Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part A (Russia)
June 1, 2005, Wednesday

WE'VE LEFT THE BASE

SOURCE: Izvestia, June 1, 2005, p. 1 EV

by Petr Inozemtsev, Dmitry Litovkin

The outcome of unscheduled negotiations held by the Russian and
Georgian foreign ministers in Moscow on May 30 was very unexpected -
Russia no longer has active military bases in Georgia. In other
words, Russia has gotten rid of one of its imperial myths. In
reality, the military bases in Georgia had no military or political
significance.

The meaning of the statement made by the military is simple: the
bases located in Georgia will stop combat training. They will turn
into storage facilities for Russian military property until the final
withdrawal. This is an unexpected decision because in accordance with
the Russian-Georgian agreement Russia must accomplish the withdrawal
of the bases until the end of 2008. The status of Russian servicemen
will be absolutely uncertain until this moment. There were no such
precedents despite Moscow's rich experience in withdrawing its troops
during the post-Soviet period.

The foreign ministers made optimistic statements after the end of
negotiations. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the joint
statement contains provisions, which must make the withdrawal
organized. Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili didn't even
try to hide her satisfaction: "We have achieved our goal."

By the way, the "progress" achieved in Moscow concerns some other
aspects of Russian-Georgian relations.

Sergei Lavrov said that Russia and Georgia seek to accomplish
delimitation of the border and cooperate in settling the conflicts
with Abkhazia and Ossetia.

It's a surprise that Russia will start withdrawing its bases as
urgently. Russia will pass over the 142nd tank repair plant (Tbilisi)
to Georgia in two weeks (!) until June 15. A range of other military
objects will be passed over to Georgia until September 1 (a
communication center in Kodzhori, the Gonio firing range and more).

In addition, around 40 armored combat vehicles, including 20 tanks,
will be withdrawn from Georgia until autumn. All heavy military
vehicles will leave Akhalkalaki at the end of 2006.

In principle, Russia assumed the obligation to withdraw it bases from
Georgia after the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999, which decided to
adapt so-called conventional arms agreement signed by NATO and
members of the Warsaw Pact. Russia agreed to sign the agreement to
withdraw the 50th base in Gudaut and the 137th base in Vaziani within
two years. Moscow met its obligations earlier - both bases were shut
down before July 1, 2001.

As far as the 12th base in Batumi and the 62nd base in Akhalkalaki
are concerned, Russia and Georgia had to hold additional negotiations
over the timing of the withdrawal of these bases. Georgia repeatedly
reproached Russia for hindering this issue.

Originally, the Defense Ministry planned to create two special
brigades of mountaineers. It is intended to relocate them to the
Botlikh village (Dagestan) and the Zelenchukskaya village in
Karachayevo-Cherkessia. However, First Deputy Defense Minister
Alexander Belousov stated that Russia intended to start building the
infrastructure for these units only after 2006. This means that the
units withdrawn from Georgia may be relocated to tent camps.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov repeatedly stated: "If Georgia
wants us to leave it must pay for military settlements and bases,
which we will have to build in Russia."

Sergei Ivanov noted that this would cost $500 million. For instance,
Germany paid 8.5 billion marks for the withdrawal of Soviet troops.
In addition, Germany built several scores of settlements for Russian
servicemen. Russia should not expect this from Georgia. Moscow's
claims decreased to $200-$300 million under pressure from Georgia,
which promised to recover money from Russia for damaging the
environment. At present Moscow does not discuss this issue at all.

The Russian Defense Ministry has already stated that the major part
of military hardware will be relocated to the Russian military base
in Gyumri, Armenia. Russia has no other solution despite the fact
that Moscow's intention has already aggravated relations with Baku.
The point is that the only railway from Georgia to Russia crosses
Abkhazia. Tbilisi cannot ensure security of Russian military hardware
in this region.

Translated by Alexander Dubovoi