Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s intention to seize the Adjarian bridgehead is explained by his economic claims to this republic. Saakashvili started an economic blockade of Adjaria in order to exert pressure on Batumi. The Sarpi checkpoint on the border with Turkey and the Batumi port were closed. Branches of Georgian commercial banks do not work in Batumi. The railroad was blockaded. What has the Georgian leader achieved using such sanctions?
Several hard currencies, including the Russian ruble and dollar, are in circulation in Adjaria. This is why the Georgian hard currency will be replaced with Russian and US money. Tbilisi does not control the Sarpi checkpoint, which means that Adjaria will receive cargo from abroad. As far as the blockade of the Batumi port and the railroad is concerned, Tbilisi has punished itself. Representatives of the Georgian Railroads company said that economic sanctions applied to Adjaria have damaged freight service in Georgia. Georgia cannot use such sanctions for a long time because the republic will lose its attractiveness for partners (Georgia is a member of the Trans-Eurasian corridor). It should be noted that Georgian Railroads has already lost $400,000 as a result of these sanctions. The prospects of the blockade may become more serious for the Georgian leadership. The government of Azerbaijan stated that “departure of trains with oil to the Batumi port has been suspended”. Azerbaijan currently considers the possibility of using alternative routes. It should be noted that Georgia’s revenues from oil transit account for over 50% of its budget.
Saakashvili allegedly blockaded the air border. However, he cannot control the republican airspace. Sources in the Russian Defense Ministry told WPS that Georgia does not have the anti-aircraft system, which would ensure efficient control over Adjaria’s airspace.
Georgian anti-aircraft battalions must be repaired. It should be noted that the Georgian Anti-Aircraft Force has only two anti-aircraft battalions armed with seven obsolete S-125 anti-aircraft complexes (four in Tbilisi and three in Poti). Georgia has the central command post in Tbilisi and four radio-locating posts in Poti, Marneuli, Batumi and Novoalekseevka.
Russian experts note: “The Georgian Anti-Aircraft Force can only cope with a limited range of tasks.”
In other words, Saakashvili’s activities are very unreasonable. His decisions will damage the whole of Georgia. However, Saakashvili does not stop.
IS an armed conflict possible? What military resources do the conflicting sides have?
As is known, Adjaria has a naval academy – its cadets support Aslan Abashidze. A shipbuilding plant located in Adjaria currently produces up-to-date warships, which have not yet been passed over to the Georgian Navy. A brigade of the Georgian Defense Ministry is deployed in Adjaria – its servicemen have sided with Abashidze. The crews of patrol boats of the Georgian coast guard stationed in Batumi have also joined Abashidze. Georgian warships are concentrated in Poti, and are prepared for attacking Batumi from the sea. The Georgian Navy is the most combat ready branch of the Georgian Army. Judging from official reports, it consists of a battalion of speed-boats, which Georgia received from Turkey, Ukraine and Greece. In addition, the US allocated $27 million to Georgia for the creation of its Navy. Greece will pass over a missile cruiser to the Georgian Navy. John Rukhadze, chief of the international department of the Georgian Navy, stated that this cruiser will become the flagship of the Georgian Navy. He noted: “The Georgian Navy has never had such a powerful warship.”
Georgian military units sent to the Adjarian border have 14 armored personnel carriers, ten infantry fighting vehicles and nine tanks. Around 500 servicemen trained by US instructors are deployed near the border. In the meantime, Adjaria is making preparations for a war. Adjarian volunteers are armed with infantry weapons, light artillery complexes and armored personnel carriers, machine guns and light anti-tank missile complexes, which can destroy warships at a distance to two kilometers.
Observers do not rule out that servicemen of the 12th military base will support Adjarian volunteers. Judging from Russian sources, the Russian base currently consists of 3,000 servicemen. Around 40% of them are local residents, who have become Russian citizens. Precisely these people may join volunteers’ troops. Their support can be very serious. The Russian group consists of 67 medium and light tanks (T-72, T-80 and Pt-76) and around 100 armored vehicles (BTR-80 and BMP-1).
Meanwhile, the Russian military leadership states that this will not happen. Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, chief of the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry, told WPS that “it’s out of the question”. He denied reports circulated by the Georgian media that Adjarian volunteers allegedly received military hardware from the Russian base. Sedov stated: “All weapons and military vehicles are at the base.”
He noted that Russian troops stationed in Adjaria remain neutral. As far as new contingents of servicemen sent to the base are concerned, Sedov noted that this is the result of a scheduled rotation of servicemen. The official representative of the Russian Defense Ministry stated that Russia is concerned about the situation near the Adjarian border. According to him, “ultimatums and threats will aggravate the situation. Only a peaceful dialogue can solve the conflict. Otherwise the situation in Georgia and the Caucasian region will be destabilized.”
The confrontation between Adjaria and Tbilisi aggravates. A military conflict is not out of the question. However, everyone understands that a civil war will ruin Georgia.