French President Sarkozy was naive and allowed himself to be hoodwinked by the Russians, who had long planned the invasion of Georgia and are now roaming at will in Georgia instead of executing their promised withdrawal.
They are determined to humiliate the Georgian state so that it becomes a mere vassal of Russia. In the process they now indirectly control the economies of Armenia and Azerbaijan as well for almost all the exports of those countries go through Georgia or Russia. . The Ukraine will be next.
I recommend a study of the maps of this part of the world. The Ukraine was doubled in size by the old USSR and is vastly bigger than its historic size. This means that the Russian Black Sea fleet has no port of its own except the small landlocked Taganrog on the Sea of Azov [top right!] ; it rents the naval base of Sebastopol in the Crimea from the Ukraine. If that is not a recipe for conflict I do not know what is! I hope the EU and NATO have contingency plans for that war! (Though I doubt that they’ve thought of that !)
Meanwhile Germany , not content with having medddled in the Caucasus in recent years, is now proposing to involve Turkmenistan in the area of supposed EU concern under the phrase “ neighbourhood policy”. Since Turkmenistan goes as far east as Afghanistan one might wonder if the term ‘neighbour’ was not being stretched a bit
THE GUARDIAN 19.8.08
No sign of military withdrawal as Russian armour stays put
· Tbilisi says tank columns are edging into heartland
· Moscow insists pullout has already begun
Luke Harding and Tom Parfitt in Gori and Julian Borger in Tbilisi
Russia last night continued to occupy large swaths of Georgia in defiance of an EU-brokered ceasefire deal, with no sign of significant troop withdrawals.
Despite claims by Moscow that a pullout had begun, Russian forces could be seen across most of the country, and Georgian officials claimed that armoured columns had tried to push further into the mountainous heartland, towards Borjomi in the south and Sachkhere in the west.
"We could leave here in two minutes. But we've had no orders to pull out," said a Russian soldier manning a checkpoint yesterday about 25 miles west of the capital, Tbilisi. He knew nothing about a ceasefire.
Georgia's foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, said Russian troops had razed a Georgian military base at the western city of Senaki.
"Practically speaking there are so far no signs of withdrawal at all. What they're trying to do is to widen their territorial presence," Tkeshelashvili said before flying to Brussels to appeal for support from Nato foreign ministers today. "They have pretty much unrestricted freedom of action. They are trying to show us they are masters on the ground right now."
She said she would call for punitive diplomatic measures against Russia, excluding Moscow from international institutions, if Moscow refused to comply.
A Georgian interior ministry spokesman said columns of Russian armoured vehicles were stopped by police roadblocks outside Borjomi and Sachkhere and agreed to turn back. But another column broke through a similar roadblock west of Tbilisi.
One report circulated yesterday evening suggested the Russian forces would only begin their promised withdrawal after nightfall, and Georgian officials said they would review the situation in the morning after further international pressure.
"I might be naive, but I'm still hopeful that a very strong, common effort by Europe and the United States will be effective in the withdrawing of Russian troops from territory of Georgia," Tkeshelashvili said. "We'll see how well grounded my expectation is."
President Dmitry Medvedev vowed to initiate a troop withdrawal yesterday after signing the agreement on Saturday. On Sunday he told France's president Nicholas Sarkozy a pullout was imminent.
Last night Russian officers insisted that the withdrawal was already happening. In Moscow the deputy chief of staff, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said: "According to the peace plan, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers and reinforcements has begun." This included Gori, he added.
Russian officials across the border in North Ossetia echoed this. "War columns are already leaving. The main pullout will take place today. It takes a long time to pack up a tank," a Russian spokesman in the North Ossetia capital, Vladikavkaz, said. "We are talking days not weeks."
Another Russian military spokesman, Lieutenant General Nikolay Uvarov, told the BBC last night that Russian forces had left Gori, which lies on the main east-west highway running through the heart of the country. However, Russian troops were very much in evidence in the town, and at checkpoints between Tbilisi and Gori, searching cars and cutting the road between east and west Georgia. Nor was there a sign of military movement from Gori north towards South Ossetia.
Georgian officials also claimed the Russians were busy laying mines. Tkeshelashvili said that one of her principal appeals to Nato today will be for help in demining.
Russia's most forward position last night was where it had been for the past few days, at Igoeti, 27 miles from the capital. Russian tanks were visible today in the surrounding wooded hills. An armoured vehicle also ploughed into a line of stationary Georgian police cars.
