The Pentagon is Not Rushing to the Transcaucasus, It's Already There
Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2002
By Vasily Streltsov
Reprinted from Nezavisimaya Gazeta
For a third day high-placed Russian and Georgian politicians have been pronouncing loaded phrases, in the deparaging sense, which are not acceptable in diplomatic protocal. In reply to the suggestion of Igor Ivanov that bin Laden might be hiding in the Pankisi gorge, a more than insulting answer followed from President Eduard Shevardnadze, with the proposal to seek out the terrorist in Ivanov's mother's house. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Georgian Security Minister Valery Khaburdzania quickly jumped into the frey, while the barbs of the Georgian side continued to carry a very offensive tone.
People who understand international politics understand that Tbilisi has found a serious argument, which would allow an absolutely economically weakened country to speak with Moscow, if not from a position of strength, then from something similar to that. Sources are informing NG that such an argument has indeed been found. Yesterday American military personnel arrived in Georgia. It is a small group, possibly Army communications specialists or simply advisors who are preparing the introduction of fundamental allied forces into the Pankisi gorge. In any case, one can affirm with confidence that the Americans have got their feet onto Georgian soil, and it is forever.
International society has already had the opportunity to be convinced that the singular argument for speaking from a position of strength in modern geopolitics is an American military presence. This was demonstrated by the situation in Afghanistan, who was deserted by all of her allies, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And this is demonstrated by the case of Gerogia, where a small and weak republic allows itself to speak with Russia in an offending tone.
The US is once again playing a very complex combination play with many moves, in which the accent is clearly placed on the struggle with illegal terrorist organizations, and as a result of which Russia turns out to be in a losing situation. Russia faithfully supported the struggle with the Taliban and formally it has won from this. But Russia has lost in the strategic sense, as all of the southern tier has been blockaded by the USA. In order to completely dominate on the territory of the former Soviet Union, the Americans needed a military presence in the Caucasus. The best pretext for this was the struggle with illegal armed formations. Afterwards a spreading of influence to Azerbaijan and Armenia will follow.
It is very nice that preparations have already begun in Georgia for fall exercises within the framework of the NATO "Partnership for Peace" program, "Cooperative Partner-2002," in the course of which the actions of international forces will be worked out in the conducting of a complex anti-terrorist operation. Applications for participation came from 16 countries, including all of the states of the south Caucasus. And if for Baku the further drawing together with NATO is a continuation of the traditional policies of recent years, then for Yerevan this could mean a definite change in foreign policy priorities which, it seems, would be fully justified by the emerging competition.
Russia, hopelessly losing, is feverishly searching for a Nato save face. Events of recent days have demonstrated that Russia has been carrying on a search for a pretext to withdraw from Georgia legally in the context of diplomatic canons for a while now. In this context, the recent proposal voiced by General Staff head Anatoly Kvashnin to withdraw the Transcaucasus Group of the Russian military from Tbilisi "in a slapdash fashion" becomes understandable. If this operation had actually been carried out in a condensed period, then it could forever have been said that the Americans arrived in Georgia already after the Russians withdrew, not giving a toss about their presence.
(C) Nezavisimaya Gazeta 2002 * Reprinted for Fair Use Only