War in the Caucasus: Towards a
Broader Russia - US Military Confrontation?
by Michel Chossudovsky
During the night of August 7, coinciding
with the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia's president
Saakashvili ordered an all-out military attack on Tskhinvali,
the capital of South Ossetia.
The aerial bombardments and ground attacks
were largely directed against civilian targets including residential
areas, hospitals and the university. The provincial capital Tskhinvali
was destroyed. The attacks resulted in some 1500 civilian deaths,
according to both Russian and Western sources. "The air
and artillery bombardment left the provincial capital without
water, food, electricity and gas. Horrified civilians crawled
out of the basements into the streets as fighting eased, looking
for supplies." (AP, August 9, 2008). According to reports,
some 34,000 people from South Ossetia have fled to Russia. (Deseret
Morning News, Salt Lake City, August 10, 2008)
The importance and timing of this military
operation must be carefully analyzed. It has far-reaching implications.
Georgia is an outpost of US and NATO forces,
on the immediate border of the Russian Federation and within proximity
of the Middle East Central Asian war theater. South Ossetia is
also at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes.
Georgia does not act militarily without
the assent of Washington. The Georgian head of State is a US proxy
and Georgia is a de facto US protectorate.
Who is behind this military agenda? What
interests are being served? What is the purpose of the military
There is evidence that the attacks were
carefully coordinated by the US military and NATO.
Moscow has accused NATO of "encouraging
Georgia". Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov underscored
the destabilizing impacts of "foreign" military aid
to Georgia: .
"It all confirms our numerous warnings
addressed to the international community that it is necessary
to pay attention to massive arms purchasing by Georgia during
several years. Now we see how these arms and Georgian special
troops who had been trained by foreign specialists are used,"
he said.(Moscow accuses NATO of having "encouraged Georgia"
to attack South Ossetia, Russia Today, August 9, 2008)
Moscow's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin,
sent an official note to the representatives of all NATO member
"Russia has already begun consultations
with the ambassadors of the NATO countries and consultations with
NATO military representatives will be held tomorrow," Rogozin
said. "We will caution them against continuing to further
support of Saakashvili."
"It is an undisguised aggression
accompanied by a mass propaganda war," he said.
According to Rogozin, Georgia had initially
"start military action against Abkhazia,
however, 'the Abkhaz fortified region turned out to be unassailable
for Georgian armed formations, therefore a different tactic was
chosen aimed against South Ossetia', which is more accessible
territorially. The envoy has no doubts that Mikheil Saakashvili
had agreed his actions with "sponsors", "those
with whom he is negotiating Georgia's accession to NATO ".
(RIA Novosti, August 8, 2008)
Contrary to what was conveyed by Western
media reports, the attacks were anticipated by Moscow. The attacks
were timed to coincide with the opening of the Olympics, largely
with a view to avoiding frontpage media coverage of the Georgian
On August 7, Russian forces were in an
advanced state readiness. The counterattack was swiftly carried
Russian paratroopers were sent in from
Russia's Ivanovo, Moscow and Pskov airborne divisions. Tanks,
armored vehicles and several thousand ground troops have been
deployed. Russian air strikes have largely targeted military facilities
inside Georgia including the Gori military base.
The Georgian military attack was repealed
with a massive show of strength on the part of the Russian military.
Act of Provocation?
US-NATO military and intelligence planners
invariably examine various "scenarios" of a proposed
military operation-- i.e. in this case, a limited Georgian attack
largely directed against civilian targets, with a view to inflicting
civilian casualties. __The examination of scenarios is a routine
practice. With limited military capabilities, a Georgian victory
and occupation of Tskhinvali, was an impossibility from the outset.
And this was known and understood to US-NATO military planners.
A humanitarian disaster rather than a
military victory was an integral part of the scenario. The objective
was to destroy the provincial capital, while also inflicting a
significant loss of human life.
If the objective were to restore Georgian
political control over the provincial government, the operation
would have been undertaken in a very different fashion, with Special
Forces occupying key public buildings, communications networks
and provincial institutions, rather than waging an all out bombing
raid on residential areas, hospitals, not to mention Tskhinvali's
The Russian response was entirely predictable.
Georgia was "encouraged" by
NATO and the US. Both Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels
were acutely aware of what would happen in the case of a Russian
The question is: was this a deliberate
provocation intended to trigger a Russian military response and
suck the Russians into a broader military confrontation with Georgia
(and allied forces) which could potentially escalate into an all
Georgia has the third largest contingent
of coalition forces in Iraq after the US and the UK, with some
2000 troops. According to reports, Georgian troops in Iraq are
now being repatriated in US military planes, to fight Russian
forces. (See Debka.com, August 10, 2008)
This US decision to repatriate Georgian
servicemen suggests that Washington is intent upon an escalation
of the conflict, where Georgian troops are to be used as canon
fodder against a massive deployment of Russian forces.
US-NATO and Israel Involved in the Planning
of the Attacks
In mid-July, Georgian and U.S. troops
held a joint military exercise entitled "Immediate Response"
involving respectively 1,200 US and 800 Georgian troops.
The announcement by the Georgian Ministry
of Defense on July 12 stated that they US and Georgian troops
were to "train for three weeks at the Vaziani military base"
near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. (AP, July 15, 2008). These
exercises, which were completed barely a week before the August
7 attacks, were an obvious dress rehearsal of a military operation,
which, in all likelihood, had been planned in close cooperation
with the Pentagon. __The war on Southern Ossetia was not meant
to be won, leading to the restoration of Georgian sovereignty
over South Ossetia. It was intended to destabilize the region
while also triggering a US-NATO confrontation with Russia.
