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Thread: Analysis: Why Would The Kremlin Attack Georgia?

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    Default Analysis: Why Would The Kremlin Attack Georgia?

    Analysis: Why Would The Kremlin Attack?
    Despite categorical denials from the Kremlin, Georgia seems convinced that the missile which struck a vegetable field near Tbilisi last night was fired by a Russian warplane.

    It is not the first time that there have been reported violations of Georgian airspace this year.

    In March, Russian helicopters were accused of opening fire in the remote Kodori Gorge, close to the lawless breakaway region of Abkhazia, which is backed by Moscow.

    A report by United Nations observers concluded that it was unclear who was behind the incident. If it is shown that yesterday's attack was carried out by the Russian military, it would represent a significant escalation in the diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

    Georgia has already called the strike "an act of aggression". The question is why Russia would carry out so provocative an attack.

    There is no doubt how serious is the rift between the two countries since Mikhail Saakashvili, the westernizing president, was swept to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003.

    Russia has deeply resented its loss of influence in the country of Stalin's birth and is determined to halt Mr Saakashvili's ambitions for NATO and EU membership.

    Moscow showed its displeasure by banning exports of Georgian wine and mineral water, vital sectors of an economy still heavily dependent on Russia.

    Tensions erupted last September after Georgia expelled four Russian officers it accused of espionage. The Kremlin's excessive reaction raised eyebrows around the world. Moscow withdrew its diplomats from Tbilisi, severed trade, transport and postal links and deported thousands of Georgians living in Russia.

    With a fierce anti-Georgian campaign being waged in the Russian press, some commentators suggested that a group of Kremlin hardliners were intent on provoking a military confrontation to provide an excuse to change the constitution and allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power.

    The president is due to step down next March after completing his second term.

    Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the Caucasus at the Moscow Carnegie Centre, said it was possible that this faction had ordered the firing of a dummy missile in a bid to fuel the crisis.

    But he and other analysts said it was more likely that the missile attack could have been carried out by local Russian army units without the knowledge of the Kremlin.

    The location of the air strike was close to South Ossetia, another Moscow backed breakaway region. Georgia and Russia have been at loggerheads over the tiny region — which is about the size of Suffolk — for years.

    Tbilisi has accused Moscow of arming the rebels and firefights between separatists and Georgian soldiers have increased since 2004.

    There have been signs, however, that Russia is finally willing to negotiate a settlement. Moscow has opposed the West's backing for independence of Kosovo, arguing that Serbia's territorial integrity should be inviolable and has threatened to veto a UN resolution that backs Pristina's position.

    As a result, the Kremlin has had to temper its support for Georgia's breakaway regions or risk being accused of hypocrisy. But for Russian military units stationed in South Ossetia as peacekeepers and their commanders across the border in southern Russia, a peace accord would be highly undesirable.

    As it has descended into lawlessness, South Ossetia has become a haven for smugglers and counterfeiters. According to western diplomats, a significant proportion of the fake dollar bills in circulation on America's east coast were manufactured here.

    According to analysts, those profiting the most are Russian officers — many of whom hold posts in the South Ossetian administration.

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    Default Re: Analysis: Why Would The Kremlin Attack?

    Georgia Says Jets From Russia Mount Missile Attack
    Georgia said on Tuesday that jets flown from Russia fired a missile on its territory, narrowly missing hitting a village, but Russia's military denied any involvement.

    The missile landed without exploding in a vegetable field near the village of Tsitelubani, about 65 km (40 miles) west of the capital, Tbilisi, Georgian officials said.

    Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili said it was an "act of aggression."

    Russia has a long history of tense relations with its smaller neighbor, but Russia's air force said its aircraft had flown no sorties over the area.

    In Tsitelubani, an unexploded missile could be seen embedded in a crater around 5 meters (16 ft) deep in a field of corn and potatoes fringed with fruit trees.

    A small farmhouse stood about 35 meters (114 ft 10 in) from the crater.

