Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 09, 2009

Is Saakashvili Again Trying War?

In August the Georgian president Saakashvili ordered an attack on the renegade South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers there. He did not expected the obvious Russian answer that routed his forces within days. He did expect U.S. support which did not come. South Ossetia and another province, Abkhasia, then declared themselves independent.

But Saakashvili has not given up on them and there are signs that he is preparing for a new immediate attempt to regain South Ossetia or at least launch a provocation.

Thanks to Bush he may well again believe that he now really has U.S. support for that. But Bush will soon be gone, so maybe now is the right time to do ... something.

The opposition in Georgia is demanding new elections, the economy is in trouble and government changes are critizised:

[S]uccessive cabinet reshuffles have left unscathed powerful Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, whom Subari has implicitly accused of presiding over a death squad that operates outside the law. And Bacho Akhalaya, a Merabishvili protege who is believed to have provoked a prison riot in March 2006 by his sadistic treatment of prison inmates, has been promoted to deputy defense minister.
[O]n December 23, Saakashvili assured the Georgian population that the country is on the road to recovery, and that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will "be liberated far sooner than people think."

"Far sooner" ...

In late December a Georgian parliamentary commission whitewashed Saakashvili's of his responsibility for the August conflict. That does give him some space in interior politics.

Bush gave him additional strong backing with a Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the U.S.:

Saakashvili has hailed the US-Georgia treaty as a "historic" move that will allow the two countries' relations to progress towards a new stage.

"The United States has never before said that Georgia is its strategic partner," he said on December 22.

The signing was supposed to take place on January 4 but that was moved to today:

Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, and U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, signed on January 9 in Washington a charter on strategic partnership between the two countries.
“The U.S. supports and will always support Georgia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, as well as its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” [Rice] continued. “
“This is a historic day for my country,” Vashadze said. “The Charter… strengthens close strategic partnership between Georgia and the United States and stresses that countries, undersigning this legal instrument, share vital interests in strong, prosperous, independent, sovereign, territorially integral Georgia. ...”

The treaty is controversial in Georgia as its content has up to now not been released.

According to an opposition party Saakashvili is also having talks with the U.S. about a military base in Georgia.

Now notice the dates. The agreement was supposed to be signed on January 4. Also on January 4 the Abchazian government reported movement of Georgian troops at its borders. Georgia denied such.

Late December there were reports of movement near South Ossetia:

Tbilisi has [..] deployed tanks and Cobra armored vehicles near the South Ossetian border, the locals warned later [on December 29].

On January 6 South Ossetia raised again alarm:

South Ossetia Press Ministry warns that Georgia and foreign advisors are planning a large-scale operation in South Ossetia

The South Ossetian Press and Social Communication Ministry declared on Monday that a major offensive is being planned by Georgian and foreign forces to strike at Russian servicemen in South Ossetia and this Republic´s security, defence and law enforcement authorities.

Then Saakashvili again:

Speaking with journalists on January 7, after attending an Orthodox Christmas mass in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, Saakashvili said: “The Patriarch [Ilia II] spoke on two important issues – the one is that Georgia, the Georgian people want peace, but not at the expense of giving up of our territories – this is a very important, fundamental concept, which is a foundation of our national policy.


The Defense Ministry of South Ossetia said Friday Georgia was moving troops towards its border, the republic's information and press committee said.

The committee cited South Ossetian Deputy Defense Minister Ibragim Gasseyev as saying that four Georgian armored vehicles and 16 trucks had approached the village of Mereti, Gori district.

"Considering that each vehicle has at least 20 people, Georgia has moved at least 300 people to Mereti," Gasseyev said.

With a new 'strategic agreement' backing him and the immediate problem of the commission report behind, Saakashvili seems to get adventures again.

There is one slight problem with a new war but even that might be an advantage. It is winter.

Gazprom supplies Georgia with gas from Russia, but Georgia seems to be unwilling to forward some of that gas to South Ossetia as it is supposed to. If Saakashvili tries something nasty, Gazprom might well have 'technical problems' supplying Georgia.

