“[The Russians] are making fun of the world,” says Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. He may be right. The Russians have promised to leave Georgia (the country, not the state) by Friday, August 22nd. In fact, a Russian General says that they’re withdrawing troops so that all their troops will be back in the area controlled by Russian peacekeepers by Friday. According to some reports, there have been troops and equipment moving back toward Russia, , but it looks like the Russians do not intend to completely comply with the European Union-brokered agreement to move back to the area they held before the August 7th invasion of Georgia. Instead of beginning a complete withdrawal, FoxNews reports the Russian army has instead settled down in several strategic spots. They’ve build trenches and fortifications in several key areas. They’ve dug trenches, set up mortars, and blocked a bridge at the entrance to Georgia’s port on the Black sea, Poti. They continue build permanent earthen berms strung with barbed wire in at least three areas along Georgia’s main East-West highway, one of which is only 30 miles from Georgia’s capitol city. Russia may be saying it will comply with the agreement; but it sure looks to me like they’re settling in for a long stay in Georgia and thumbing their noses at the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s why Russia sent a diplomatic note to NATO saying they were halting any international military cooperation with NATO under the 2002 agreement that established the NATO-Russia Council “until further instructions.”
Why is Russia even in Georgia? There’s a lot of debate about why. According to Russia, the invasion was a necessary response to Georgian “disproportionate use of force” against ethnic Russians in South Ossetia and the unfortunate Georgian decision to send troops into the disputed area patrolled by Russian peacekeepers. According to most, however, the Georgian use of their military to try to settle a “break-away” province was an excuse to discipline a former-Soviet satellite state. It appears that Russia has become increasingly unhappy about Georgia’s continued effort to develop Western ties and the small country’s attempts to join NATO. Many believe Russia’s desire to “slap down” Georgia was the underlying cause of the military invasion and the South Ossetia situation only a pretext. Why else would the Russian military continue into Georgia and establish what appears to be a permanent presence in a sovereign country, when all it needed to do was respond to Georgia’s incursion into South Ossetia? Talk about taking care of a fly with a sledge hammer.
There are other signs that Russia intends to flex its muscle in other former satellite states. Russia is extremely unhappy with Poland’s decision to permit the US to establish missile defense sites, along with a supporting garrison, inside Poland. A Russian General has even warned that “Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike – 100%.” The General also mentioned that Russian doctrine permitted the use of nuclear weapons in such situations. Russia is also claiming that both Latvia and Estonia discriminate against Russian speakers. They also demand that Latvia and Estonia recognize the heroism of Soviet soldiers. Could it be that Russia is just looking for more provocations to send troops into these former-Soviet republics, as they did with Georgia?
Does anyone else feel like it’s getting increasingly cold along the former Iron Curtain?
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