Skip to comments.Russian threats alarm Georgia
Posted on 09/14/2004 3:17:10 PM PDT by Tailgunner Joe
Speculation about a possible Russian military strike is rife in Georgia, in the aftermath of the Beslan school tragedy and the Kremlin's threats to go after "terrorists".
From 1 October no Georgian aircraft will be allowed to land in Russia - the explanation from Moscow being that Georgian airlines have not been paying their airport dues.
But to Tbilisi this is another sign of what many officials say is unprecedented pressure from Russia following the Beslan siege.
Georgians are concerned that Moscow will try to link the school siege in Beslan to Georgia and will carry out its threat of preventive strikes in Georgia, which shares borders with Russia's troubled republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia and Chechnya.
Statements from Moscow are fuelling the fears.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he does not exclude links between Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia and the events in Beslan, which is only 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Georgian border.
Russian media allege that one of the hostage-takers from Beslan is hiding in the Kodori Gorge, in Georgia's other breakaway province - Abkhazia.
Moscow also claims that there are still Chechen "terrorists" in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, on the border with Chechnya.
Pankisi, once a haven for Chechen guerrillas - and some even allege al-Qaeda fighters - has been bombed by Russia in the past.
But Georgia insists that its borders along the snow-capped Caucasus range are now fully under control. The question, according to Deputy Defence Minister David Sikharulidze, is whether Russia will choose to believe this.
"Our border guards are on high alert and we absolutely rule out infiltration of Chechen fighters into Georgia," Mr Sikharulidze says.
"But we know that unfortunately Russia will try to use this school tragedy to try and pursue its own agenda in the Caucasus."
This agenda, Mr Sikharulidze adds, includes destabilising Georgia.
For years, Georgians believe, Russia has done just that by supporting separatist regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Just last week Russia infuriated Tbilisi by resuming a train service between Moscow and Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia.
Analysts believe that Moscow is punishing Georgia for its pro-Western course.
Georgia's aspiration to join Nato, and the presence of US marines, who are training and equipping the Georgian army in Moscow's backyard, are all thorns in Russia's side.
Moscow says President Mikhail Saakashvili's vows to reunite Georgia are stirring up trouble on Russia's borders.
Earlier this summer, Mr Saakashvili sent extra troops into South Ossetia, claiming that it was a haven for smugglers.
The move sparked heavy fighting, which escalated until Georgia withdrew its troops and handed control back to a joint peacekeeping contingent under Russian command.
The Georgian president describes the peacekeepers as "piece-keepers - there to keep the pieces of the old empire and not the actual peace".
In South Ossetia at least, the Soviet empire, and with it the Cold War, does seem to live on.
Just a month ago, as Georgian and Ossetian forces exchanged fire and shells fell on the capital Tskhinvali, Russia's General Sviatoslav Nabdzorov was drinking vodka in one of Tskhinvali's restaurants.
His eyes filled with tears as he raised his glass to the "Great Soviet Union".
General Nabdzorov's comment about the conflict was much briefer then his long and nostalgic toast.
"Only Russia can sort out this conflict," he said, "not America!"
And so the fear in Tbilisi is that the Beslan school siege will give Russia a free hand to "sort out" the conflicts in the Caucasus, including those in Georgia.
And while President Saakashvili says he hopes to defuse tensions with Russia at a security summit in Kazakhstan this week, he too is flexing his muscles.
Last Sunday, Georgian interior ministry troops launched massive exercises by the South Ossetian border.
"The enemy is only 20 kilometres away," said Georgian Interior Minister Irakli Okruashvili as he saluted his troops. His finger pointed to the north.
Planning the occupation of the Caucasus the same way as the occupation of the Balkans says it all ...
Anyone else think that Putin is glad that we are so distracted by our own war on terror?
As a Georgian...I say "Come Get Some!" We have Kings Bay on our side!...No wait...wrong Georgia. Never Mind.
Russian President's Plan Would Abolish Regional Elections in Effort to Thwart Terror
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, AP
MOSCOW (Sept. 13) -- Responding to a series of deadly terror attacks, President Vladimir Putin on Monday moved to significantly strengthen the Kremlin's grip on power, with new measures that include the naming of regional governors and an overhaul of the electoral system.
Putin told Cabinet members and security officials convened in special session that the future of Russia was at stake and urged the creation of a central, powerful anti-terror agency.
''The organizers and perpetrators of the terror attack are aiming at the disintegration of the state, the breakup of Russia,'' he said. ''We need a single organization capable of not only dealing with terror attacks but also working to avert them, destroy criminals in their hideouts, and if necessary, abroad.''
Putin's declaration followed a series of stunning terror attacks blamed on Chechen rebels, climaxing in the three-day school seizure in southern Russia in which more than 330 people were killed.
He said he would propose legislation abolishing the election of local governors by popular vote. Instead, they would be nominated by the president and confirmed by local legislatures - a move that would undo the remaining vestiges of the local autonomy already chipped away by Putin during his first term in office.
Putin explained his move by the need to streamline and strengthen the executive branch to make it more capable of combating terror.