On the other side winter closes the tunnel between South Ossetia and Russia. That tunnel is the only route for possible re-enforcement of Russian troops in South Ossetia and the open tunnel was the reason why Saakashvili lost his little war back in August. A blocking force on the border to Abkhasia could prevent re-enforcement by that route. A U.S. Navy frigate just visited Poti and likely still in the Black Sea  ready to stand by.

Also now Bush is still there. Action within the next few days would get at least rhetorical backing from him.

So will Saakashvili now give it another try just before Bush is gone?

Posted by b on January 9, 2009 at 01:09 PM | Permalink


How can you know, with someone like Saakashvili? I doubt the Russians are not paying attention to S's antics, and will take counter-measures when necessary.

Posted by: seneca | Jan 9, 2009 2:52:45 PM | 1

Why would winter close a tunnel? Does anyone have a clue?

Posted by: rapier | Jan 9, 2009 3:57:48 PM | 2

Why would winter close a tunnel? Does anyone have a clue?

Because it is at 2000 meter elevation in a snowy region.

Posted by: b | Jan 9, 2009 4:04:52 PM | 3

Gazprom supplies Georgia with gas from Russia, ... If Saakashvili tries something nasty, Gazprom might well have 'technical problems' supplying Georgia.

"Georgia has almost entirely switched over to gas from Azerbaijan, and is no longer dependent on Russian supplies. In addition, they have brought a new 250 megawatt power station online -- Inguri -- which has made Georgia virtually independent from importing Russian electricity."

Posted by: Guest | Jan 9, 2009 4:06:33 PM | 4

As I said back in August, and even more now, if the tunnel to S Ossetia is closed, there's always the possibility of sending the tanks through Abkhazia and then straight to Ossetia and Tbilisi. There's basically nothing that could stop them there. And this would be a far worse outcome for Georgia than just losing Ossetia.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jan 9, 2009 7:54:07 PM | 5

If Russians advance through Abkhazia, it will certainly be a much bigger conflict for both Georgia and Russia: daring Russia to expand the conflict might indeed be what Saakashvilli is trying, hoping that the prospect of a bigger conflict might cause the Kremlin to blink...or invite other countries' intervention, should something like that happen. He might have learned a slightly different lesson from what everyone else might have: both contenders for US presidency, as well as most of the American "elite opinion" hewed to Georgian version of the narrative, even as contradictory facts were emerging. Saak and his cronies might think (and they might be right) that it's a worthwhile gamble to try again under more favorable conditions (weather-wise, at least).

Posted by: kao_hsien_chih | Jan 9, 2009 8:10:18 PM | 6

Of course, if Russia has to go through half Georgia, it'll be easiest to portray this as a Russian invasion of the country. Then, if he attacks now, with no way Russian tanks could go to Ossetia, he forfeits his main argument that Russia attacked first.
And, most of all, if Russia has to occupy half the country to "free" S Ossetia, there's no way Saakashvili will ever again rule Georgia. Assuming he can flee the country to begin with, and doesn't end up in a Moscow jail facing trial.
Such a renewed conflict can benefit some shadowy imperialist powers in the West, but there's strictly no benefit for Georgia and for Saakashvili, in my opinion.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jan 9, 2009 9:12:26 PM | 7

saakashvili is so fucking stupid - i think he is capable of even greater foolishness - he'll still have his little office at the american enterprise institute next to the raving mad john bolton

can you imagine what the aei must be like on a bad day - it doesn't bear too much meditation

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 9, 2009 10:38:41 PM | 8

This fucker was educated in some college here in the US, so I guess that tells you all you need to know about his intelligence level. The last thing this world needs is another war, but I'd sure enjoy watching some more Russian You-Tube style videos (of Saakashit being dragged off in leg irons). You'd think the Georgian people would have already gotten fed up with his shit.

