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Russia to hold inflammatory military drills in South Caucasus

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, January 18
Russia’s annual military drills “Kavkaz 2012”, which according to Russia’s Defence Ministry will not be limited to Russia’s southern regions, but will also include Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has caused huge resonance in Tbilisi.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry released a condemning statement late on Monday evening, calling on the international community to pay due attention to the fact that Russian foreign policy continues to apply aggressive practices. “Russia represents a source of destabilization and negative developments in the international area,” reads the Ministry’s statement.

According to the previous statements of Russian authorities, Kavkaz 2012 was supposed to be more moderate. Russia’s armed forces’ Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov said in December, that “no great amount of troops” would be involved in the Kavkaz 2012 drills and that the focus would be on “tactical level units”.

Itar-Tass news agency however reported on January 10, quoting a source from Russia’s General Staff of the army, that officers and small army units from Abkhazia and South Ossetia would also be invited to participate in the Kavkaz 2012 drills in the second half of September.

According to the report officers would take part in simulation-based command and control trainings. “There won’t be large scale manoeuvres… Small military contingents of the three states will be involved,” the Russian army source was quoted.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in its statement on January 16, that Russia’s planned drills, also involving troops from the breakaway regions, was part of Moscow’s policy of militarizing the occupied territories and provoking permanent tensions in Georgia and the entire Black Sea region.

According to Akaki Minashvili, Head of the Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee, Russia will harm itself by conducting “Kavkaz 2012”.

As the MP told reporters, this type of drill as well as other acts of aggression is counterproductive for Russia. He said that unfortunately the Russian leadership cannot learn from its own mistakes. The MP noted that Russia has plenty of internal economic and political problems which have triggered a wave of protest in the Russian people.

“If the Government does not change its policies, it will harm itself,” said the MP.

According to him, there is no danger of spontaneous military aggression from Russia, but the international community is carefully watching this country.

Analyst on conflict issues, Paata Zakareishvili opines that by conducting joint military drills Russia, on the one hand, will demonstrate its power, and on the other hand, coordinate the forces which Russia gained as a result of occupation.

According to Zakareishvili, such extensive drills are also aimed against possible NATO military operations in the region. “It is obvious that these drills are a demonstration of force, first of all against NATO. Additionally the fact that these exercises also include Armenia means that Russia wants to show who the host in this region is,” said Zakareishvili.

According to the Russian Defence Ministry Kavkaz 2012 will be implemented in September 2012. Unlike previous “Kavkaz” military drills, which have been conducted annually since 2008, “The training will be conducted not only in the Russian Federation, but also in Armenia, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions”. The trainings will involve the Ministry of Defence, as well as the forces of the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, and Ministry for Emergency Situations.

Apparently NATO operations over the past decade including the most recent operation in Libya, which was severally criticized by Russian premier Vladimir Putin, seriously harmed Russian political libido. Thus implementing such “grandiose” military drills will placate the Kremlin’s ambitions for a while. Yet according to the statements of Russian officials, Russia will avoid the risk of opposing NATO in the event of possible military conflict.