NATO EXPANDS PRESENCE IN CAUCASUS AS BROADER WAR LOOMS
by Rick Rozoff

Center for Research on Globalization
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31671
June 29 2012

On the sidelines of the twentieth anniversary summit of the
Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation in Istanbul, Turkey
on June 26, Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili met with his
Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul and, according to Trend News Agency
of Azerbaijan, dscussed "Issues of regional security and stability... "

The presidents also discussed regional - Transcaucasian and
Trans-Caspian - energy and transportation projects engineered by the
United States and several key NATO allies over the past twenty years.

President Gul also met with Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev
to deliberate over, among other matters, the increasingly volatile
situation on the borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia and Azerbaijan
and Nagorno-Karabakh, where over a dozen Armenian and Azerbaijani
soldiers have been killed in armed clashes this month.

The unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is supported by Armenia
and although surrounded by Azerbaijan is near Armenia to its west and
Iran to its south. The fact that deadly hostilities have of late not
only occurred along Azerbaijan's border with Nagorno-Karabakh but
with Armenia directly is cause for particular concern.

Standing immediately behind Azerbaijan in any war to "reclaim"
Nagorno-Karabakh, as Azeri officials from the president down constantly
threaten, is its ethnic and linguistic cousin and main military ally
Turkey. Having conducted ongoing armed incursions and air strikes
inside Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers Party, branded a terrorist
organization by Turkey, the U.S. and NATO, and actively preparing
for the same against Syria (which is defending its own territory),
there is no reason to believe that Ankara would sit on the sidelines
if Azerbaijan attacked Nagorno-Karabakh and in so doing triggered a
war with Armenia.

Armenia is, like Azerbaijan and Georgia, a NATO partner (all three
are members of the Partnership for Peace program, have an Individual
Membership Action Plan and have deployed troops to Afghanistan under
NATO command), but alone among the South Caucasus nations is also a
member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia's only
security alliance in the former Soviet Union.

If a new and expanded conflict erupts between Armenia and Azerbaijan
and Turkey backs the second and Russia the first, the threat of a
direct confrontation between NATO and Russia would be a possibility
for the first time.

Three weeks ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited all three
South Caucasus nations - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - and in
the third country pledged American assistance in training the armed
forces of the nation "to better monitor your coasts and your skies"
and committed Washington to "helping Georgia give its officers the
21st century training they need for today's changing missions."

She also reiterated the U.S. and NATO contention that independent
Abkhazia and South Ossetia (along with Nagorno-Karabakh and
Transdniester the so-called frozen conflicts in former Soviet space)
are part of Georgia and currently "occupied territories" ; that is,
occupied by Russia which has troops in both new nations.

In the aftermath of the five-day war between Georgia and Russia
in August 2008 following Georgia's armed assault on South Ossetia,
Russian officials revealed that air and other bases in Georgian had
been prepared for prospective attacks against Iran. Georgia's military
has been upgraded and transformed by the U.S. Marine Corps (and for
a brief period before that by Green Beret U.S. Army special forces)
over the past decade and 2,000 U.S.-trained Georgian troops served in
Iraq and soon 1,700 will be in Afghanistan. The Pentagon has prepared
the Georgian army for expeditionary operations in foreign theaters
of war and, as President Saakashvili has repeatedly emphasized,
made it a modernized, more battle-ready force for wars nearer home.

On June 25 Saakashvili asserted "we have real chances to become a
NATO member" at the next summit of the military bloc, stating:

~SThe next summit will probably take place in 2014 and I think that
Georgia will have a very good chance; I~Rve never been so sure about
it as I am now.~T

After meeting with what NATO refers to as aspirant countries - Georgia,
Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro - at the alliance summit last month,
Hillary Clinton vowed that those states and perhaps others were
candidates for full NATO membership, saying "I believe this summit
should be the last summit that is not an enlargement summit."

When Georgia joins NATO the latter will be in an immediate de facto
state of conflict with Russia over Abkhazia and South Ossetia which,
recall, in Clinton's words are Russian-occupied parts of Georgia.

On June 22 NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation,
Poland's General Mieczyslaw Bieniek, visited Georgia for two days
and according to the Georgian Ministry of Defence stated, "Georgia`s
aspiration toward NATO has been once more confirmed at the Bucharest
and Chicago summits and Georgia is making a lot of efforts on its
way to NATO integration. "

Bieniek toured the host country's National Defence Academy, lecturing
students on the role of the U.S.-based Allied Command Transformation,
and met with the defense attachés of NATO member states in Georgia.

Three days before 28 U.S. soldiers graduated from a course at the
Sachkhere Mountain Training School, a NATO standard and NATO-supported
institution. The graduation ceremony was attended by leading Georgian
military officials and representatives of the NATO Liaison Office
in Georgia. The latter was opened in October 2010 and its purpose
is, as described by NATO, to "Provide advice and assistance to the
Government of Georgia in support of civilian and military reform
efforts required for NATO integration" and to "Conduct liaison with
Georgian, NATO, Allied, and Partner Authorities to enhance cooperation
and understanding in pursuit of the NATO/Georgia goal of Georgia
becoming a full NATO member."

According to a statement issued by the Georgian Defence Ministry last
July, "Under PfP [Partnership for Peace] status the School will train
military units of NATO and its partner countries' armed forces."

It added:

"In September the instructors of the Mountain Training School
will conduct a mountain training basic summer course for military
servicemen of NATO countries. The essential part of the course
consists of practical exercises. Its aim is to provide soldiers with
the basic mountain-technical skills and master them in operating
under mountain circumstances. The exercise will be conducted in the
English language...

"Under the schedule military servicemen from Poland, the Czech
Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will undergo trainings in
the Sachkhere Mountain Training School as well."

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, a former National
Security Council and Defense Department official and U.S. ambassador
to NATO, is paying a two-day visit to Georgia on June 28-29, where
he will meet with several major government officials, including the
defense minister, interior minister and national security advisor as
well as deliver a keynote speech at the Georgia Defence and Security
Conference on June 29.

The South Caucasus, composed of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, borders Iran, Russia
and Turkey and will not remain unaffected by military conflicts in
the general region, nor will hostilities between states in the region
not create the potential for far larger conflicts.


From: Baghdasarian