His critics immediately assailed the proposal as a self-destructive effort that could fuel dissent in the provinces.
''The abolition of elections in the Russian regions deals a blow to the foundations of Russian federalism and means the return to the extremely inefficient system of government,'' said Sergei Mitrokhin, a leading member of the liberal Yabloko party.
Sergei Markov, a political analyst with close ties to the Kremlin, said the president's move against the governors could help curb corruption that has flourished in some regions.
''At the same time, it means ... a lowering of (their) general political authority and a serious lowering of political pluralism,'' Markov told Ekho Moskvy radio. In another move aimed to strengthen the federal authorities, Putin recommended eliminating the individual races that currently fill half of the seats in the national parliament and have the entire lower house filled by parties on a proportional basis.
Putin said that the move would help foster dialogue by expanding the clout of political parties, but his opponents warned it would further increase the clout of the Kremlin-controlled parliament factions that already enjoy an overwhelming majority in the lower house, the State Duma. Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the few opposition deputies, scorned the president's political proposals and said if they were approved, ''the next Duma will be simply virtual, it will consist of just marionette party lists and won't enjoy any authority.''
''How is it possible the president doesn't understand that it won't strengthen the country, it will further tear apart the unity of the country and tear federal organs power away from the people?'' he told Ekho Moskvy radio. ''Yes, the Kremlin's authority will be strengthened, but the country will be weakened.''
Although Putin has been criticized for strengthening his own powers in the past, three weeks of violence and the deaths of 430 people have led to increased support among the Russian people for measures to combat terrorism. Putin named one of his closest confidants, Cabinet chief of staff Dmitry Kozak, to represent him in the southern district that includes the Caucasus.
Putin said official corruption that had helped terrorists - such as the issuing of documents ''leading to grave consequences,'' should be punished with particular severity. He also signaled a possible government crackdown on Islamic groups, proposing that extremist organizations serving as a cover for terrorists should be outlawed.
A new structure called the Public Chamber would strengthen public oversight of the government and the actions of law enforcement agencies, he said. The chamber would involve non-governmental organizations and other groups in the fight against terror.
Putin said that terrorism is rooted in the North Caucasus' low living standards, in widespread unemployment, and in poor education.
''This is a rich, fertile ground for the growth of extremist propaganda and the recruitment of new supporters of terror,'' Putin said. ''The North Caucasus is a key strategic region for Russia. It is a victim of terrorism and also a springboard for it.''
On the whole, I'm a lot less worried about Putin somehow reuniting the Czarist/Leninist empire than I'm worried about Islamist extremism.
Putin and his cronies may be aggressive, and they probably do not have America's best interests at heart.
They are, however, not intent on murdering everyone who isn't in the Russian Orthodox Church.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." And, for the time being, Russia is the enemy of our enemy. And they would be a much more preferable long-term foe than Islamism, as they are much more likely to be rational.
You have to love the "our own" war on terror bit ... I mean, after all, we're talking about Moscow, our key ally in the War on Terror, the first to make a call of condolence (like some meticulous Mafia boss who ordered the hit) and host of the first internationale against terror.
Just like they served as host and primary source of funding for the first Internationale for Terror in Havana, Cuba (1966) ... our men dying in ignominy already in Viet Nam whilst Soviets and Chicoms set up terrorist training camps within spitting distance of Gitmo and used Cuba as launchpad to Latin America which ought to start blowing like a North Korea waterworks project any day now.
This isn't his only speech like this. He has been publicly bemoaning the fall of the Soviet Union for several years and is now taking the steps necessary to restore it to power. The idea of a rogue Soviet Union (Version 2.0) with nuclear weapons and a very public chip on their dictator's shoulder towards the U.S. is more worrisome to me. Look at Putin's latest public announcements; blaming the attacks in Russia on the United States. It also disturbs me that this ex-KGB agent is cuddling up so close to Germany and France; that could well be the next Axis we fight.
My other problem is with Chechnya. Yeltsin gave them their independence, Putin took it back. The situation in Chechnya festered for 10 years under Putin's heavy hand and Soviet style tactics, and has now blown up...and is giving him the excuse to revive the Soviet empire. Sounds too much like the Reichstag fire to me.
Ronald Reagan may not have killed the beast.
Methinks Putin will discover, as Stalin did, the price tag for cozying up to Germany.
After Beslan, Russia will not tolerate anti-Russian governments in the Caucasus.
Georgia is a long-time ally of Chechen terrorists. So, suspecting Georgians of complicity in the Beslan atrocity actually seems quite reasonable.
In fact, we have not forgotten that Chechen terrorists led by Ruslan Gelayev based in Georgia already invaded Abhazia in October of 2001 and Russian regions of Ingushetia and North Ossetia (that's where Beslan is, btw) in October of 2002 and Dagestan in December of 2003.
I always wondered how long Russian could tolerate Georgian aggression.
I guess even Russian patience has its limits, after all...
Thanks, T Joe. It's added to the list of headlines.
Russian threats alarm Georgia
Putin uses war on terrorism to tighten grip on democracy [No more elections for governors.]
