Who should be threatened by the S-300s?
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, August 26
Georgian is assuming that Russia has already installed the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles on so called South Ossetian territory, after the missiles' deployment in de facto Abkhazia, according to a statement on the issue was made by Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, on August 24.
“Russia has already deployed the S-300 anti-aircraft system in de facto Abkhazia and they have spoken openly on the issue. They have not talked about the system's deployment on separatist South Ossetian territory, but we assume that the missiles are already located in Tsikhinvali as well. By these activities Russia is forming a triangle in the South Caucasus, which will be a useful weapon against NATO, in their (Russians) opinion,” Vashadze stated.
The Russian Defence Ministry denied the fact, Interfax reported on August 25. To protect the Russian military base in South Ossetia, Russia uses anti-aircraft systems such as Buki, Tungiska and some others, not the S-300. However, when the Russians and Abkhazians spoke about the anti-aircraft system deployment in Abkhazia, Russian officials also mentioned South Ossetia’s defence by S-300, “We have deployed the S-300 system on the territory of Abkhazia. Its role will be anti-aircraft defence of the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in cooperation with the air defence systems of the army. The task of these air defence systems is not only to cover the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia but to avert violations of state borders in the air. Their aim is to destroy any flying object penetrating the covered territories, whatever the reason for the flight,” Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation air force, General Alexander Zelin said.
Leading Georgian officials and analysts view the system's deployment as threatening, not only for Georgia and the Caucasus region, but for NATO and the rest of the world, “The act emphasises once more that Russia does not care about the fate of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian people. They need the territories to demonstrate their force in this region and primarily, it is NATO that should be concerned about it,” Georgia’s State Minister for Reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili, stated.
Military analyst and the editor of the analytical military magazine Arsenali, Irakli Aladashvili told The Messenger, “When Russians deployed this system on the territory of de facto Abkhazia I was not surprised, as Russia is and will continue to do its best to strengthen its power in the Caucasus. The Americans mentioned then that they knew about the system’s existence in the region. I am interested in why they did not inform the Georgian authorities about the issue, if they consider the Georgian Government an ally, and why they did not protest the fact until the Russians and Abkhazians spoke of the anti-aircraft system in the de facto region? I would not be surprised if the Russians also deployed the system in so called South Ossetia, as from there Russians will be able to control a significant area.” The analyst went on to add, “With this anti-aircraft system the Russians will also be able to control flights between west and east Georgia and make obstacles for planes and any other flying objects, including the President’s plane. It will also be easy for them to create problems for international aircraft, but of course they will avoid international irritation and refrain from such activity. However because of some threat foreign companies might refuse to use Georgian air space, which will be negatively reflected on our economy.”
Analyst in conflict issues, Paata Zakareishvili views the deployment on Georgian territory as more of an international threat. “The deployment of such a serious defense system on Georgian territory should not be considered a problem just for Georgia; that system is intended mainly as a threat for NATO, United States, Turkey and for some other countries. It is an international problem. I am sure that Russia has no intention to leave those occupied regions, as it needs the territories. Deployment of its military systems in the South Caucasus is extremely important for Russia for to show the whole world that it has serious defensive mechanisms outside its own areas and very close to its opponents,” Zakareishvili told The Messenger.