ROAR: “US has sovereign right to throw money into Georgia’s black hole”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Tbilisi is interested in disseminating rumors about the alleged deployment of US bases in Georgia at the time when Russia-US relations are changing for the better, observers believe.

The US may establish three military bases in Georgia by 2015, the Russian media reported, citing the news published last week in a Georgian newspaper. The group of the US congressmen and former Vice President Dick Cheney are said to be lobbying the project.

If the project is implemented, up to 25,000 US troops will be deployed in the former Soviet republic. This number is much more than the number of Russian servicemen deployed in military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, observers say.

The media are speculating that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were discussing this issue during their meeting at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.

There was no official confirmation of the news regarding the bases. At the same time, Clinton made it clear that the US would continue its efforts to prevent international recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Many observers were not surprised at the news. Political analyst Pavel Danilin called Clinton’s statement “an attempt to save face for the US’s diplomacy.”

“It would be strange to expect something different from the US after it scrapped plans to deploy elements of missile defense in Europe,” Danilin told South Ossetia’s news agency OSinform. He added this move would not seriously influence the two republics’ futures.

“The US and their European allies will for a long time refuse recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the analyst believes. But there is “a clear understanding in the world” that Georgia has lost its sovereignty over these republics, Danilin stressed.

The US has limited resources to exert pressure on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he added. There may be economic and diplomatic steps, but it is clear that Washington will not “impose serious sanctions to support Georgia,” he added.

Sergey Mikheev, vice president of the Center for Political Technologies, noted that “more than a year has passed since the Russian-Georgian conflict, but no real consequences have occurred” for Russia. There was “no severance of relations, no blockade, no isolation,” he told Gazeta daily. “No Western company left Russia because of [Moscow’s] conflict with Georgia, Mikheev said.

Speaking at the US General Assembly, Saakashvili said that “a Berlin Wall” had divided Georgia after the war over South Ossetia in August 2008. He also said that Abkhazia, “the cradle of Georgian civilization,” would be part of Georgia in the future.

Referring to the Georgian president’s words, Sergey Markedonov, head of the Ethnic Relations Department at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, told Gazeta daily that whether Abkhazia was the cradle of Georgian civilization or not, this does not mean “it will return to Georgia.”

As for the possible deployment of the bases in Georgia, the US is pursuing not only military purposes in the Caucasus, observers believe. “Since the USSR’s break-up, Georgia has become a big transit country, with pipelines running through territory, linking Azerbaijan to Georgia’s Black Sea ports and Turkey,” Rossiya weekly wrote.

Saakashvili has tried to persuade the West that “by putting Georgia under its control, Moscow may immediately block the functioning of the transit corridor bypassing Russia’s territory,” the paper said.

“Analysts have no doubts that the US is eager to control routes of the transit of hydrocarbons from the Caspian basin to the West using all possible means, including military ones,” Rossiya wrote. “The plans to deploy tracker stations and military bases in Georgia only support this theory,” the paper said.

At the same time, the scale of these plans and their threat to Russia may be only assessed when the US coordinates its presence in the region with the governments in the South Caucasus, the weekly added.

Opposition to the bases is not ruled out in Georgia itself. The Russian media already quote former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze as saying that deploying US military bases in Georgia is “inexpedient.” He added that this move would not solve the country’s problems.

Some observers believe the US is more interested in using these bases “against the Iranian threat.” Nevertheless, this issue may become another cause of disagreements between Russia and the US over Georgia.

Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, believes that there is little chance of Washington deploying bases in that region. First of all, Georgia should prove it may retain its territorial integrity [even without the two republics] by 2015, Ivashov told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

Another problem for the present regime in Georgia is that it wants to retain power by force, the analyst added. “But not all Europeans are supporting Saakashvili and Georgia’s policies toward Russia,” he added.

In any case, if the bases really are deployed in Georgia, the Russian leadership will have to respond with adequate measures, Ivashov said. They will include “strengthening Russia’s military presence in the whole Caucasus,” he said, adding that Moscow has “all the capabilities” for this move.

Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the CIS Institute, believes that the rumors about the deployment of US military bases are disseminated by Tbilisi during a situation when relations between Moscow and Washington “are changing for the better.”

“I don’t think that America will do it at this historic moment,” Zharikhin told South Ossetia’s news agency OSinform.

Analyst Dmitry Yevstafyev said that US military infrastructure already exists on Georgian territory, and American military advisers work in the country. But the fact that Washington may “formally” confirm its military presence in the country may change the situation, the analyst told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio.

If deployed, the US military bases will rather ensure the Saakashvili regime’s safety rather than that of Georgia itself, Yevstafyev said. In the present situation in the world, the US cannot ensure a smooth transition of power to another regime in Georgia, the analyst added.

Washington will have to “preserve the Saakashvili regime till better times, when it would be possible to place another pro-American regime there without harming Georgia’s territorial integrity,” he added.

As for the new military bases in Georgia, Yevstafyev said Americans will have to spend a lot of money to “feed Georgia’s officials.” He also added that the US has “a sovereign right to throw money into this gigantic black hole.”

Sergey Borisov, RT