Crossfire War – MOSCOW WATCH – South Caucasus Theatre – Abkhazia: Tbilisi/Sukhumi – Moscow; 500 Georgian Troops Advancing on Kodori Gorge – Russian Peacekeepers on High Alert – Moscow Warns Tbilisi
Night Watch: SUKHUMI – “The only thing we can discuss with such people, after they lay down their arms, will be which cells they occupy in prison.” That was the non-negotiable response of Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili when a local ruler in the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia, along the eastern Black Sea, declared autonomy from Georgia rule. Georgian television station Imedi and Reuters are now reporting that Tbilisi has sent 30 trucks, 37 jeeps, 2 armored vehicles and 500 troops advancing toward Kodori Gorge in Georgia’s northwest on the border of the breakaway province. Kodori Gorge is just 20 miles from Abkhazia’s capital Sukhumi. [RIA]
This latest front, in a region that is a crossroads of energy pipelines, is the result of one of the countless territorial disuptes that erutped the day after the Cold War ended in 1990. Conflicts that revolved around extreme nationalism as old as European history, a continent still obsessed with map making. Russia President Vladimir Putin was not exaggerating recently when he stated that there are 2,000 conflicts or potential conflicts that can occur within Russia or on its borders. One of the most consistent patterns in history is that territorial disputes – wars always break out with the end of an empire, in this case the Soviet Union or an international system of alliances which kept a lid on an unstable region, the alliances that revolved around and managed the Cold War- NATO and the Warsaw Pact. [SWISSINFO]
But after the Cold War ran its course, as Russia rebuilt from World War II with financing-investment from the West, and with Moscow’s withdrawal from Central Asia and most of the Caucasus, I don’t think Moscow or the West, was surprised so many regional wars happened. I suspect they decided to let the whole area go up in smoke to provide Moscow its reason to move back in. Those reasons began in 1994 when Chechnya, in the North Caucasus, declared its independence and war has been continuing since then. Now this dispute further south ignited by regions in and around Georgia who would rather be ruled by Moscow instead of Tbilisi.
Abkhazia Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba has had his ministry send a message to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan concerning the latest developments. Shamba stated, “Georgia is taking targeted and consistent steps on a unilateral withdrawal from the negotiating process. Responsibility for the consequences of these actions lies completely on Georgia.” Moscow has warned Tbilisi and called for restraint but with the initial statements from Georgia President Saakashvili that call will obviously not be heeded. With the Georgian troops, as they were entering the Kodori Gorge, were Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili and Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili.
Abkhazia President Sergei Bagapsh told Interfax, “We have dispatched the necessary forces to the Kodori Gorge… At the moment, we are not interfering, but monitoring the situation. But if the Georgian forces try to cross the line of checkpoints of the Russian peacekeepers then our units will take the required actions.” Moscow has placed its peacekeeping forces on high alert.
World War III is about to expand.