ROAR: “Georgia is using old tactics towards South Ossetia”

Vladimir Kremlef for RT
The Russian media and analysts say the recent provocations on the Georgian-South Ossetian border resemble last year’s events.

Georgia will continue to maintain tension on the border with South Ossetia to gain support from the West, observers believe, commenting on the upcoming anniversary of the war in the Caucasus.

At the same time, according to the latest poll conducted by VTsIOM, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 56% of Russians surveyed said they continued to consider Georgia the instigator of the conflict a year ago.

Some 15% blame the US government, western intelligence services and the world community for the beginning of the war over South Ossetia. As for Russia’s activities in that conflict, 86% of respondents called them justified.

Russia should continue to support South Ossetia, 87% of those polled said, first of all in the humanitarian sphere (41%). However, almost 30% believe the republic should get military aid from Russia as well.

People in Russia also support the decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Among those surveyed, 60% spoke in favor of it and only six percent did not approve of this step.

“A series of recent provocations show that Georgia is trying to resume a policy of subtle power pressure on South Ossetia, as it was before the events of August 2008,” Mikhail Aleksandrov, head of the department of the Caucasus of the Institute of the CIS countries, told Gazeta daily.

He said that, a year ago, Tbilisi constantly provoked South Ossetian law enforcement agencies and Russian peacekeepers. The territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were regularly fired on, Russian convoys were attacked and civilians abducted, Aleksandrov said.

“The task was to create unbearable conditions for people in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and thanks to that to achieve concessions during talks,” he said. “It is obvious that Georgia has decided to return to this tactic now.”

Sergey Mikheev, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies also believes that the anniversary of the war in the Caucasus will be marked by provocations. “It is necessary for Tbilisi to maintain the tense situation around South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” he told Gazeta.

“If everything is calm in these states and on their borders, then the international community will gradually forget about these republics and with time accept their independence,” Mikheev said.

Analysts believe that Georgia has chosen this tactic again, feeling the support of the West. However, they doubt that provocations could lead to war in the region. “The beginning of a new war means colossal risks for Georgia,” Mikheev said.

He stressed that last year’s campaign showed that the condition of the Georgian army is far from ideal. Another important factor is that South Ossetia will not be taken by surprise now, as it was in 2008.

“There are a lot of Russian troops in the region,” he added. “Tbilisi’s operation failed last year. This year the Georgian army does not have a chance at all.”

The Russian government, however, is concerned about Tbilisi’s remilitarization. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta, said that Moscow would “continue to oppose the Saakashvili regime’s rearmament.”

Karasin also noted that Georgia’s attempts to remilitarize the country “have met a surprisingly calm and even a positive response in some countries.” Moreover, he added that some states have been trying to conceal their military cooperation with Georgia, disguising it sometimes as humanitarian assistance.

The deputy foreign minister also said the Russian leadership was aware of various “actions” planned by Georgia on the border with South Ossetia “to mark the anniversary” of the August 2008 events. He stressed that such actions can have unpredictable consequences in such a dangerously explosive region.

At the same time, the Russian media have commented on the decision of the President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity to relieve Prime Minister Aslanbek Bulatsev of his duties for health reasons. On August 5, Vadim Brovtsev, the director of a construction firm from the town of Ozersk in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region was appointed to this position.

Brovtsev’s company is taking part in the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi, newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote. Many buildings in South Ossetia were destroyed by Georgian forces during the 2008 war, and the republic needs a specialist who will control the process of reconstruction, the paper stressed.

Kokoity’s recent statement that South Ossetia may become a republic in the Russian Federation has also provoked a lot of comments in the media. Aleksey Malashenko, a political scientist at the Carnegie Moscow Center, believes that “it would be similar to annexation, and Russia’s position in the world would be worsened.”

If the republic joins North Ossetia, there may be problems for Russia as well, because “a big Ossetia would disrupt an unsteady balance in the North Caucasus,” Malashenko told Gazeta.

Dmitry Yevstafyev of the analytical PIR Center considers South Ossetia possibly joining Russia “a natural question, but a very complicated one.” There is North Ossetia, so it would be like the reunification of a people, he told Komsomolskaya Pravda.

“On the other hand, practically all people in South Ossetia are citizens of Russia, and, of course, this territory sooner or later should join Russia,” Yevstafyev said. However, he stressed that the path to this should be long and calm, especially taking into account that “the regime in Tbilisi has not abandoned the plans to return Tskhinval and South Ossetia under its control.”

Sergey Borisov, RT