Posted by: Jim | Jan 9, 2009 11:03:49 PM | 9

Maybe he's primping, if not pimping, himself for the governorship of Illinois.

Posted by: biklett | Jan 9, 2009 11:50:28 PM | 10

Jan 9: Pipeline Damage in Georgia Halts Russian Gas Supply to Armenia

Transit of the Russian gas to Armenia has been suspended after the pipeline was damaged in southern Georgia, the Energy Ministry said on January 9.

“Gas pipeline has been damaged; gas leak is significant so this morning we fully suspended gas transit to Armenia,” Alexandre Khetaguri, the Georgian Energy Minister, said on January 9. “Repair works are now ongoing and according to the preliminary estimations the repair works will take five days.”

Someone is playing games here ...

Posted by: b | Jan 10, 2009 2:53:08 AM | 11

Despite what the Yank press and politicians said about Georgia/Russia two months ago, it's clear we recognized what our limited options were inside Russia's legitimate sphere of interest. Saak must realize the odds are against him now, so this latest has the feeling of doubling down out of desperation.

On the other hand, the change of US focus from Iraq to Afghanistan means a new grand game is developing, with Caucasian energy at the heart of it, and blocking Russia and China as its object. Who knows what geniuses like Brzezynski are cooking up?

Posted by: seneca | Jan 10, 2009 9:35:03 AM | 12

Saak is subnormal - nobody with any brains would have ever put himself in this position or acted like he did... His Dutch wife (who probably has a big influence) is debilic as well. Even the Mafia is more disciplined, they don’t accept ppl who don’t understand the score or refuse to show allegiance.

Only the Americans could co-opt such idiots. Ok, they are expendable, and play the role of convenient stooges, the US gives not a sh*t, the more confusion the better, something will transpire!

Posted by: Tangerine | Jan 10, 2009 1:41:40 PM | 13

Hysteria run loose is the best description of the article and most of the comments. Notoriously unreliable South Ossetian sources seem to be the main support for the alleged renewed Georgian offensive. If one should understand anything it is that lies flow more freely in Georgia and its neighbors than the winter snows.

The article attributes significance to the tunnel being blocked in the winter asserting it makes Russian unable to back up its troops. That is laughable. It is as if air planes had never been invented. Russia controls the air. With that it can determine the outcome of any future battles as it has shown in the past. Georgia has learned its lesson and any talk about bringing the Russian protected territories back under its influence is nothing more than that, just talk. Relax folks, even the benighted Bush and Saakashvili are not total morons.

Posted by: Llyonnoc | Jan 11, 2009 11:28:56 AM | 14


Posted by: Malooga | Jan 11, 2009 12:04:43 PM | 15

then what is the new deal signed this week by u s & georgia on strategic initiatives ?

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 11, 2009 12:21:47 PM | 16

[O]ne must understand the "real out come" of such an attempt of trying to take Ossetia back to Georgian control. it is unthinkeble for Ossetians, but fo US to give (Saak)as some call him, or (Misha) as Georgians call him. Anyway the whole worl lost interest in that "good tie chewing actor". I think all parties have had "enough" of Saak's "acting". One more link from last war- S.O.S

Posted by: Soslan Asetey | Jan 12, 2009 7:27:05 PM | 17

[U]npredictible as Saak is hi might as well try it again, after'all he is not himself going to face the "Music at the front line. He will stay behind to chew some more ties i suppose.
Here is one more link from last war.- S.O.S

Posted by: Soslan Asetey | Jan 12, 2009 7:44:39 PM | 18

Russia concerned about Georgian border activities - Lavrov

The Russian minister has also touched upon the situation with Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, stressing that Georgia should fulfill its obligations in accordance with the plan by Medvedev and Sarkozy.

He expressed Russia’s concern at the buildup of Georgian forces near its borders with the South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"EU monitors working in areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been reporting a buildup of Georgian military units and special forces near the borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and our 'technical devices' have also recorded this,” he said.

Posted by: b | Jan 17, 2009 3:17:15 AM | 19

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