RUSSIAN HYSTERIA CONTINUES

The Messenger
April 30 2009
Turkey

On May 6 the Vaziani military base will host NATO military training
exercises which were scheduled this time last year. Such trainings
have been conducted previously and on those occasions they contained no
threat to any country whatsoever. They could have been held this time
without them even being noticed by anyone except military experts,
but Moscow's hysterical (or maybe historical) reaction has made
them international news. Russia's reaction has been so inappropriate
that the trainings have suddenly acquired a completely new different
dimension and importance.

The Kremlin is trying to achieve several things simultaneously by
objecting to these exercises. The first is to force NATO to retreat
once again. Having forced NATO to take Moscow's favoured decision and
refuse to grant MAP to Ukraine and Georgia last April it attacked and
invaded Georgia last August, so this is what happens when NATO does not
stick to its "guns". Secondly Moscow wants to make further aggressive
gestures towards Georgia, and thirdly it wants to demonstrate its
domination of former Soviet territory. The Kremlin needs to do these
things to prove to the world who the master in the Caucasus and the
former Soviet territories is.

Since the August invasion Russia has not ceased its aggression against
Georgia, only modified its form and character. The current hysteria
is part of this aggression and an attempt to build self-confidence,
the recent Council of Europe session having demonstrated that Russia is
losing Western support. On the one hand, Russia wants to exercise its
claims over the region and on the other it seeks to isolate Georgia
from the rest of the world, so that nobody will dare enter into any
kind of military, political or strategic arrangement with Georgia
because they are frightened of Moscow. That is why Russia tries to
influence and threaten its neighbours, promising to take serious
steps if the Kremlin's opinion is not considered.

And although no participant country has officially refused to take part
in the exercises so far, as no appropriate papers have been submitted
to NATO headquarters stating this, Russia has already achieved some
results. Most probably certain countries will eventually refuse to
participate. Of course NATO has not cancelled, postponed or relocated
the Vaziani exercises as this would have meant capitulating, but the
alliance keeps repeating like a guilty boy that these trainings were
scheduled a year ago. Would NATO not have planned these trainings two
months ago? Would it have been a crime or illegal action if they had
been scheduled recently? Does this mean that if NATO wants to hold
exercises later this year or next year it should receive Russian
permission first?

The situation has now become even more ridiculous. The criminal leaders
of the Russian puppet regimes of so called Abkhazia and South Ossetia
are daring to talk about the "aggressiveness of NATO"! Encouraged by
the Russians they threaten to take "adequate measures." Abkhazia and
South Ossetia can do nothing without Russia, so we should be under
no illusions of what "adequate measures" is supposed to imply.

Most probably Kazakhstan will not participate in the
trainings. Ukraine's participation is problematic and Azerbaijan and
Armenia are under serious pressure. Armenia as a strategic partner
of Russia is facing a dilemma: if it participates in the trainings
Moscow could retaliate in the most unexpected and vigorous ways,
maybe with dramatic results for Armenia. But if it withdraws it will
damage its relations with the West.

As for Georgia, Russians repeatedly threaten Tbilisi with a further
deterioration of the relations between the two countries. Who can
guarantee that a new aggression will not be started? Provocations
can be expected at any time, and the Georgian administration showed
how clumsy it is during the August trap. So who can say it is not
possible? This question is being put quite frequently in Georgia
today and has not been answered so far.

An amateur understanding is very simple - Georgia should not have
abandoned the policy of balancing exercised by former President
Shevardnadze. It should not have put all its eggs in one basket, taking
a clear cut pro-Western orientation, think some representatives of
the Georgian population. Maybe Georgia should have refused to host
the NATO trainings itself, and thus not give Moscow grounds to conduct
yet another aggression.

There are many questions which have become more insistent
recently. Some even think that many Western leaders have ceased
making direct contact with Saakashvili simply in order not to upset
Moscow. However, neither NATO nor Tbilisi wants to change their
mind. The NATO exercises will be held and officially the participants
should send their contingent.

Chairman of the Georgian Parliament David Bakradze has stated that
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has no moral, legal or political
right to dictate his will to NATO or its allies. However Moscow is
simply indulging in typical Soviet politics, in time-honoured fashion,
believing that best form of defence is attack. There is a week left
until the start of the NATO exercises and what will Moscow do, and
how principled NATO will be, are the main questions which need to be
answered now.