Training session for Georgian troops (U.S. Air Force photo)
Moscow has drawn a new “red line” in its confrontation with the regime of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili by calling for its end, just as Russia is preparing for its annual military exercise – which last year was used to invade Georgia, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The military exercise to counter terrorism, called Kavkaz-2009 or Caucasus-2009, will run from June 29 to July 6 with more than 8,500 troops, up to 200 battle tanks, 450 armored vehicles and some 250 artillery systems deployed to the North Caucasus. The North Caucasus consists of those regions of southern Russia that include North Ossetia, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
The exercise comes on the heels of a just-completed three-week military exercise in Georgia by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, amid strong protests from Moscow.
Announcement of the Kavkaz-2009 exercise comes just as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stated in recent days that a “red line” would be drawn in dealing with the “current regime in Tbilisi.” Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia.
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Just as in Kavkaz-2008, Russian troops and equipment operating in the North Caucasus for Kavkaz-2009 could move rapidly and set up staging areas in the Georgian breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to facilitate an invasion of Georgia proper.
The Kremlin has labeled Saakashvili’s regime as “terrorist” due to its perception that Tbilisi initiated the attack on one of Georgia’s breakaway provinces, South Ossetia, last year. While analysts suggest it was all a setup by the Russians, Georgia’s actions prompted Russian troops already gathered for Kavkaz-2008 to be diverted operationally to repel what it perceived was Georgian “aggression” on South Ossetia.
“It is our view that this political regime has committed a crime and we will have nothing common with this (regime),” Medvedev said at a news conference. “At the same time, after elections, which will take place in Georgia sooner or later, we surely will be ready to return to discussions of various issues if the Georgian people elect a new leadership capable of maintaining a friendly dialogue with Russia and with close neighbors of the Georgian state – peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
Following the successful Russian invasion of Georgia last August, Moscow immediately gave diplomatic recognition as independent states to the governments of the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
For the most part, the international community does not recognize them as independent states but as provinces of Georgia. According to observers, Russia’s quick recognition was in response to that given by the U.S. and other European countries in February 2008 to the breakaway Muslim province of Kosovo in Serbia, an action Moscow vehemently opposed.
The “red line” threat against the Georgian regime of Saakashvili also comes at the same time Moscow has vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have extended the U.N. observer mission in Georgia.
Moscow’s veto of the 16-year-old U.N. observer mission’s mandate in Georgia also removes the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation, or OSCE, in Europe by June 30. The OSCE is comprised of some 56 nations, including the U.S. and Russia, involved in conflict prevention and crisis management.
“With both the U.N. and OSCE missions given the chop, there will be no independent observers around the conflict zones of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and there will be no mechanism for ensuring that minor incidents don’t deteriorate into wider fighting,” said Lawrence Sheets, Caucasus project director for the International Crisis Group, or ICG, that monitors world trouble spots.