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No military Russian transit via Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 26
On April 19, the Georgian parliament unanimously (84 votes) abolished an agreement signed on March 31, 2006 about the transit of military cargo and military personnel from Russia to other countries. This decision was followed by serious discussions in Russia and in Armenia in particular concerning the implications from a geopolitical point of view and how Russia will be supplying its 102nd military base in the Armenian town of Gumri. This document was signed simultaneously to the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia. The Georgian parliament ratified this agreement on April 13, 2006 and it was to remain valid for 5 years. This agreement envisaged automatic continuation of its terms unless one side made a written objection 6 months prior to the expiration date. As Deputy FM of Georgia Nino Kalandadze informed the media, the above mentioned 6 month term expires in November and eventually the agreement will cease to function from this date.

Under the current circumstances when Russia is occupying 1/5 of Georgian territory, allowing Russian military transit through Georgia is not logical. Permitting this would have carried a serious risk and danger for Georgia's military and strategic security. As deputy minister Kalandadze informed, the last time Georgia allowed Russian military transit through its territory was in July 2008. One month later, Georgia was under attack. Staring from this period, Russia did not apply for transit permission and so it transpires that the Russian military base had not been supplied through Georgian territory for almost 3 years already. On the other hand some Georgian analysts suspect that, in a disguised manner, certain goods are transported through Georgia via Larsi checkpoint. Among the wikileaks documents there is information that the Georgian side expresses its concern that the military equipment sent to Armenia is exceeding the logical amount of what Armenia needs and could probably be targeted against Georgia too. In reality of course it would be rather difficult to control precisely what kind of cargo goes to the Russian base in Armenia through Georgia. It is very significant that on the eve of abolishing the agreement on April 18, Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia was in a meeting in Yerevan with his counterpart and President Serzh Sarkisian. During these meetings possible military cooperation was discussed and of course this statement was very painfully interpreted by Azerbaijan – Georgia’s strategic partner. Some even considered that military cooperation with Armenia could mean military cooperation with Russia. With these developments in Georgia, the pressing question is how the base in Gumri would be supplied. Some Georgian analysts suggest that Russia would be supplying Armenia and its base through the Caspian Sea and Iran. However Armenian newspaper Novoe Vremya excluded this possibility as it would be badly received by western countries. Besides it is not known what preferential deals Iran would demand from Russia. They could be financial as well as political. Another possibility being discussed is the activation of Turkish – Armenian dialogue and the possible opening of the border between the two countries so that the Russian base could be supplied with goods through Turkey. Azeri military expert Mirkadirov suggests that the Georgian decision would not have been taken without US consent. So it is technically a very complicated situation. Russia has a military base in Armenia whereas it is blocked and cannot be supplied by land or other means. It could only be supplied by air but even then Russian military planes cannot use Georgian, Azeri or Turkey territories. Only Iranian airspace could be used for that and besides air transport has certain limitations concerning the size of the equipment and its weight.