Russia training Ossetian soldiers
By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, February 17A Russian military base located in the breakaway region of so called South Ossetia is forming a battalion made up entirely of local residents, reports the region’s news agency, RES.
According to the spokesperson of the so called South Ossetian Defense Ministry, Galina Guchmazova, the Russian outpost has already begun recruiting local male residents up to age 35 for the new battalion. Ossetian soldiers will be recruited on a contract basis, having the same benefits and salaries as their Russian counterparts.
“Those South Ossetian citizens who desire to serve in the Army now have an opportunity to acquire new knowledge and gain military discipline and techniques on the same level with the Russian Armed Forces,” Guchmazova noted, adding that the new battalion will serve as a source of professional military personal for all of South Ossetia.
The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Wednesday calling this initiative part of Russia's militarization of the breakaway regions.
“Georgia’s occupied territories have actually turned into large military bases and their inhabitants are either employed in the Russian military bases themselves, or are serving with the Russian occupation troops,” reads the statement.
According to the Foreign Ministry, “additional financial and material resources are being allocated for the strengthening of the Russian occupation troops against a background of daily accidents in military (including nuclear) facilities [in Russia], which pose a real threat to the Russian population as well as to the population of neighbouring countries and indeed to the world as a whole".
Russia, meanwhile, continues to its flex its foreign policy muscles as tension over Iran increases. Head of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Nikolai Makarov, said in an interview with Echo-Moskvi, a Russian radio station, that the military leadership does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons if there is such a need. Among potential targets, the Russian general said that there are some neighbouring countries in which the use of nuclear weapons is not necessary.
“Unfortunately, we are facing threats from a number of unstable states, where no nuclear weapons but well-trained, strong, and mobile armed forces are required to resolve any conflict situation,” Makarov said.
He also described plans to modernize Russia’s nuclear arsenal. These include adding 10 Borey-class strategic nuclear submarines, bringing its Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers up to date, and adding Yars mobile ballistic missile systems.
According to Georgian military analyst Irakli Sesiashvili, the so called South Ossetian army is being transformed under Russian management. “It means that former gangs of separatists will become a part of the Russian Army,” said Sesiashvili.
As for the threatening statements coming from Russia's military establishment, Sesiashvili believes that a nuclear-capable state must show restraint, as they cannot become an object of open and direct aggression. However, he conceded that it is possible that Russia could resort to nuclear warfare if there is a threat to its statehood.