Friday, July 20, 2018

Georgia Will Soon be in NATO and Moscow Must Respond by Expanding Networks with Breakaway States, Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – Following the NATO summit in Brussels, Aleksey Beliyev says, Moscow must recognize that Georgia is going to become a member of the Western alliance very soon, quite possibly as others have suggested, even without having to fulfill a Membership Action Plan (MAP).

As a result, the Russian security analyst says, Russian officials must build a ramified road and rail system in the North Caucasus that will integrate Abkhazia and South Ossetia with Russia and give Moscow the ability to counter any NATO move (

            Unfortunately, he continues, Moscow has not taken the necessary steps to do so up to now, with one project after another left unfunded or repeatedly delayed. But the imminence of Georgia’s membership in the Western alliance leaves the Russian side with no defensible option except to restart these projects and launch others – and to begin to do so right now.

            The most immediately striking aspect of Beliyev’s article today is that he views the question of Georgian membership in NATO as an imminent done deal, a remarkable position for him to take given that Vladimir Putin clearly hopes he can intimidate alliance members into at a minimum delaying admission of Tbilisi by threatening a harsh response to any such action.

            To be sure, the analyst says, NATO has not give an exact date for Georgia’s “inevitable” admission, “but in the opinion of many experts this process is hardly likely to be drawn out.” And NATO advisors are already flooding into Georgia, focusing their attention on Georgian border regions between Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

            “It is not excluded,” Beliyev argues, “that intelligence and/or military objects of NATO will be places in Pageri, Oni and/or Mestia, that is – and [he] stresses this yet again – in that part of northwestern Georgia which adjoins the Georgian-Russian border and at one and the same time geographically separates Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”

            It is precisely in this region that the Georgian authorities are planning to extend over the next two years existing railroad lines from Tkibulil and/or Dzhvari, linking it to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars line and giving NATO enormous opportunities for rapid maneuver. Russia must react to that promptly.

            “In the emerging situation, the accelerated establishment of a unified transportation-economic and on the whole defensive infrastructure space of the Russian Federation, Abkhazia and South Ossetia is taking on especially great importance.” Unfortunately, Beliyev says, talk about such projects has far exceeded progress on the ground.

            According to the analyst, “the military-strategic importance of these projects for the security and development of economic cooperation among Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia and even more in the context of the ever more rapid coming together of Georgia and NATO is obvious.” 

            In his article, Beliyev describes the various rail and highway proposals that have been made over the years to address these problems and the general failure of Moscow to ensure that plans become realities.  Now with Georgia set to become a NATO country, perhaps the Russian government will take action.

            “In a broader context,” he says, “South Ossetia and Abkhazia have for a long time already needed to be more closely integrated into the Organization for the Collective Security Treaty, which besides everything else, will accelerate the realization of such projects” linking these two unrecognized states with Russian territory.

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