RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS WILL MAN THE PERIMETERS OF ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA
Russian border guards will be deployed on the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.
Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service will take over the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Sources in the Foreign Ministry expect signing of agreements with Sukhumi and Tskhinvali after ratification of the treaties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance by the Duma. (President Dmitry Medvedev already submitted them to the parliament.) The Georgian Foreign Ministry meanwhile promises to consider its response to Moscow’s "imperialistic plans".
Medvedev forwarded the treaties of friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance to the Duma yesterday and asked the lower house of parliament not to dally. His Press Service attributed Medvedev’s request to “political significance of the treaties.”
If what the documents in question stand for is any indication, their significance comes down to a broad range of opportunities for military cooperation. For example, signatories are permitted to build, use, and upgrade military infrastructures and establish military bases on allies’ territories to ensure their security and regional stability. That Abkhazia and South Ossetia are unlikely to begin considering establishment of military bases in Russia in any foreseeable future is clear. Establishment of Russian military bases on their territories is a different matter, of course. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov informed Medvedev of the consent of Abkhazian and South Ossetian governments to see Russian military contingents (3,800 men strong) on their territories in early September.
What information is available meanwhile indicates that the Kremlin intends to invoke another clause of the treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well. In a word, Russian border guards will be deployed on the perimeters of Abkhazia and South Ossetia soon, including the Abkhazian- and South Ossetian-Georgian borders. Article 7 of both treaties includes the mechanism of this cooperation aimed at promotion of interests of security and regional peace and stability. The same article points out that the signatories are expected to sign special accords on border protection, ones whose signing the Russian Foreign Ministry confidently expects immediately after ratification of the treaties by the Duma.
“Yes, we intends to sign these agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” to quote Andrei Kelin, the head of the Foreign Ministry CIS Department No 4, one that handles countries of the Caucasus. “It will be like what cooperation we have with Armenia these days – joint funding and joint patrols…” Since neither the Abkhazian nor South Ossetian military has any experience in border protection, Russia will assist the newly-recognized republic with development of national border services. “The Russians will leave the moment Sukhumi and Tskhinvali decide that they can do without them,” Kelin promised.
Parliaments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia ratified treaties with Russia on September 24 and October 2. Waiting for the Duma in Moscow to follow suit, they are prepared to welcome Russian border guards. “Their appearance here will boost security of our states,” Abkhazian Deputy Defense Minister Gary Kupalba said. “It is on Russia that our hopes are pinned in the sphere of national security. Once the treaties are ratified by the Duma, we will proceed to sign treaties of military cooperation and border protection with Russia.”
Sources in Tskhinvali confirm readiness for joint border protection too. “The borders will be manned by the Russians. Well, this necessity existed before the Georgian aggression too. Inefficiency of international observers is apparent, and so is the need to reinforce border protection,” Irina Gagloyeva of the government of South Ossetia said. According to Gagloyeva, Tskhinvali cannot hope to secure South Ossetian borders without assistance and signals from Moscow indicating its readiness to aid are therefore most welcome.
The Duma in its turn pledged readiness to do everything in its power to untie executive power structures’ hands in the matter of cooperation with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. “We may ratify the treaties this Friday,” Leonid Slutsky, International Committee Assistant Chairman, assumed. “The International Committee will discuss the matter Thursday, and so will factions. I do not expect any discord. We all understand that this is a matter of fundamental importance for Russia.”
Tbilisi meanwhile promises retaliation the moment Russian border guards appear on the Georgian soil. “No, we do not have any classified contingency plans of response to imperialistic encroachments. We will have to ponder mechanisms of response first,” Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said. “The International Court in the Hague did accept our lawsuit against Russia. We may file another.” Vashadze called the forthcoming appearance of Russian border guards in Abkhazia and South Ossetia “illustrative”. “It will finally put an end to speculations on Russia’s alleged peacekeeping mission under way on our territory since the early 1990s,” the diplomat said.
Vashadze warned that South Ossetia and Abkhazia might forget all about sovereignty once Russian border guards were installed on their territories. There is something to it indeed. Having Russia protecting their borders, Abkhazia and South Ossetia will find themselves in an even tighter isolation because border crossing by anybody at all will have to be run by Moscow first.