Dangers of Kavkaz-2012 for Georgia
05 July, 2012
Dangers of Kavkaz-2012 for Georgia

Despite tensions in Syria, the Iranian issue remains hot. What is more, an argument has been raised in the Russian media that in case of an Israeli or American attack on Iran, the Giumri military in Armenia would immensely acquire greater importance and entail serious build-up. This in turn may obligate Russia to cut a corridor through the Georgian territory towards Armenia.

Today the Giumri military base of Russia in Armenia is in the blockade of sorts because formally it

is not supplied from Russia. Georgia terminated the agreement With Russia on military transit of goods via land and air routes of Georgia from Armenia to Russia or other way round. It mostly concerns goods and armament destined for the Russian military base in Armenia because goods of Armenian military forces are conventionally passing via Georgian skies from and to Russia and other countries. There are suspicions that under the guise of Armenian army supplies Georgian air space is still informally traversed by the planes carrying containers for the Russian military base. It seems that this situation does not satisfy Moscow any longer. There are talks in Russia about the need to cut a corridor to the Giumri military base. The military command drills called Kavkaz used to be held in the South Caucasus in the Soviet period too and mainly they were  targeted against Turkey, the NATO member state. Besides, Iran was also seen as a rival candidate.
The new 2012 Kavkaz drills, which are planned for September, still feature Iran. But this time it is not viewed as a rival. Russian HQ does not make it a secret that if Israel or America strikes Iran, Russia will do everything to strengthen its military base near the Iranian border. Sometime in the past, the Russian General-Lieutenant Iuri Netkachev stated rather unequivocally that in case of a full-scale war against Iran, Russia would try to find a reliable way of supplying the Giumri military base, which may require forceful breakup of Georgian transportation blockade and maintaining of the transportation corridors to Armenia by military means. For a long period General Netkachev used to be deputy Commander of Russian armed forces in the South Caucasus and knows subtleties of the region very well. So, his comments certainly deserve a degree of attention. Russia has two options: land or air corridor. Both of them run through Georgia because supply of the Russian military base from Turkey or Azerbaijan can hardly be imagined. Today Armenia does receive oil products from Iran and there are reports that even armament may be passing into Armenia for both Armenian and Russian militaries there. However, today with sanctions imposed against Iran and spy satellites controlling Iranian borders, Russia will not dare to move military equipment and armament to Armenia via the Caspian Sea or Iran.
Former Georgian-Russian agreement on dismantling of Russian military bases in Georgia concluded several years ago, envisaged Georgian permission to Russia to transit its military supplies to Armenia through the Georgian territory and air space. The August 1008 war led to the revision of the Agreement. It is two years by now that Georgia officially prohibits the transit of military freight belonging to the Russian Federation. It theoretically precluded enforcement of the Russian military base in Armenia by means of Georgian land and air routes. The official Tbilisi is unlikely to accept any request by Moscow for opening such corridors. Therefore, there is a real danger that the Russian Army may resort to force to make it happen.
There can be several options of military corridors. The first one starts from the occupied Tskhinvali and Akhalgori and runs via Gori, Khashuri, Borjomi, Akhaltsikhe and Akhalkalaki to the Armenian border. The second one starts from the same point but proceeds around Tbilisi towards Marneuli and then Armenian border. This option is more adventurous because the Tbilisi direction is protected more than Gori-Khashuri-Borjomi-Akhaltsikhe-Akhalkalaki. There are two infantry brigades - one special and one artillery brigade (and some other individual battalions) stationed near Tbilisi. In contrast, the Gori-Akhaltsikhe direction is essentially left unattended, while the 3rd Brigade stationed in Kutaisi would require more time to pass over the Rikoti range than a Russian armored column would need to cover the  distance from Gori to Khashuri (certainly with the backing of military helicopters).
Kavkaz-2012 will be a large- scale training. It will be involve all Russian military structures, as well as armed units of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi separatists and the Giumri military base of Russia. Most likely, Russia would not be able to stop American-Israeli assault on Iran but can put up a show of a force that should be counted with, by mobilizing extra forces near the Iranian border in Armenia.
I hope that all these are just assumptions and Moscow would not attempt to open a military corridor from the occupied Tskhinvali to the Armenian border because it would mean the beginning of a new Georgian-Russian war.

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