Nino Burdzanadze, speaker of the Georgian parliament, noted in an interview with Vremya Novostei that the increase of the Georgian defense budget next year does not mean that the country seeks to resume armed conflicts after the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

She noted, “We want to draw near NATO member nations and countries, which want to join this bloc. The Army must be able to solve tasks set by the Constitution. The matter does not concern preparations for war. On the other hand, prepare forward if you need peace.”

In the meantime, the unacknowledged republics are concerned about the possibility of a military scenario linked with Tbilisi’s attempts to finish off separatism in the country.

A source in the Abkhazian Defense Ministry stated that operational reports testify to Georgia’s preparations for military operations against Abkhazia and the South Ossetia. In addition, Georgia secretly purchases weapons. The source noted that, “the security services of Abkhazia and South Ossetia receive reports about Tbilisi’s intention to buy the Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters and 70 BTR-80 armored personnel carriers from a Polish company”. Sukhumi thinks that, “Georgia plans to use these weapons in aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia”. In this regard, the governments of Abkhazia and the South Ossetia plan to address Russia as an intermediary in such conflicts.

A representative of the Abkhazian government said, “We will ask Moscow to raise the issue of the necessity of making NATO member nations ban weapon supplies to countries with interior conflict.”

Sukhumi also thinks that, “Georgia has increased the defense budget to $218 million, which testifies to its aggressive intentions”. A source in the Abkhazian Defense Ministry noted that Georgia received weapons from Turkey, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Albania. Other facts also testify to modernization of the Georgian Army.

What military scenarios are possible? Where will Tbilisi fight the separatists?

Lieutenant-General Yury Netkachev, former deputy commander of the group of Russian troops in the Trans-Caucasian region, thinks that to all appearances hostilities will begin in South Ossetia in spring or summer 2006. By that time, Georgia will finish the upgrade of its Army and will be able to conduct military operations in the conflict zone. Provocations organized by the Georgian Task Force near South-Ossetian villages testify to the possibility of this scenario.

In addition, the Georgian leadership has prepared the plan of settling the conflict in South Ossetia. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli recently stated that the EU, NATO and the Belgian government approved this plan. This was the main result of his visit to Brussels. The prime minister said that Belgium’s support is very important for Georgia because this country will become the president of the OSCE next year.

In other words, Georgia is cherishing plans to use force against the autonomous republics. It’s hard to say if these plans will succeed. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are prepared to offer resistance and do not intend to give up.