Crossfire War – MOSCOW WATCH – South Caucasus Theatre – Georgia: Berlin – Moscow/Tbilisi – Tehran; Georgia President Saakashvili States Russian Maneuvers a Threat – Both Governments Conduct Maneuvers
Night Watch: TBILISI – Speaking over Rustavi – 2 television Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili responded angrily to statements from Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov who said the current Russian Caucasian Line 2006 maneuvers, along Georgia’s border, are being held in order to respond if anything happens that threatens the lives of Russian citizens. Ivanov is referring to the increasingly hateful dispute between Moscow/Tbilisi over South Ossetia in the south Caucasus. The region is technically part of Georgia but a lot of the population is Russian and therefore would rather be governed by Moscow. [REGNUM]
President Saakashvili stated that Ivanov’s remarks were, “absolutely scandalous, absolutely unacceptable, absolutely inadequate and frankly speaking a threat.” Tbilisi also recently conducted military maneuvers during which every time a Georgian plane took off from Vasiani or Tbilisi airfield a Russian plane took off from a neighboring country.
South Caucasus expert Alexander Ivaskov observed, “The Georgian Parliament’s decision on Russia’s peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia and South Ossetia may become the last straw to break relative stability and to trigger a chain reaction of tension in the region.” Just recently Tbilisi publicly declared its opposition to Moscow’s occupation in the two disputed provinces and called for it to end. Ivaskov added that what has made relations even more hostile is Tbilisi injecting the dispute into American-Russian relations rather than going through the OSCE or EU. That it has now become what Ivaskov calls a “moment of truth” for Moscow and they are determined to resolve it. [REGNUM]
Ivaskov goes so far as to say President Saakashvili has wrecked Georgia’s foreign policy and that his actions are irresponsible and reactionary. A year ago when I first reported on this flashpoint Moscow mentioned they did not believe Saakashvili was thinking clearly. There were signs of that when he spoke recently in Washington. This is more of a flashpoint than even the Balkans and with Moscow already engaged heavily in the North Caucasus fighting Islamic groups supported by Ankara-Tehran. The entire region is a crossroads of energy pipelines, the center of Tehran’s economic agenda and the industrialized world, led by Berlin, cannot afford for Moscow to lose control over it.
Ivaskov outlined how the fighting between Moscow/Tbilisi could begin. “That’s why should Georgia launch an operation to encircle Tskhinvali and to bar the ways to the Roki tunnel, Russia must respond asymmetrically in order to turn around the distribution of forces in the region. And it depends on the quickness of this response whether this tension will spread further to the North Caucasus.”
Actually it could spread further south to Azerbaijan-Iran. Berlin-Moscow must have noticed Tehran and Tbilisi improving their relations.