The official Abkhaz government will be moved from Tbilisi, where it has operated in exile, to the Kodori Gorge, which borders the country’s separatist region of Abkhazia, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said July 27. Saakashvili added that Georgia wants a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia.
After more than four years of American training, via GTEP, perhaps the Georgian Army may soon be set loose on Abkhazia, the ancient Colchis where Jason sought the Golden Fleece and Joseph Stalin tended garden.
Saakashvili has been very, extra clear about one thing since he was elected: he wants to see Georgia unified. After first toppling the self-styled president/chief/mafia don named Aslan Abashidze (aka Babu) of a wannabe separatist region, Adjaria–which, of all the God forsaken places I visited in 2003, inspired at least one funny story–perhaps Saakashvili is poised to move on Abkhazia. He’s spent the last three years threatening South Ossetia. But Abkhazia is a much richer prize. And would infuriate the Russians to boot.
This would make sense, as we are negotiating an airbase deal in Azerbaijan, and will supposedly place elements of NMD radar somewhere in the Caucasus. Having a clearly unified BTC corridor in the Caucasus from Batumi to Baku is in the oil security interests of the United States, if not necessarily that of the United States as a whole.
If Saakashvili can pull this off (and I think he might just be able to) he then may not have to use force against South Ossetia. A succesful demonstration of Georgian military effectiveness (I know, I know) against Abkhazia might well be enough. That the Russians aren’t going to rescue them would be clear and that U.S. power in the region was in the ascendant would be obvious for all to see.
The real question is what Pootie-poot will do? It’s long been my belief that the Russian position in the North Caucasus would unravel if Russia cannot remain the dominant player in the Caucasus. And I’m not sure Pootie-poot can afford another foreign policy reverse. He may be popular with the Russian people (it’s really just the stability they like and the high oil and gas revenues) but the Russian foreign policy security establishment elite–including some members of the Siloviki are grumbling about the West’s persistent encroachment.
Is an unstable Russia really worth estimated but clearly marginal gains from Trans-Caucasian and Trans-Caspian oil?