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Russia’s naval threat increasing

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, December 10
There are certain things going on in the Black Sea which concern the Georgian population. First Russia is threatening to buy the Mistral helicopter carrier from France. Then there has been an accident concerning a Russian submarine inside Georgian territorial waters (the Abkhazian segment of them). Now Russian coast guard boats are being deployed in Ochamchire, Abkhazia. The Georgian Government and Parliament will do their best to attract Western countries' attention to these clearly aggressive acts and persuade them to increase their military presence in the Black Sea to counterbalance the Russian moves and maintain equilibrium.

It has been reported that the former Soviet military base at Ochamchire has been visited by three Russian military vessels which will eventually be stationed there permanently. Interfax has reported the threat of a certain Russian naval officer, Frolov, that Russian coast guards will detain any vessel violating the so-called 'Abkhazian naval border'. The Georgian Foreign Ministry has of course protested once again, accusing Russia of violating international law and the principles and commitments it has previously undertaken. However it looks as if Russia will ignore the Georgian protest and unfortunately there has not been much reaction from the West.

Opposition MP and Vice Speaker of Parliament Paata Davitaia held a press conference on December 7 where he highlighted the threat posed by Moscow's recent moves. He expressed his concern that Georgian commercial sea port Poti could be blocked, creating obstacles for commercial traffic. He also demanded urgent measures to involve international organisations in this issue. The Georgian Parliament supported this initiative and will in the near future draft a special appeal to partner countries highlighting the potential consequences of Russia's actions. This appeal will aim to persuade partner countries, possibly NATO ones, to starting controlling the Black Sea more efficiently.

Chairman of the Parliament Davit Bakradze has suggested that the adopted document should describe all the violations which the Russian side has committed recently. However we should acknowledge that it is unlikely that the West will take very active steps to counterbalance Russia’s recent moves. First of all France is a leading NATO member, and its leadership understands very well what selling the Mistral to Russia will mean. If commercial incentives are more important to them than the global military balance this will create serious problems within NATO. However it should be said that three NATO countries, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, already have the naval potential to monitor the situation in the Black Sea, and could sensibly be called upon to do so in order to defend their own interests as well as Georgia's.

Of course we should not expect an immediate reaction from NATO countries but some indications should be made to reveal the general attitude of the alliance towards the situation. Meanwhile Georgia should be very careful and take appropriate steps to protect Poti port from possible Russian provocations, though whether Georgia can do this alone remains unclear.