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Nine Years After Georgia-Russia War, ‘NATO Hustle in Caucasus Looks Suspicious’

Sputnik – 08.08.2017

Exactly nine years ago Tbilisi launched the US-backed Operation “Clear Field” against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. While the operation led to the resounding defeat of the Georgian armed forces, it appears that the lesson remained unlearned, Sputnik contributor Alexander Khrolenko notes.

If Georgia, the US, and their allies don’t take into account the interests of Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the Caucasus, that’s not going to be good for anyone, Sputnik contributor Alexander Khrolenko points out, recalling that exactly nine years ago Georgia kicked off its Operation “Clear Field” aimed at depriving South Ossetia of its independence and sovereignty and invading Abkhazia.

“On the night of August 8, [2008] Georgian troops attacked the capital of South Ossetia Tskhinval and the positions of Russian peacekeepers with massive artillery shelling (including cluster munitions), followed by the invasion of the South Ossetian territories by Georgian Special forces and tanks,” Khrolenko wrote.

However, Georgia had not launched the invasion on its own — Tbilisi was backed by the US and its allies.

“The invasion was carefully planned and exercised in the course of joint Georgian-American military drills,” the journalist elaborated, “Kiev delivered ‘Buk’ and ‘Tor’ missile defense systems to Tbilisi along with Ukrainian combat crews. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) experts also provided their assistance [to Georgia].”

“In August 2008, the US urgently organized an ‘air bridge’ to transfer arms and ammunition from Jordan to Georgia,” he added.

Furthermore, Washington and NATO spent $2 billion from 2004 to 2008 to train the 20,000-strong Georgian national military contingent, which boosted its skills in Iraq. The alliance worked out a concept of conducting combat operations in mountainous conditions and developed a plan aimed at what they called “restoring the constitutional order” in South Ossetia.

Although the US and Georgia spent a lot of effort in preparing for the invasion of South Ossetia, their plan to create a NATO foothold in the South Caucasus failed.

“Their calculations proved wrong and Georgian troops fled in panic from Tskhinvali to Tbilisi, throwing down their weapons and equipment, from an adversary which was equal in number to [Georgian forces],” the journalist emphasized.

It transpires that the $2 billion was spent in vain, Khrolenko writes, citing the fact that neither the strategic nor the geopolitical goals of the US-Georgian partnership were achieved.

The journalist quoted Svante E. Cornell, a Swedish scholar specializing on politics and security issues in Eurasia, who underscored in his article for The American Interest that “the war in Georgia and the financial crisis were a double whammy that fundamentally altered the balance of power in the Caucasus to the detriment of the West.”

However, it seems that the lesson remained unlearned for Tbilisi, Khrolenko remarked.

“Georgia continues to accuse Russia of ‘infringement’ of sovereignty, persistently strives for NATO membership, and proceeds with its claims for the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, renouncing the principle of non-use of force,” the journalist noted.

On the other hand, Georgian military forces continue to take part in NATO drills on a regular basis.

On July 31, a US Army Europe-led exercise Noble Partner started at the Vaziani military base in Georgia.

“The exercise serves as home station training for the Georgian light infantry company designated for the NATO Response Force and includes eight participating nations: Armenia, Georgia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States,” the US Department of Defense official website reads.

Citing US Ambassador Ian Kelly the Pentagon reported that “this year’s exercise seeks to enhance interoperability and readiness by improving the participating nations’ ability to conduct multinational mission command and control and measure the ability to support a multinational operational scenario.”

In addition, the US Congress signaled its willingness in mid-July to mull over Georgia’s membership in the Atlantic military bloc.

It looks rather suspicious, Khrolenko emphasized, adding that by boosting its ties with NATO Tbilisi is seemingly making steps which may shatter the fragile balance of power in the region.

Interestingly enough, almost simultaneously, Europe is considering the issue of creating a refugee center in Georgia. Needless to say, that is likely to further aggravate tensions in the Southern Caucasus.

Alas, “after many years of devotional service to foreign interests, Georgia has not won the respect of its ‘senior partners’,” the journalist wrote, “One way or another, Tbilisi will have to pay for a visa-free regime and its pro-Western policy.”

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Election Campaign: Shaping Policy on Russia

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 24.07.2016

Donald Trump has secured the nomination of the Republican Party to become the next US president.

It has been a controversial campaign and the US policy on Russia is in the process of being shaped. While the media focused on Melania Trump’s plagiarism and other oddities during the Republican National Convention, something very important happened to provide a clue to the GOP presidential candidate’s stand on the issue. The Republican Party officially altered its platform on Ukraine and Russia.

