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Russia is not withdrawing or changing its intentions

By M. Alkhazashvili
Friday, August 22
It should be clear to everyone that by attacking Georgia Russia did not mean to solve local problems only and assist the Abkhazians or South Ossetians. Moscow has a much bigger plan - to revive the might and importance of the old Soviet empire. Who is next, ask the commentators, Ukraine or Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijan has silently followed developments. The war in Georgia has already damaged its interests, it is suffering losses. The Baku–Supsa pipeline has stopped working and due to the blown up bridge in Kaspi the railway connection is also blocked.

Some time ago Russian energy giant Gazprom suggested to Azerbaijan that it purchase all the natural gas Azerbaijan produces. All this gas is currently pumped through Georgia, but the dormant Baku-Novorosiisk route could be activated for this purpose. So there are plenty of issues which could develop depending on how the situation in Georgia pans out. If Russia continues to dominate Georgia and the West fails to put it in its place Russia could become more arrogant and aggressive. It could destroy once and for all any attempt to create an alternative energy supply route for Europe, thus preserving the means to suffocate Europe economically at any time.

The next target is Ukraine. It is, like Georgia, a candidate to enter NATO and this makes the Kremlin very nervous. Russia can use several means of undermining its neighbour, one being the issue of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens, thus granting them Russian citizenship and therefore protection. This was the case in Georgia, and a similar kind of separatism could be encouraged in Crimea and probably in the Eastern part of the country were there is a considerable ethnic Russian population. Moscow also can create problems with energy pricing, repeat its attempt to install a pro-Russian leadership in Kiev, and so on.

On August 18 trouble had already started in Kiev - the President’s Secretariat made a statement accusing Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko, one of the leaders of the Orange Revolution, of pro-Russian activities. If Tymoshenko becomes President she most probably refuse to enter NATO and, in line with the Gazprom project, would facilitate the creation of a consortium uniting Russia, Ukraine and certain European country. So far this is only speculation by some politicians and analysts, but Tymoshenko’s position on current events is significant. Despite the ongoing Russian aggression, she has recommended that Ukraine remain neutral and not support either side in the conflict in Georgia. Some might think that Russia would not dare to launch an attack on Ukraine, but several weeks ago Russian aggression against Georgia on the scale we have seen was also unrealistic.

The fight for Georgia is not over. Russian occupation forces are not withdrawing from Georgia as of yet, moreover they take over and build strongholds in many places outside the conflict zone. Their intentions are not quite clear but their moves are visible. They control Poti, Senaki , Gori and some villages in these areas and the main highway connecting Eastern Georgia with the western ports of Poti and Batumi. By blowing up a railway bridge they have divided the country into two, depriving it of its transit functions. The West and all the civilized world keeps protesting, with an overwhelming number of resolutions, statements, appeals and demands, but Russia is acting stubbornly and very slowly. It is whiling away time because it thinks that the West will not spoil its relationship with Russia for the sake of a tiny “off route” like Georgia.

Russia hopes that the West will shout and scream and then get tired and stop. Then winter will come and Russian gas will be needed. Russia then hopes that the West will start telling itself that Georgia is so far away, it did not have to irritate Moscow, there is nothing wrong with granting independence to the separatists and so on and so forth. But the West is now deciding its own fate, not only Georgia’s.