Sunday, August 10, 2008

Georgia informs Russian it will halt military action in South Ossetia

DEBKAfile - Georgia informs Russian it will halt military action in South Ossetia: "The message handed to the Russian embassy in Tbilisi Sunday afternoon, Aug. 10, is the first sign of a crack in the Georgian military front against Russia in the breakaway South Osssetia province. Earlier, Russian forces were reported to be heading to invade the Georgian town of Gori. This was not confirmed by Russian sources.

During the day, Russian soldiers and marines entered Abkhazia, Georgia's second breakaway province, by land and from Russian Black Sea naval vessels, which were ordered to block Georgian ports against arms delivery by sea. This opened a third front in Russia’s war with Georgia on Day Three of the armed conflict.

At midday, Ukrainian military circles indicated the possibility of closing Russia’s main Black Sea base of Sevastopol to naval ships on their way back from blockading Georgian ports.

The US has drafted a resolution condemning Russia in third UN Security Council session later Sunday.

In the face of President George W. Bush’s demand for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops and support for international mediation, Moscow poured an additional 10,000 men and armor into South Ossetia Sunday as well - and Russian jets bombed a military airfield outside the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

Under heavy fire, Georgia “temporarily” pulled its soldiers from the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, but stayed in the region and denied it was surrendering. President Mikhail Saakashvili asked the United States to act as mediator with Moscow and appealed to the Russians to stop “this madness.”

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, for his part, accused Georgia of ethnic cleansing. As disputed casualty figures climbed, civilians were increasingly bearing the brunt of the bloodshed and hardship.

Two Georgian towns, Gori and the Black Sea naval, military and oil port of Poti, also took casualties and heavy damage from Russian air strikes. A third town, Zugdidi on Abkhazian border, was targeted Sunday.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts: By flouting US demands to accept mediation, Moscow highlights America’s lack of leverage for helping its embattled Georgian ally. The Bush administration has trapped itself in its foreign policy commitment to dialogue and international diplomacy for solving world disputes but is short of willing opposite numbers.

Russia is following Iran’s example in exploiting Washington's inhibition to advance its goals by force. Therefore, the Caucasian standoff has profound ramifications for the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Moscow’s disdain for Washington’s lack of muscle will further encourage Tehran and its terrorist proxies to defy the international community and the United States in particular.

DEBKAfile’s military analysts reported Saturday: Tiny Georgia with an army of less than 18,000, having been roundly defeated in South Ossetia, cannot hope to withstand the mighty Russian army in Abkhazia.Therefore, President Saakashvili, who had bid to join NATO, must consider both breakaway regions lost to Georgia and gained by Russia.

This is Moscow's payback for the US-NATO success in detaching Kosovo from Serbia and approving its independence. It is also a warning to Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia against joining up with the United States and the NATO bloc in areas which Moscow deems part of its strategic sphere of influence

After seizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia, four follow-up Russian steps may be postulated:

1. The two separatist provinces will proclaim their independence, just like Kosovo.

2. Russia will continue to exercise its overwhelming military and air might to force the pro-American Saakashvili’s capitulation.

3. The Georgian president will not survive in office long after losing two regions of his country and national humiliation. Moscow aims to make Washington swallow a pro-Russian successor.

4. Moscow’s trampling of Georgia will serve as an object lesson for Russia’s own secessionist provinces such as Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushettia not to risk defying Russian armed might."

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