Poisoned by Putin
Russian newspaper delivers some bitter truths to Putin
08 September 2004 16:50
Russia confirms further delays to Iran`s nuke plant
Russian FM To Israel: Chechnya No, Palestine and Iranian Nukes Yes
Ariel Natan Pasko
Russia defends arms
sales to Iran
Moscow says U.S. objects only out of self-interest
Sep. 8, 2004 20:08 | Updated Sep. 8, 2004 22:27
Iran recruits 'human shield' for nuclear reactor
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Moscow 'vehemently' opposes attacks on Iraq
Sees Saddam's terror-sponsor state as 'long-term partner'
Russian Delegation in Baghdad With Putin Message for Saddam Hussein
Russians Respect Reason For Terrorism
Israel Tries to "Win Russia Over": Report [Intel Barf from Islam Barf: One man's terrorist...]
Disregard for Human Life (Was Putin referring to the USA as the hostile foreign powers?)
Putin may be worse than we think
At least this time which side France is on won't be fuzzy.
But in the longer run, I'm a little more optimistic about things. Russian military officers are avid students of history: the Taman Guards Division is likely to roll out of their barracks for the short drive to the Kremlin if Putin tries a repeat of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. (Russian general: "You nyekulturny pizhda! Are you TRYING to get another 20 million killed in a second Great Patriotic War?")
Russia is a divided country. Twenty million Russians and some 50 million Russian-speakers were left behind its borders after collapse of Soviet Union.
No nation in the world could tolerate this abnormal situation for long and Russians are no exception.
As Russia rises from its knees, the Russian Reunification becomes as inevitable as German reunification in 1990 was.
To stand in the way of the coming Russian Reunification is the best way of making Russia an enemy again.
"...like some meticulous Mafia boss who ordered the hit..."
There was an excellent thread on yesterday about that problem; corruption and greed throughout the police and military. That article convincingly concludes that the only way there terrorists could have gotten their weapons into that school (past many, many police and military check points) was through pay offs and blind eyes.
Greed and power is everything in Russia.
Russia still is our enemy.
"And, for the time being, Russia is the enemy of our enemy."
But is it really the enemy of our enemy? After all, Russia is helping Iran with their nuclear program.
"Russia still is our enemy."
And that is a shame. I had so much hope for Russia. And not just for us. For the Russian people themselves.
EU in a current form is enemy of Russia, there can be no doubt about it. EU wants to break up Russia, eliminate completely Russian influence in the post-Soviet republics and make Russia its oil colony.
It is thus in Russia's best interests to see the present European experiment with unification end in a dismal failure.
On the other hand, Russia IS a European country too and therefore is not opposed to the European unity as such.
What Putin and many Russians want is to reunite Russia first and then create a true European Union which Russia will join as a founding member and first among equals.
But to reach this goal one probably needs a World War or two...
It should be scaring the heck out of most of Europe.
Yeah, I got that impression too...
>It should be scaring the heck out of most of Europe.
I thought most of Europe is America's enemy now?
Which is why I am concerned over the relationship between Putin, Germany and France. France and Germany are both fairly disgruntled over the course the EU has taken; they had intended that they be the power within the EU and all nations simply tow their line. It hasn't worked out that way.
Now we see France (who disassociated itself from the NATO defense from the USSR mission in the late 50's) and Germany where many of the political leaders and much of the population yearn for the good old days of East Germany.
I am concerned over a power play between those three nations to bring the rest of Europe to heel...one way or the other.
I MIGHT not go that far, but most of Europe isn't our friend.
"If you really want to get scared though, do a Google on 'Putin' and 'Soviet'."
I have and you're right. But there is nothing we can do about it except remain vigilant. Anything Putin does now he will justify by using the threat of terror as an excuse.
Cue ominous "Empire Strikes Back" music.
That's a very good analysis, really.
Putin's alliance with Germany and France is anti-EU, that's the point many people don't understand yet.
Though I don't see why it's wrong exactly. How being subservient to Brussels is actually better than to Paris, Berlin and Moscow?
It didn't fly.
Russia to US: We want our Empire back!
Yet another evidence that the EU is doomed. You can't run great power foreign policy by a committee.
And frankly, the sooner the EU disintegrates the better for all concerned.
I have the ultimate evidence for you. I have a very good friend and neighbor from Milan, Italy. If you want to get him screaming in Italian and throwing his arms around just ask him about the olive crops back home.
Under EU rules, Italy has been forced to destroy much of their olive crop...and IMPORT GREEK OLIVE OIL.
I knew it was all over when Fabio told me that.
I wonder how long they'll survive.
Perhaps, five to ten years after Turkey joins...
Or until the make Ireland pour it's own ale down drains and orders them to import French ale.
With Russia having it's own war on terror.
you can be sure the ACLU won't be interferring,
the kid gloves will come off. Maybe they'll
put in some terror to the terrorists.
Well, Putin was KGB. When in doubt, people always fall back on what they are comfortable with. There seems to be a waxing nostalgia for the old days of communist order--inside Russia anyways.