Trump’s team proved its grip on the Republican Party is tight enough to make the entire institution adopt a new view on a major foreign policy issue. Trump-supporting delegates attending the GOP platform meeting in Cleveland insisted that the wording in the initial proposal be altered. They wrote a new amendment ruling out sending US weapons to Ukraine and made sure the new Republican platform does not include a provision calling for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, despite the fact that this view is widely supported by the GOP’s establishment.

The previous platform advocated «providing lethal defensive weapons» to Ukraine, reflecting the virtually unanimous position of the GOP foreign policy elite and national security leaders. Donald Trump won again.

Trump is a sober-minded politician known for his non-ideological, deal-making nature. Unlike other prominent Republicans, he harbors none of Russophobia. Trump realizes that sanctioning and the attempts to «isolate» Russia are bad for business and thriving business is what makes a nation great. He’s a pragmatic global dealmaker who keeps in mind the interests of an average Joe, not global imperial ambitions that make the US overloaded with international commitments and overstretched. Trump has exposed that the Republican party’s rank-and-file members are much less interventionist than previously thought. They don’t want confrontations or military operations abroad – the lessons and losses of Iraq and Afghanistan are too fresh. Trump has repeatedly said that radical Islamism and terrorism is a greater threat to Europe than Russia. He said he would «get along very well» with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mike Flynn, foreign policy advisor to Trump, has suggested that Moscow and Washington join forces to counter Islamic State in the Middle East.

The change of wording at the GOP program is telling but it does not signify the change of policy yet.

There is another important development that went down almost unnoticed by media.

On July 14, members of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a bill to tighten sanctions against Russia.

It contains new innovations to provide support for Ukraine. The Stability and Democracy for Ukraine Act strictly binds the powers of the American President to lift sanctions against Russia with the status of Crimea.

The bill forbids NATO members from exporting arms containing US technology to Russia. It requires a regular report on foreign financial institutions «illicitly controlling Ukraine state-owned assets – namely Russian banks in Crimea». The proposed legislation extends the existing Magnitsky Act to new territories, including Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria.

If the document is approved, the head of the United States will be able to lift the measures against Moscow only in two cases: after confirmation of the «restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea» or if it is proved that «the decision on the status of the Peninsula was under international control and recognized the democratically elected Ukrainian government». The bill also seeks to establish an international consortium to draw private investment in Ukraine by minimizing political risk to would-be private investors.

The proposed act poses a serious threat to the Russia-US relationship. While Washington repeatedly states that the lifting of sanctions depends on the implementation of the Minsk agreements, Moscow believes it’s ridiculous to link the sanctions with the implementation of the Minsk agreements, because Russia is not a party to the conflict and not the subject of the agreements on the settlement in Ukraine. If the bill becomes a law and Donald Trump wins the November election, he’ll have no choice but to comply with the new legislation’s provisions.

Indeed, there are conflicting trends in the US policy on Russia.

On July 20, important news related to the Russia-US relations was largely kept out of media headlines. Russian and US experts and military agreed to meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the Syrian issue.

«We proceed on the basis that the military and political experts will launch intensive work in Geneva in the coming days in furtherance of the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Moscow», the source said.

This is one of the results of the talks held in Moscow as part of the visit of the Secretary of State John Kerry on July 14-15.

During the visit, he was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin, held talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. It was stated on the ministerial meeting that the sides agreed on specific steps to make the work on Syria more effective. No specific details of the agreed plan were provided. If the plan goes through, it will unite Russia and the US in the fight against the common enemy. But military cooperation and sanctions are hardly compatible. Evidently, there are conflicting trends that are shaping the US policy on Russia as the election race continues.

We’ve yet to make precise how the Democratic convention to take place in Philadelphia on July 25-28, 2016 will define its stance on Russia. One thing is certain – a large sector of American society stands for normal relations with Moscow. The alterations inserted into the GOP program serve as an irrefutable evidence to confirm this fact.

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ICC Opens Probe Into War Crimes in South Ossetia in 2008

Sputnik – 27.01.2016

According to an ICC statement, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court has authorized an investigation for the crimes within the ICC jurisdiction, allegedly committed in and around South Ossetia between July 1 and October 10, 2008.

Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized an investigation for the crimes within the ICC jurisdiction, allegedly committed in and around South Ossetia between July 1 and October 10, 2008, according to an ICC statement issued on Wednesday.

