Crossfire War – MOSCOW WATCH – South Caucasus Theatre: Moscow – Tskhinvili/Tbilisi; Georgia Releases Detained Russian Officers – Moscow Severs Transportation – Technological Links in Attempt to Isolate Georgia – Warns Third Countries Not to Interfere
Night Watch: TBILISI – The four detained Russian officers were handed over, handcuffed, to representatives of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), after Tbilisi declared the officers to be “personae non grata”. Moscow however did not seem at all satisfied with this response and cut transportation and technological links to the country in what seems to be the first moves to isolate the country. It was also reported that Russia President Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with U. S. President George W. Bush in which he warned the U. S. not to interfere. Moscow has always been suspicious of Georgia wanting NATO membership and Washington’s training of Georgia’s police and military. [RIA]
In a press conference with the OSCE Chairman Karl De Gucht, Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili stated, “Problems between Georgia and Russia will end after Russia accepts us as we are. The way they accepted Poland and Estonia. I rule out any military steps from Russia but we are not afraid of them.” He ended his remarks by saying Georgia wanted Russian business and tourists but not Russian soldiers.
Saakashvili may not realize that events today are not Cold War gamemanship but a very real power struggle in an area more strategic to Russia than Poland and the Baltic Sea. The Caucasus is at the center of every multi-national energy corporation’s projection concerning its energy future. What makes matters more extreme for Moscow is that there may still be some lingering doubts as to Russia’s ability to control the area after its defeat in the first Chechnya war 10 years ago in the North Caucasus. The U. S. and the West have invested heavily in pipelines that cross Georgia and this current dispute is not reassuring.
Putin has not ruled out military action and he and the Kremlin may know that the corporate world and financial centers from Chicago to Warsaw to Tokyo, will be monitoring very closely the effectiveness of Moscow’s response and their handling of the most serious crisis Russia has faced since war in the North Caucasus resumed seven years ago.
Also maintaing very close scrutiny of the situation will be Berlin, who sponsored Putin’s Presidency and Tehran who has blatantly increased its economic contacts with Georgia and is hoping Moscow’s response is a complete failure. The severing of transportation – technological links to Georgia may just be the first steps Moscow takes in convincing Tbilisi that any move they make must be approved by Moscow first. That Georgia will be able to retain its flag, its independence, as long as it’s foreign policy is controlled by Moscow.
I suspect that if the secessionist territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia see Russia respond effectively then they will agree to remain part of Georgia.