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Felgenhauer: Russia-Georgia War Possible within Weeks

Georgia Online, 24 September '12

Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer gave interview to the Georgian Russian-language TV PIK, analyzing the current situation on the eve of October 1 parliamentary elections and the threats that have emerged in the region as a result of recent Russian military buildup in Georgia’s occupied territories.

Q.: Good evening, the Caucasus 2012: Putin personally watched the drills and the Russian media reported that it was a demonstration of force, which was aimed at protecting the Sochi Olympics 2014 from various provocations. What do you think of that?

A.: In general, it is not very much connected to the reality. The part of exercises that was demonstrated to Putin and where journalists were present, as well as several military attaches from Moscow, including the U.S. one, they were sent back to Moscow several hours later. The essence of these drills was that troops landed on our shores, most probably the American navy, along with tanks, and moved farther into the country, where our glorious armed forces crushed them, using various kinds of weapons, including planes, rockets and bombers. I do not see how the Olympic scenario fits in. t is clear that the Olympic Games have nothing to do with it.

I doubt that the Olympiad can be accompanied by the U.S. navy landing, along with the tanks.

Dmitry Medvedev ordered the law enforcement to place a reliable shield against various provocations, including from the Georgian side.

The landing of navy, with the support from the airborne forces, has also no direct link to Georgia, because Georgia has neither navy nor landing troops, nor even air force. All of this could be related to what could have happened in 2008, against the background of conflict with Georgia. U.S. ships appeared in the Black Sea, bringing humanitarian help to Georgia, so Moscow was seriously concerned that more serious actions taken may be taken by the U.S. So, these maneuvers are working out the new technical possibilities, including the network-centric system of army management. The scenario includes a conflict in the Caucasus, like in 2008, which demands the possibility to resist an attack from the West, headed by the U.S., if it decided to get involved. This is what it is about. The exercises are almost fully classified, apart from the fireworks and the demonstration to Putin and journalists, but the rest of it is fully classified. It's been a long time since something like this happened. There are no foreign observers, no information about what is happening. Of course, it is all very dangerous and has no direct link to the Olympics, but is connected to a possible large-scale regional conflict in the Caucasus, which may begin as a conflict between Russia and Georgia, or any other conflict in the South Caucasus, and with Russia's involvement into the conflict, it may escalate to a war with the West and the U.S. This is the real scenario of what is happening there. It is very far-fetched from the winter Olympics. It is also very far-fetched from the terrorists, who may threaten the winter Olympics. Terrorists have nothing to do with it. Ballistic missiles and long-range anti-naval missiles are being used, as well as the missile combat ships and a great number of other heavy weapons. They have involved the system of army commandment in a large-scale operation.

The information, indeed, is lacking, it is contradictory. What about the Russian military bases in the occupied regions: are they taking part in the exercises?

These exercises are a final part of a very long process. They have been preceded by and are now coinciding with a number of tactical drills. The troops have been set on full alert, they have been taken out of their constant dislocations, the majority of the forces, and now the chiefs of staff are undergoing a training on how to command the troops in case of need. As for Georgia, it is not that important now, because the Russian military commandment is not taking Georgia into consideration at all, in the military sense. It is about the U.S. being involved in a conflict, in which Russia decided to sort it out with Georgia. It is about finding non-nuclear ways of counteracting to the U.S. involvement into the Russian-Georgian conflict. It is about finding non-nuclear ways of counteracting to the U.S. involvement into the Russian-Georgian conflict.
So, the main forces will be active not as much in the South Caucasus, as in the North Caucasus. This would be the case of a conflict like that. This exercise is, indeed, very serious. According to its results, as much as our armed forces are ready to fulfill such tasks, it is possible to make further political decisions.

You have mentioned that several tactical exercises have been conducted so far including in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Thunder 2012 and the Cooperation 2012. the Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta called the Cooperation 2012 "a redeployment of troops to Armenia." How could all of this happen: through Georgia or Azerbaijan?

Of course, we have an air connection with Armenia. It is regularly conducted. Military personnel are constantly brought in and out of there. It is impossible to avoid it. Of course, they fly over Georgia, through the usual air corridors. Since they never land in Georgia, it is impossible for Georgians to identify what is flying over their heads.

So, Georgia is not informed in any way about the military cargo on these planes?

No, in 2005, they signed an agreement on military transit; it was a part of agreement on withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, from the Vaziani, Batumi and Akhalkalaki bases. It stipulated the rules of transit by land. The air transit has always existed. At certain times, even tanks were being transported by air in the 1990s to Armenia. So, it has existed for a long time and Georgia has no way of controlling these flights. You simply have no possibility to control them. Of course, you can shoot down a plane, but if you shoot down a Russian plane, it is a war. What else can you do? They do not land in Georgia. They simply fly over it. The corridor to Armenia is open and there is no any possibility for Georgia to control what's on board. So, whatever the Nezavisimaya Gazeta said, is a little far-fetched. The agreement that Georgia has denounced concerned literally the land transit.

I asked you about the air transit.

The heavy equipment from Batumi and Akhalkalaki was taken out to Armenia.
Yes, but it happened before the war. Georgia's accession to NATO is a problem, especially in the light of the Missile Shield, the Russian Duma Committee of Foreign Affairs Alexey Pushkov said. "Russia may react by freezing the Russia-NATO Council, for example," he said. The issue of Georgia's Euroatlantic integration is still very topical for Moscow.

It has never ceased to be one. The war of 2008 actually took place due to Georgia's active wish to join NATO. For Russia, Georgia's NATO membership is absolutely unacceptable. It is the casus belli, the justification for a war. So far, we have been guaranteed by Germany, Italy, France and other our so-called friends, that they will not allow Georgia to join NATO. That is why we are kind of calm about it, because there is no direct threat of Georgia joining NATO right now from the point of view of Moscow. If it appears, then it is not even about the NATO Council, it is about the current Russia government considering it a pretext for war. It will never allow this to happen.

So when is this war going to happen?

First of all, it is not yet clear whether there will be a consensus within NATO in order to accept Georgia. It is absolutely not clear. A consensus is needed, all countries must ratify the decision, except England, which does not have the institution of ratification as such, but all the others should ratify it. So far, we do not see such a consensus. As for the Russian-Georgian conflict and its resumption, it is possible right now, in the nearest few weeks. If it does not happen by mid-October, then we can all relax and celebrate the New Year, until the next possibility in late May. Right now, the real threat exists.

Wee, what about the reason. There must be some reason for that.

The reason, as any professional military person will tell you, is the last thing that matters. If a decision is made to begin military action, there will always be some reason

Thank you very much to the military expert Pavel Felgenhauer.

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