“On 13 October 2015, the ICC Prosecutor submitted her “Request for authorization of an investigation pursuant to article 15″ of the Rome Statute, asking for authorization from Pre-Trial Chamber I to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Georgia, for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in and around South Ossetia in 2008,” the statement says.

According to the ICC, the Chamber received the representations by or on behalf of 6,335 victims on this matter.

“After examining the request and the supporting material, the Chamber concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction have been committed…in the context of an international armed conflict between 1 July and 10 October 2008,” the document says.

The ICC considers murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution to be crimes against humanity, while attacks against the civilian population, willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against peacekeepers, destruction of property and pillaging are considered war crimes.

In 2008, Georgia launched a military offensive against the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which escalated into a five-day war with Russia. Both regions declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s. Their statehood was recognized by Russia following the 2008 conflict.

January 27, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Art of drills: 10 NATO war games that almost started armed conflicts

RT | February 28, 2014

The world’s largest military alliance seems annoyed about Russia’s “lack of transparency” over military drills at a very “delicate time.” NATO, however, has its own long history of war games all over the globe.

Western politicians have leveled criticism at Russia for planned drills on its own territory, seemingly glossing over the many joint military exercises Western powers, namely the US and NATO forces, have conducted on foreign soil over the years.

South Korea

This week, US and South Korean forces began their annual joint military drills, which will last until mid-April. The Foal Eagle exercise is conducted near Iksan and Damyan, South Korea.

The drills prompted a stern reaction from North Korea, which slammed the exercises as “a serious provocation” that could plunge the region into “a deadlock and unimaginable holocaust.”

Israel

The US joined Greece, Italy, and Israeli forces at Ovda air base in southern Israel for the ‘Blue Flag’ air-training drills in November 2013. The drills were called the “largest international aerial exercise in history,” by Israeli news outlet Haaretz.

According to Israel National News reports the exercises are geared towards “simulating realistic engagements in a variety of scenarios, based on Israel’s experience with air forces of Arab armies in previous engagements.”

Poland and Latvia

NATO’s ‘Steadfast Jazz’ training exercise was held in November 2013, in Latvia and Poland. The drills included air, land, naval, and special forces.

Over 6,000 military personnel from around 20 NATO countries and allies took part in the largest NATO-led drills of their kind since 2006.

Bulgaria

In October, NATO also held anti-aircraft drills in Bulgaria, along with the Greek and Norwegian air forces. The exercises were held to test responses in conditions of radio interference, according to the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense.

Persian Gulf

In May 2013, the US joined 40 other countries in the Persian Gulf for maritime war games. The US Navy said the mass exercises are aimed at “enhancing capability to preserve freedom of navigation in international waterways.”

The drills provoked a sharp response from the Iranian government who voiced concerns at how the maneuvers came in the run-up to the Iranian elections.

Japan

In August 2012, US Marines joined Japanese troops for military drills in the western Pacific. The drills were held in part in Guam, a US holding, just as an old territory dispute reemerged between Japan and China over islands in the East China Sea.

“China will not ignore hostile gestures from other nations and give up on its core interests or change its course of development,” the Chinese Communist Party stated in response to the drills, warning the US and Japan not to “underestimate China’s resolve to defend its sovereignty.”

Jordan

The US joined 16 other nations in May 2012 for military exercises in Jordan near the Syria border. The ‘Eager Lion’ drills included 12,000 soldiers from the participating countries, Turkey, France, and Saudi Arabia among them.

Denying accusations that the violence in Syria had nothing to do with the drills, the US claimed it was “designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships through a joint, entire-government, multinational approach, integrating all instruments of national power to meet current and future complex national security challenges.

Vietnam

In August 2010, the US Navy joined Vietnamese forces for drills in the South China Sea, to the dismay of China. Sovereignty claims in the South China Sea have long been a subject of debate and animosity among Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Malaysia, though China’s territorial declarations have been the most aggressive.

Ukraine

Ukraine welcomed a fleet of NATO warships for a two-week period of military drills in July 2010. Operation ‘Sea Breeze-2010’ focused on joint anti-terror exercises, despite Kiev’s decision not to enter the NATO alliance. Some 3,000 international military personnel were said to be a part of the drills.

Ukraine began hosting the Sea Breeze exercises in 1997, as part of its commitment to join the alliance. In 2009, the Ukrainian parliament voted against the drills, curtailing then-President Viktor Yuschenko’s efforts to seek NATO membership.

Georgia

In May 2009, 15 NATO countries held a series of controversial military exercises in Georgia less than a year after it launched an offense against its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia called the maneuvers “dubious provocation” saying it may encourage the country’s regime to carry out new attacks.

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment