Monday, August 18, 2008

Dismembering Georgia

Vladimir Socor, who is covering the Georgian crisis from Tbilisi, has published an analysis of Moscow's plans for the occupation of Georgia. He believes that Russia intends to dismember the country, splitting it into several fragmented entities that are completely dependent on Moscow for their security. An excerpt:

Deep inside Georgia, Russian forces have cut the country into an eastern half and a western half by blocking railway and highway traffic. The Russians have blown up the railway bridge at Kaspi and seized the highway junction near Gori, interdicting all transport. As a result, the government in Tbilisi has lost all overland links with the west of the country and parts of central Georgia. Air links between eastern and western Georgia are also blocked by the Russians.

Russian troops control Georgia’s Black Sea harbor of Poti and adjacent areas and are discouraging commercial vessels from entering the ports of Poti and Batumi. The Russian navy, deployed off Georgia’s coast, is engaged in undeclared or semi-declared blockade measures. The maritime blockade and interdiction of overland communications from the ports to the rest of the country has largely isolated Georgia economically from the outside world.

In sum, Russia threatens to cut up Georgia, informally but methodically, on several levels: 1) in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; 2) through additional buffer zones (glacis) beyond the secessionist areas; 3) by isolating some remote chunks of territory (Svaneti); 4) by cutting off the country’s east and west from each other and isolating Tbilisi; and 5) by controlling the seaboard.

Cumulatively, these moves enable Moscow to threaten to dismember Georgia as a means to force a change of government in Tbilisi. In the next stage, Moscow may try to install local authorities in various parts of the country. Those authorities may then be forced to act without Tbilisi’s approval or even to declare insubordination to Tbilisi. Pro-Moscow groups are a very small fringe in Georgia. The Russians, however, can create supply problems and law enforcement difficulties in order to force local authorities to work with Russian occupation authorities, even if the latter refuse to work with the Georgian government.

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