US bases to be deployed in Georgia? How will Russia react?24.09.2009 | 00:07
By 2015 Georgia will have US military facilities. As Resonansi newspaper reports, the project is lobbied by a group of Republican Party Congressmen and ex Vice President Dick Cheney. How feasible is that? How will Russian-Georgian and Russian-US relations develop? GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked experts of both states for comments.
Upon agreement with the Georgian side the construction of two land bases and a navy base will start in 2014 to be completed in 2015. According to the source the project envisages deployment of 25 thousand US contingent, Resonansi newspaper writes with reference to the source that wished to remain unnamed. It is believed the issue was discussed last Monday at the New York meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
There can't be two opinions on Georgia's joy over US presence. In recent years official Tbilisi has been actively trying to approximate Washington and pinch Moscow. However such a turn of events is fraught with a new wave of confrontation. Not only with Tbilisi this time. The "reset" announced by Moscow and Washington might fail. It is noteworthy Russia has openly objected to Georgia's accession into the North Atlantic alliance being extremely concerned over the presence of US militaries at its boundaries.
This is the reason why the friendship and cooperation treaty between Russia and Georgia was not signed. Moscow pressed for inclusion of on non-deployment of third countries' bases in the territory of Georgia clause in the document. Georgia objected referring to the established format in the international practice that can't be changed. But Georgia was ready to give a verbal promise. It's common knowledge though that words are rarely trusted in politics. The height of Moscow-Tbilisi confrontation was August 2008. It is fair to say that following August 2008 Tbilisi-Washington cooperation grew more intense.
On January 9 the representatives of Georgia and the USA signed the Charter on strategic partnership in Washington stipulating cooperation in economic, legal and military spheres. No mention of the bases. A short time before that Richard Lugar, a Republican senator had had a meeting with Russian journalists assuring them that the USA had no such intention. Georgian Speaker David Bakradze publicly reiterated: the Charter has no mention of deployment of US bases in the territory of Georgia. There will be no US bases in our country.
However then the Laborists stated that Saakashvili's government was allegedly "ready to grant the USA several thousand ha of Georgian land for rent-free deployment of military bases for 90 years". Their suspicions haven't been confirmed yet. But already in February Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote that according to high-ranking sources in Georgia Tbilisi started negotiating with Washington on creation of US bases in seaport of Poti and Marneuli (the latter is 40 minutes' drive from the capital).
Then official Tbilisi commented that the US bases would not be deployed in Georgia and that during the visit of the US military delegation to the capital of Georgia the issue hadn't been brought up, Georgian Foreign Ministry and Georgian Interior Ministry told Interfax. There have been no comments on the current article in the Georgian newspaper from the officials yet.
One thing is noteworthy: currently Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and Georgian FM Grigol Vashadze are in New York. During UN General Assembly sessions a number of bilateral meetings have already been held. On behalf of the United States US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to continue its efforts to prevent international recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Western press doesn't report on talks on deployment of US bases in Georgia.
How real is the arrival of US soldiers in Caucasus? What will Russian-Georgian and Russian-US relations look like? These are the questions the GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked Russian and Georgian politologists.
Head of Department of Ethnic Relations, Institute of Political and Military Analysis Sergey Markedonov:
Hillary Clinton's statement is not unexpected. As for US bases deployment in Georgia - yes, it's real probability. Tbilisi and Washington signed the partnership charter. There are lots of examples of military bases stationed in non-NATO member states - Israel, Pakistan, Argentina. How will Russia react to that? Negatively. I don't think there'll be a war. The bases will deprive Georgia of the last chances of reintegration with Abkhazia and South Ossetia since there are Russian bases there, as is known. The open conflict between Russia and the USA is out of question. It was confirmed last August. It's absolutely obvious that neither NATO nor the USA will come to defend small offended Georgia.