more to gain from maintaining the existing situation than starting another war to grab more.

The Kremlin is exercising a policy of crawling annexation in Georgia, snatching new bits of lands in different places. For instance, some time ago Russian border forces took up positions in the Mamisoni pass and pushed the Georgian border 20km back. The Georgian authorities have denied this but they cannot disguise it anymore as Russia has announced officially that a Russian border checkpoint is to be opened there. Of course the Georgian administration is in a very difficult situation, as it does not want to recognise that it has lost extra territory it is unable to recover, but any attempt to regain the Mamisoni would be presented internationally as aggression unless the illegal Russian takeover of the area is acknowledged and presented as such to the countries who all say they support Georgia's territorial integrity.

Georgian analysts think that Russia's next step could be to invade the Truso Gorge, adjacent to so-called South Ossetia. The Georgian Ministry of Defence has recently deployed a regiment in the Gorge but if these soldiers do have to engage with Russians they are unlikely to be able to resist them, meaning another bit of Georgian territory will be lost. Some military experts think that Russia will not take such an aggressive step but Russia is unpredictable. As history shows, the only thing you can guarantee Russia will do is take a superior attitude towards its neighbours, which can often spill over into downright contempt and hostility. All the more reason therefore for Georgia to resist Russian annexation of any kind, be it territorial, economic or political, by taking control of the Georgian Government.