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Russian military exercises frighten Georgia (16.09.12)

On Monday, Russia will start its military exercises code-named “Kavkaz-2012” in its Southern Military District. Despite the fact that they will be conducted exclusively on Russian soil and only Russian servicemen will take part in the drills, the manoeuvres have triggered international debate.

This was started by Georgia saying that the drills pose a threat to the sovereignty of the Caucasian states. NATO Secretary–General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also expressed concern about the manoeuvres.

From Tbilisi’s point of view, the Russian exercises are dangerous first and foremost to Georgia, and secondly, to Azerbaijan. Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said that before the start of the conflict of August 2008, Russia had conducted similar exercises which were allegedly aimed at concentrating Russian forces at the Georgian border. This year, according to Vashadze, Moscow hopes to exert pressure on Georgia’s internal political situation and replace its legitimate government. At the same time, the Foreign Minister concealed that three years ago, an international commission ruled that Georgia, but not Russia, unleashed a war in 2008. In view of this, there is nothing strange in making unfounded accusation by Tbilisi, says military analyst at the Moscow-based daily Izvestia Ivan Konovalov.

“In reality, Georgia’s response was predictable. It is a routine act because Georgia has always expressed concern about manoeuvres conducted in Russia’s Southern Military District. This is simply another occasion to attract the international community’s attention to Georgia,” Ivan Konovalov said.

Most surprisingly, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen supported Tbilisi in this issue. He said that Russia must honour Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. At the same time, he said Russia had not notified NATO about the objectives of the exercises. In fact, Moscow clearly understands what is behind this statement, says head of the Centre for Political Environment Sergei Mikheev.

“This is an encouraging concession to Saakashvili who is still fantasying that the entire international community is warmly supporting him. In fact, the international community did not support him when he needed it. At present, the West is ready to say at any time when it gets an opportunity that we are with you, Mr. Saakashvili. Time and again, Tbilisi demands such attention. This is a gesture of attention concerning the Russian military exercises which will be conducted in North Caucasus,” Sergei Mikheev said.

Significantly, this noisy campaign was launched over the drill which is not even a large-scale one. Only 8,000 servicemen and about 300 units of military hardware and artillery will take part in it. In fact, as a gesture of goodwill the contingents in the Russian bases in Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia will not be involved in the exercises. According to Deputy Chief of the General Staff Alexander Postnikov, this decision was taken in order not to heighten tension in the region. Moreover, the exercises will be conducted far away from the Georgian border. However, Georgia will hardly appraise these steps.