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Wikileaks Cables: US Arms to Georgia Keep Tensions Between Russia, Georgia High

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Headlined to H2 12/2/10

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President Obama and President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev by poniblog



Cables from the U.S. embassies in Moscow, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia reveal ever since a five-day war in Georgia, which erupted between Georgians and Russian-backed separatists in August 2008, the U.S. has been carefully assessing the implications of further arming Georgia. This assessment has required the U.S. to pay extra lip service to the idea that it is not arming Georgia for future provocations against Russia. And, the U.S. has had to show restrain and only make transfers Georgia can claim will be used for defense or to help the U.S. fight in Afghanistan and other parts of Eurasia as part of the "war on terror."

[*For revelations on the August war, see The Guardian 's story using details from WikiLeaks cables sent out during the conflict.]

The geopolitical maneuverings are revealed in a June 18, 2009 cable from Moscow titled, "Implications of Rearming Georgia for U.S.-Russian "Reset." The cable summary explains, "A decision to move towards a more robust military relationship with Georgia will imperil our efforts to re-start relations with Russia, if it is not carefully calibrated and deployed. While Medvedev understands the strategic and personal benefits of crafting a productive partnership with the U.S., this impulse is trumped by the GOR's "absolute' priority placed on expanding Russian influence in the Eurasian neighborhood, preventing NATO enlargement, and demonstrating Russia's great power status."

The cable contends "Georgia's territorial integrity" could be cost if a "lethal military supply relationship with Tbilisi" continues. The cable proposes a strategy of proving to Abkhaz and South Ossetians that autonomy with Tbilisi is better than submission to Russia."   It suggests Georgia work to establish itself as a "democratically vibrant and economically successful model for the region" instead of relying on military arms to gain advantage over Russia. And, further indicating how central Iran is to U.S. foreign policy, it adds that rearming Georgia openly could "lessen Russian restraint on weapons transfers to Iran."

The flipside of the geopolitical strategy unfolds in another cable from Tbilisi, sent out the day after the previously mentioned cable from Moscow. It indicates the importance of properly adjusting and defining policy toward Georgia and Russia in the region is a result of a U.S.-Georgia Charter Commission on June 22 that will require a discussion over the future of "military cooperation" with Georgia. The cable titled, "The Importance of Continued Military Engagement with Georgia," provides suggestions for why Georgia should be provided "a modest, transparent defensive capability" by the U.S.

Contending that Russia's claims that the U.S. is rearming Georgia are based on propaganda, the cable surmises that Russian objections to arming Georgia would contradict U.S. policy in the region and give "Russian disinformation an undeserved voice in U.S. policy formation." The cable urges the U.S. to not validate Russia's objections to arming Georgia because it could be seen as a reward for Russia's aggression in Georgia, "as well as its violation of international law and commitments, encourage a similar stance in Ukraine; and deal a body blow to [U.S.] credibility in Georgia, other Eurasian states, the [U.S.'] western partners -" and ultimately Russia itself."

It justifies two deliveries of "lethal military equipment" by noting they were purchased before the five-day August war and one in particular was for "coalition operations in Afghanistan." It reveals that the U.S. has agreed to deploy a Georgian battalion for two years in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, RC-South.

The cable illustrates Georgia's desire to "rebuild its native defensive capacity, which is currently insufficient to control its own airspace or hinder an invasion from any of its neighbors." It says Georgia "needs sufficient anti-armor and air defense capability to stall a ground advance" and the "Georgian operational thinking is that if they can defend Tbilisi from occupation for 72 hours, then international pressure will force" any advance "to pause."

The rationalization for ultimately going ahead with arming Georgia is as follows:

 

""The development of this capacity is not solely equipment-based, but it will require the acquisition of new lethal defensive systems. If Georgia does not procure the equipment from the U.S., it will almost surely seek to procure it elsewhere, as it has done in the past. U.S. involvement would help ensure the transparency of the procurement process itself, as well as increase our control over the amount, type and location of the equipment""

 

But, more important to the decision is the fact that ultimately Russia has no credibility when opposing a rearming of Georgia:

""While Russia, as well as the de facto regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, may argue otherwise, it is Russia and its proxy regimes that have dramatically increased the militarization of Georgia over the past year. Russia has introduced at least 3,700 troops into sovereign Georgian territory, as well as heavy military equipment, such as tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems, into the area immediately adjacent to the administrative boundaries -- in direct violation of the commitments President Medvedev made in the cease-fire agreement. It is Georgia that has lost 14 police officers since the war; kidnappings, cattle thefts, and detentions continue along the boundary, mostly on the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides. Russian helicopters make regular flights along the boundaries, sometimes crossing them, and Russian forces move large numbers of troops and heavy equipment along the boundaries at will""

 

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)
 
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