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Caucasus 2012 military exercises shrouded in mystery

By Ana Robakidze
Tuesday, September 18
The Russian Federation will still hold large-scale military exercises near the Georgian border. The title of the exercises– Caucasus 2012– will be attended and overseen by President Putin himself. PIK TV reported that the Russian president will visit the first stage of the drills at the Rayevsky fire field in the Krasnodar region.

Planned drills have become a serious concern on several bases, not only for the Georgian government, but also for international society and have caused a serious recall. Of course the exercises will be held without observers. Russia has no intention to put everything on display for the world to see and also the number of participant militaries allows the federation to avoid any international observance on their military bases in Caucasus.

Echo Moskvi reports that 8,000 soldiers, about 200 units of military equipment, 100 artillery units and 10 military ships are expected to be involved. The training exercises will be held on September 17-23.

The military exercises can also be looked at as a preparation for another intervention into Georgia. “We have to remember what was brought to us by previous military exercises back in 2008,” Grigol Vashadze, Ministry of Foreign Affairs says. He claims that the stability of the whole region can be put under question if Russia does not cancel the exercises.

Vashadze was supported by Audronius Azubalis, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, who is currently visiting Georgia, together with his counterparts from Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic. During a press conference held at the MFA, Azubalis commented that Caucasus 2012 will definitely not increase the stability in the region.

Military exercises can be accepted as a demonstration of power– especially when the parliamentary elections are approaching in Georgia. Caucasus 2012 can be perceived as yet another threat to a country. A large number of Russian soldiers have accumulated on the shared border with Russia, and this can be a pressure on Georgian voters. This opinion was supported by a number of American politicians also. John McCain, who visited Georgia recently, expressed his hope that Caucasus 2012 is just another planned exercise, without causing any disturbance to the peace and stability in the region.

Russian military exercises also appeared in the scope of NATO interests. The alliance regrets that the Russians do not provide all the necessary information on the planned exercises. NATO is in no way against the training exercises, but more transparency is requested. Russia has never notified the alliance about the aims or scenario of the exercise.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with Euronews TV:

"We are not opposed to the exercises, but we request transparency as a confidence building measure: what is the purpose of the exercise, where does it take place, how will this exercise be conducted? We have not received any formal information from Russia, which we strongly regret,” Rasmussen said.

The Russian ambassador to NATO, Nikolay Korchunov responded to the secretary. In an interview with Kommersant he said: "The racket kicked around Caucasus 2012 strategic headquarters exercise is assuming the nature of an orchestrated media campaign in its scale and bias. The grievances to us are absolutely unjustified."

Korchunov states that information about the planned Caucasus 2012 was available from the very beginning and it is absolutely obvious and apparent that the exercise is in no way directed against NATO or any third side.