Georgia: Planning 'Provocative Incidents'?

3 MINS READJul 23, 2009 | 18:36 GMT
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said July 23 that Georgia was planning on staging "provocative incidents" on the border with the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Karasin has linked these plots (which include both civilian and military participation) to the Georgian leadership, specifically President Mikhail Saakashvili. Such accusations from Russia have intensified as the first anniversary of the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia approaches. (click image to enlarge) The main event Russia has said could create mass disruptions is a planned march, which could include thousands of Georgians, from Georgia to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. South Ossetia has been virtually sealed off from Georgia since Russia recognized its independence and sent in more than 3,000 troops to hedge against any further Georgian designs to recapture the region. Georgia has planned a similar march in the past but was unable to get the momentum for it to materialize; indeed, Karasin reportedly said the upcoming planned march had been canceled. However, the anniversary of the Russo-Georgian war could provide a jolt to make it happen this time around. As the anniversary of the war draws near, any mass movement from the Georgian side into South Ossetia could lead to destabilization and a level of conflict not seen since the 2008 war, which was provoked in part by similar actions. The Russians have yet to make any major military movements on the ground, because Russia has already achieved its military objectives and has troops and posts firmly in place — something it did not have a year ago. Although Moscow could further damage the Georgian military if provoked, Russia does not want to have troops in Tbilisi and deal with the need to suppress a restive Georgian population. Thus, it is unlikely that Russia has any intention of going deeper into Georgia militarily at this point. However, Moscow is laying the groundwork for possible moves in South Ossetia. According to STRATFOR sources in the Kremlin, Russian First Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov (one of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's right-hand men), Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and leading officials from Russia's military intelligence agency are currently meeting in South Ossetia, with the subject of Georgia most likely on their agenda. The presence of these officials mirrors U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Georgia and signals that if there are any provocations or flare-ups of violence, Russia will have a plan to respond. Moscow has specifically mentioned the threat of Georgia rearming with the help of other countries, and as Georgia has approached the United States about weapons sales, the Russo-Georgian conflict could end up escalating and involving players outside the region.

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