    "It happened yesterday at 1930 local time. Two Su-24 jets flew here. Our radars show that these jets flew from Russia and then flew back in the same direction that they had come from," Merabishvili told Reuters.

    "I assess this fact as an act of aggression carried out by planes flown from the territory of another state," he said.

    SU-24s were introduced into the Soviet Union's air force in the 1970s. They were designed as all-weather attack aircraft.

    Bomb disposal experts were working at the scene, which police had cordoned off. A few dozen of Tsitelubani's residents watched on the sidelines.

    "I was sitting in my garden resting a bandaged leg when I saw a plane in the sky," Ilia Psuturi said. "I then saw smoke rising from the ground up to the sky and only then did I hear the explosion. The plane then turned around."

    Shota Utiashvili, the head of the Georgian interior ministry's public relations department, earlier told Reuters that the Russian jets had dropped a 700 kilo (1,543 lb) bomb.

    "Fortunately it didn't explode. If it had exploded it would have been a disaster," he added. He said nobody was hurt.

    Tense Relations

    Russia's air force denied that it had bombed Georgia, and said it had not violated its airspace.

    "Russia's air force neither on Monday nor Tuesday flew flights over Georgia," Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, aide to the commander of Russia's air force, told Reuters.

    "Russia has not violated the borders of sovereign Georgia."

    The village of Tsitelubani is near the city of Gori, and a few kilometers to the south of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, a long-standing cause of friction between Russia and Tbilisi.

    Russia provides moral and financial support for Georgia's rebel Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. It has accused Tbilisi of pursuing anti-Russian policies.

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    Default Re: Analysis: Why Would The Kremlin Attack Georgia?

    Georgia Says it May Have Shot Down Russian Plane
    Georgian forces fired on a Russian plane flying over Georgian territory earlier this week, a government official said Friday, claiming residents nearby reported an explosion and forest fire afterward.

    Russian military officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the claim, which came amid a heated dispute between the ex-Soviet neighbors over Georgian accusations of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft.

    "The day before yesterday, at 22:24 hours, a Russian plane was fired at over Upper Abkhazia," Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told The Associated Press. He said authorities could not confirm the plane crashed, but that residents of the remote area reported hearing an explosion and seeing forest burning.

    Georgia on Wednesday said that a Russian plane had violated its airspace in the same area a day earlier, but officials did not mentioned Wednesday's alleged intrusion until late Friday. Utiashvili said that was because they were still checking information.

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    Default Re: Analysis: Why Would The Kremlin Attack Georgia?

    Russia Confronts NATO and the US
    Last Friday, another act of war took place in the skies over the Caucasus, when a Russian aircraft violated the Republic of Georgia's airspace and was fired on by the country's air defense forces. Prior to this latest incident, Russia violated Georgian airspace no fewer than three times within as many weeks, including one instance of a deliberate missile attack against a Georgian-NATO radar site.

    We can no longer whitewash the obvious: Russia is now conducting a low-intensity conflict in the Caucasus in its bid to turn back NATO expansion and to maintain connections to terror-supporting states.

    Rather than become full partners with the Coalition in the War on Terror, Putin's decrepit and corrupt regime is dedicated to maintaining profitable Cold War financial arrangements, while desperately seeking to reestablish some semblance of the old Soviet order by vigorously opposing the US missile defense shield. Russian generals who bully our new European partners over hosting a key Eastern European radar site get the most attention. Less obvious, and completely overlooked by the drive-by media, is Putin's focus on Georgia, since it holds the Eurasian geo-political ace-in-the-hole.

    The Russian official reaction to the claims that SU-24M Fencer fighter-bombers deliberately fired an anti-radar missile at a Georgian radar site in early August has been a classic revival of Cold War, Soviet-era denial. Unfortunately for Putin and his wayward air force, the findings of an independent panel looking into the attack expose the Russian deception.

