On September 17, “Morgen Post” (Berlin, Germany) reported that Georgian authorities allegedly deported nine terrorists arrested in the Pankisi Gorge to the US. Such a report was published with reference to an anonymous spokesperson for the Georgian President. The newspaper wrote that the terrorists belonged to the entourage of field commander Shamil Basaev and “were tracked both in the Pankisi Gorge and in other parts of Georgia.” Tbilisi kept information about the terrorists, who might be connected with al Qaeda, in secrecy, allegedly not to make the operation in the Pankisi Gorge more difficult.
Nationality of the criminals deported to the US is not named. The newspaper presumes that the terrorists were handed over to American representatives deployed in Georgia and were already forwarded to the base in Guantanamo, which is used as a prison for the Talibs captured in Afghanistan.
This fact is hardly a “canard.” It would be funny if the Georgian commandos trained by Americans, who started the military operation against the Chechen militants in the Pankisi Gorge, did not detain a single terrorist. However, Tbisili did not publish any official information about detention of Chechen militants until recently. Suddenly we learn that nine people from the entourage of Basaev were captured at once in the Pankisi Gorge and were handed over to American special services. A question arises immediately. Where was Russia? Why were the people guilty of deaths of tens or even hundreds of people not extradited to Russia? It was as though Georgia neglected Russia. This circumstance looks especially strange if we recall that Moscow has been attempting to make Tbilisi extradite 13 Chechens detained during trespassing of the Georgian-Russian border in August for a month. Only on September 16, President Shevardnadze promised to do this, although he added that this would be done after all procedural measures required in this case. It is also interesting that these procedural measures are going on too long.
It is definite that Georgia is pursuing a policy of double standards with respect to Russia. For example, only after interference of the US and the statement of George Bush, who called on Georgia to destroy terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge and requested Russia to give time to Georgia for ousting of the militants from its territory, Tbilisi unofficially agreed with possible organization of a joint military operation of Russian and Georgian armed forces. Meanwhile, this is only a tactical concession. Orientation of Tbilisi towards the West is obvious. Georgia is still going to join NATO and demands acceleration of withdrawal of Russian troops from its territory. However, its foreign political ambitions contradict realities and internal condition of the country. Georgia cannot enforce order on its territory, and we cannot rule out that Georgian Interior Forces and police will be unable to hinder actions of the Chechen separatists in the Pankisi Gorge.
At this point there is a question. Who will help Tbilisi to enforce order there, Russia or the US and NATO? Will Moscow dare to act on the territory of Georgia unilaterally in pursuit of the Chechen separatists? To which extent will Putin have the bravery to destroy the bases of Chechen militants and their mercenaries in a foreign country?
Time will give answers to these questions. At any rate, it is possible that Moscow will operate on the territory of Georgia, having received an unofficial agreement of the US in exchange for the unofficial agreement with American actions against Iraq. Russia is too weak yet to act, neglecting the West. However, it has serious interests in Transcaucasia and defending of its position there is one of its main geopolitical tasks in the region.