"Russian forces are not leaving. They are merely rotating their hardware. One comes, another one goes," said Irakly Porchkhidze, a Georgian government official inside Gori, where humanitarian relief was arriving today. He added: "There is no pullout."
There was growing concern that the Kremlin plans to exploit ambiguities in the Sarkozy-drafted agreement to justify a semi-permanent presence inside Georgia's borders. Moscow today indicated it intended to deploy its forces under an internationally brokered peace agreement in 1999, allowing Russia a generous "security zone". The zone extends nine miles around Tskhinvali and allows a "corridor" into Georgian areas. The document was designed to end the Georgian-Ossetian conflict and agreed by a joint control commission, an international body. The Georgian foreign minister, Tkeshelashvili, said the 1999 deal only allowed Russia a maximum of 500 peacekeepers, not to garrison towns or set up checkpoints.
Additionally, South Ossetian militias yesterday said they had no intention of handing back territory. On Saturday the militias, supported by Russian heavy armour, seized Akhalgori, 25 miles north-west of Tbilisi. "This is now ours. It's Ossetian land," one militia man said yesterday morning.
The town was under the control of South Ossetia's interior ministry and police administration, he said. The Georgian flag had been replaced by a white, red and yellow Ossetian one.
EU OBSERVER 19.8.08
Germany calls for EU neighbours meeting on Georgia
Germany is calling for an EU neighbours meeting on Georgia to try and bring stability to the volatile region, amid conflicting claims from Moscow about whether it had promised to "pullback" or "withdraw" its troops from the small South Caucasus country.
The conference - tentatively named "reconstruction and stability in Georgia and the region" - would include many of the countries already involved in the EU's neighbourhood policy, a mechanism aimed at binding countries to the bloc through trade and economic ties.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, mentioned deepening the EU's contacts with these neighbouring countries following a meeting with Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili on Sunday (17 August).
"She particularly mentioned countries which haven't been directly included in the [EU] neighbourhood policy so far," German government spokesman, Thomas Steg, said, according to Reuters.
Berlin's aim is to extend the neighbourhood policy's coverage. At the moment, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are involved in Brussels' neighbourhood policy, but gas-rich Turkmenistan - mentioned specifically by Ms Merkel on Sunday - is not. [nb. Bottom right hand corner of the Caspian Sea; land borders with Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, maritime border with Azerbaijan; no border with Georgia. - thanks Denis Cooper!]
"We will suggest that the EU presidency arranges for a conference of the EU and, within the framework of the neighbourhood policy, the neighbouring states in the south Caucasus and the region," the spokesman said, referring to the current French EU presidency.
Germany's proposal comes as the European Union attempts to work out as a whole what its response to the Georgia-Russia war should be.
On Monday, French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said that EU governments were not ready to issue an ultimatum to Moscow, with national capitals remaining divided about how strongly to chastise Russia and how to apportion blame.
No ultimatums, yet
"We don't want to threaten," Mr Kouchner said at a news conference, reports AFP. "We are serious. There is a red line. The red line is the withdrawal of the troops. They must withdraw the troops."
"At a given moment, we will be faced with ultimatums," said Mr Kouchner, but noted "We are not there at all."
Paris is deliberating whether to call a meeting of EU leaders, something that is set to depend on the way and the speed with which Russia removes its troops from Georgia.
But Moscow is already sending a muddy message on what it is doing with its military.
On Monday, it said it had begun to withdraw troops. "Today, in line with the plan, the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers has begun," said the deputy head of Russia's general staff, general Anatoly Nogovitsyn.
But he added that there had been a misunderstanding about Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's promise to pull forces out of Georgia.
"There is a distinction between the understandings of a 'pullback' and a 'withdrawal'... In the conversation with French president Sarkozy, the discussion was about a pullback of forces, not a withdrawal," he said, reports Sky News.
According to general Nogovitsyn, the troops would pull back to the borders of South Ossetia, the breakaway region that sparked off the conflict on 7 August. But he did not say how many troops would remain in Georgia.
The EU's difficulty in finding a united line on Russia is likely to be echoed in NATO on Tuesday with foreign ministers from the organisation gathering in the Brussels headquarters to discuss the crisis.
While eastern European states, the US and the UK are expected to push a tougher line on Russia, western European countries such as Germany and France [It’s always these two trying to dominate the other 25! -cs] are expected to be reluctant to be too openly hard on Moscow.