Russia and Georgia reach a new round of confrontation. Along with this, the US acts as a political sponsor on the side of Georgia. It is possible to draw such conclusion from statements of Mathew Braiza aide to the Deputy US Secretary of State. Having visited Sukhumi and Tbilisi recently, Braiza announced that the US saw a way out of the conflict in Abkhazia in a direct dialogue between the Georgian and the Abkhaz parties without intermediaries. Along with this, Braiza condemned the latest actions of Russia in the conflict zone saying that ordinary army units were allegedly moved there under the disguise of peacekeepers.
Braiza said, “During my whole career, I have never heard about artillery used for peacekeeping. I call on Russia to revise its resolutions and to revoke additional troops from Abkhazia.” In turn, acting official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Boris Malakhov, announced that Moscow considered some statements of this American diplomat incorrect.
Malakhov stated, “Moscow noticed some not quite correct statements of Braiza in Tbilisi and Sukhumi. We have to say that this is already far from the first time when Braiza demonstrates his ignorance of the real situation and real events happening in the conflict region, as a result of which, his statements, to put this mildly, have little to do with reality.” According to Malakhov, the Russian party “has an impression that Braiza is either not familiar with the official comments of the Russian Foreign Ministry, as well as with reports of the US Embassy in Moscow about the content of the conversations held with Russian representatives of a high level or deliberately makes believe that he does not understand the meaning of the Russian initiatives frequently explained to American partners.”
Malakhov also says that “along with this, any actions are posed by Braiza in a light beneficial for Tbilisi.” For instance, Malakhov pointed out that “in conditions of unilateral reinforcement of the armed forces on the borders with Abkhazia by the Georgian party, as well as regular flights of Georgian reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles into Abkhazian airspace, the American diplomat suddenly asks a question about the expedience of a certain increase of strength of the peacekeeping contingent of the collective peacekeeping forces of the CIS in the conflict zone and somehow interprets it as a factor hindering establishment of peace in Abkhazia.”
Several conclusions can be drawn from all this. First, the US is discontent with the activities of Russia in the conflict zones in Georgia. Second, Moscow looks at it through the fingers and is seriously going for parrying a possible aggression on the part of Tbilisi. Along with this, it is already obvious that hostilities on the part of Tbilisi will begin soon. Some military experts presume that Georgia will start an attack on breakaway territories not in Abkhazia but in South Ossetia. In his interview to Voenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer weekly, Lieutenant General Yury Netkachev, former deputy commander of the group of Russian forces in Transcaucasia, announced that “There is a big probability of beginning of combat operations by Georgian armed forces not only against Abkhaz and South Ossetian troops but also against our peacekeepers.” According to Netkachev, most likely, “Georgian forces will delivery their first blow not in Abkhazian but in South Ossetian direction. From the tactical standpoint action in such way is more beneficial. Actually, Georgian forces need to take Tskhinvali to achieve success. The surprise attack will be achieved due to the small distance from the place of deployment of Georgian forces to the capital of South Ossetia. An entire mechanized infantry brigade is based in Gori. Besides, Georgian peacekeepers guarding the Georgian villages can operate practically in the rear of South Ossetia. A tactical air landing operation near the Roksky Tunnel is also possible.”
Netkachev remarks that “taking into account the relief of the mountain terrain, it is not difficult to guess tactic of actions of the Georgian forces. They will carry out the offensive predominantly along the roads, as well as on upper and lower watersheds of heights and mountains. Use of Georgian aviation – they have several Su-25 airplanes and a small fleet of Mi-8 and six American helicopters – will probably be neutralized by the air defense forces of the armed forces of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and our peacekeepers already in the first hours of fighting. However, problems are possible in suppression of artillery positions, especially the mortar ones, because they possess a certain mobility.”
The expert forecasts that Georgia will deliver the main possible blow on Sukhumi from the side of the Kodori Gorge and from the eastern direction. It is possible that there will be an attempt to take the Ochamchirsky bridgehead as an intermediary goal. The general is convinced that Saakashvili will be defeated. In any case, Netkachev admits that “The Georgian leader needs a small victorious war for his political goals. Parliamentary elections will take place in Georgia soon. Supporters of Saakashvili do not enjoy authority among the people. He needs to increase his rating. The economy has collapsed and the time has come, so to speak, for the thunder of guns.”
Thus, it is possible to expect hostilities in the South Caucasus very soon. It is impossible to rule out that Russia will initiate them with the assistance of troops from Sukhumi. Along with this, the defeat of Saakashvili and change of authorities in Tbilisi is quite possible. This is important for Moscow because it does not wish to lose an opportunity of Olympics organization in Sochi in 2014.