    The Second Independent Inter-governmental Expert Group (IIEG-2) was composed of military and weapons systems professionals from Estonia, Poland and the UK. It was important to have people well-versed in Soviet/Russian aircraft to debunk any attempts by Russia to cover up its role in the attack. The group included Brigadier General Vello Loemaa, a former Su-24 (24M) pilot, Major Andrzej Witak, an Su-22 pilot from the Polish Air Force Command, and Mr Kim Baker, a missile systems expert from the UK Ministry of Defense.

    Among the key findings of the panel:

    Georgian airspace was violated three times [emphasis added] of 6 Aug 07 from by aircraft flying to from Russian airspace.

    The missile was launched towards the Gori radar site at a range of approximately 10 km from the radar site. If the target was the radar site, the missile was launched at near minimum range.

    Immediately after missile launch the radar crew acted defensively and using combat procedures turned the radar transmitter off.

    The missile impacted on Georgian territory about 5 km short of the radar site without exploding.

    The missile was a Russian built Kh-58U anti-radiation, air to surface missile [known by NATO code name AS-11 Kilter].

    The report renders moot the three main Russian arguments that attempted to shift the blame for its deliberate acts of aggression.

    First, the experts on the panel checked all 10 of the Su-25 aircraft in the Georgian Air Force inventory at the Maranuli AFB and found that they are not capable of carrying the Kilter. Even the most modern version of the plane upgraded by Elbit from Israel cannot carry or fire the missile.

    Second, the radar tracks and interviews with the crew of the 36D6-M radar (NATO name TIN SHIELD) positioned near Gori were equally damning. The panel found from the recordings,

    ...that the [Russian] aircraft did not have its on-board transponder activated, as there were no responses to the interrogations from secondary radars in range. This means that the secondary radars were unable to detect and therefore track the aircraft. [emphasis added] The last statement is critical in that under the guise of cooperating with the investigation, Russia provided its own air picture to refute the charges. However, the data was only from its own secondary radar of civilian type which would not display tracks of military fighters that had shut off their transponders. The Georgian military radar, which is up to NATO standards, had no problem tracking the Russian fighter-bomber. The Russians' habit of pointing the finger back at the victim of the attack was therefore revealed as a public relations gimmick.

    Third, an examination of the remnants of the missile revealed that this was not an accident. The rocket motor was fully burnt, which meant that the missile was actually fired and not jettisoned during an emergency. The markings of the warhead also, ...indicated a manufacturing date of October 1992. Thus the missile was built for the Russian Federation rather then the Soviet forces [emphasis added].

    Since the missile attack, Georgia's integration into NATO and its command and control structure has been accelerated. One day after the findings of the investigation were released, the Georgian Ministry of Defense reported that its forces are joining the NATO Air Situation Data Exchange (ASDE) system through the Republic of Turkey. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is in the final review process, and once signed, equipment and systems will be installed and tested. The ASDE "manages the controlled exchange of air picture data by filtering the NATO picture in such manner that it is releasable to partner nations."

    Georgia's pending NATO membership and its role in the NATO air defense system puts Russia at a further disadvantage geo-politically, and places Putin in a risky position in relation to satisfying the military and economic needs of his client states. As he sees it, his only recourse is to up the ante by playing a potentially deadly game of cat and mouse in the hopes that NATO will reverse course in the Caucasus. Additionally, he is trying to pump up nationalistic feelings of the Russian people prior to Presidential elections next March with an aggressive stance against the West. But there is another overlooked factor in all of this.

    Come this fall, Georgia's commitment to the Coalition in Iraq will increase dramatically. Instead of one infantry battalion helping to secure the Green Zone, an entire combined arms brigade of over 2,000 Soldiers will deploy on the Iraq-Iran border to stop the infiltration of Iranian forces into the country. Georgia versus Russia in the north and Persia in the south is a centuries old conflict that usually resulted in the small kingdom coming out on the short end of the stick. Once again, Georgia is the key to derailing the schemes of its two powerful neighbors. The country's national pride is at stake, so this mission is personal. And so is Putin's goal of stopping them.

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