On July 12, coinciding with the outset
of the Georgia-US war games, the Russian Defense Ministry started
its own military maneuvers in the North Caucasus region. The usual
disclaimer by both Tblisi and Moscow: the military exercises have
"nothing to do" with the situation in South Ossetia.
Let us be under no illusions. This is
not a civil war. The attacks are an integral part of the broader
Middle East Central Asian war, including US-NATO-Israeli war preparations
in relation to Iran.
The Role of Israeli Military Advisers
While NATO and US military advisers did
not partake in the military operation per se, they were actively
involved in the planning and logistics of the attacks. According
to Israeli sources (Debka.com, August 8, 2008), the ground assault
on August 7-8, using tanks and artillery was "aided by Israeli
military advisers". Israel also supplied Georgia with Hermes-450
and Skylark unmanned aerial vehicles, which were used in the weeks
leading up to the August 7 attacks. __Georgia has also acquired,
according to a report in Rezonansi (August 6, in Georgian, BBC
translation) "some powerful weapons through the upgrade of
Su-25 planes and artillery systems in Israel". According
to Haaretz (August 10, 2008), Israelis are active in military
manufacturing and security consulting in Georgia. __Russian forces
are now directly fighting a NATO-US trained Georgian army integrated
by US and Israeli advisers. And Russian warplanes have attacked
the military jet factory on the outskirts of Tbilisi, which produces
the upgraded Su-25 fighter jet, with technical support from Israel.
(CTV.ca, August 10, 2008)
When viewed in the broader context of
the Middle East war, the crisis in Southern Ossetia could lead
to escalation, including a direct confrontation between Russian
and NATO forces. If this were to occur, we would be facing the
most serious crisis in US-Russian relations since the Cuban Missile
crisis in October 1962.
Georgia: NATO-US Outpost
Georgia is part of a NATO military alliance
(GUAM) signed in April 1999 at the very outset of the war on Yugoslavia.
It also has a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the
US. These underlying military agreements have served to protect
Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian sea basin as well
as pipeline routes.
Both the US and NATO have a military presence
in Georgia and are working closely with the Georgian Armed Forces.
Since the signing of the 1999 GUAM agreement, Georgia has been
the recipient of extensive US military aid.
Barely a few months ago, in early May,
the Russian Ministry of Defense accused Washington, "claiming
that [US as well as NATO and Israeli] military assistance to Georgia
is destabilizing the region." (Russia Claims Georgia in Arms
Buildup, Wired News, May 19, 2008). According to the Russian Defense
"Georgia has received 206 tanks,
of which 175 units were supplied by NATO states, 186 armored vehicles
(126 - from NATO) , 79 guns (67 - from NATO) , 25 helicopters
(12 - from NATO) , 70 mortars, ten surface-to-air missile systems,
eight Israeli-made unmanned aircraft, and other weapons. In addition,
NATO countries have supplied four combat aircraft to Georgia.
The Russian Defense Ministry said there were plans to deliver
to Georgia 145 armored vehicles, 262 guns and mortars, 14 combat
aircraft including four Mirazh-2000 destroyers, 25 combat helicopters,
15 American Black Hawk aircraft, six surface-to-air missile systems
and other arms." (Interfax News Agency, Moscow, in Russian,
Aug 7, 2008)
NATO-US-Israeli assistance under formal
military cooperation agreements involves a steady flow of advanced
military equipment as well as training and consulting services.
According to US military sources (spokesman
for US European Command), the US has more than 100 "military
trainers" in Georgia. A Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman
"said there were no plans to redeploy the estimated 130 US
troops and civilian contractors, who he said were stationed in
the area around Tblisi" (AFP, 9 August 2008). In fact, US-NATO
military presence in Georgia is on a larger scale to that acknowledged
in official statements. The number of NATO personnel in Georgia
acting as trainers and military advisers has not been confirmed.
Although not officially a member of NATO,
Georgia's military is full integrated into NATO procedures. In
2005, Georgian president proudly announced the inauguration of
the first military base, which "fully meets NATO standards".
Immediately following the inauguration of the Senakskaya base
in west Georgia, Tblisi announced the opening of a second military
base at Gori which would also "comply with NATO regulations
in terms of military requirements as well as social conditions."
(Ria Novosti, 26 May 2006). __The Gori base has been used to train
Georgian troops dispatched to fight under US command in the Iraq
It is worth noting that under a March
31, 2006, agreement between Tblisi and Moscow, Russia's two Soviet-era
military bases in Georgia - Akhalkalaki and Batumi have been closed
down. (Ibid) The pullout at Batumi commenced in May of last year,
2007. The last remaining Russian troops left the Batumi military
facility in early July 2008, barely a week before the commencement
of the US-Georgia war games and barely a month prior to the attacks
on South Ossetia.
The Israel Connection
Israel is now part of the Anglo-American
military axis, which serves the interests of the Western oil giants
in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Israel is a partner in the Baku-Tblisi-
Ceyhan pipeline which brings oil and gas to the Eastern Mediterranean.
More than 20 percent of Israeli oil is imported from Azerbaijan,
of which a large share transits through the BTC pipeline. Controlled
by British Petroleum, the BTC pipeline has dramatically changed
the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucusus:
"[The BTC pipeline] considerably
changes the status of the region's countries and cements a new
pro-West alliance. Having taken the pipeline to the Mediterranean,
Washington has practically set up a new bloc with Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Turkey and Israel, " (Komerzant, Moscow, 14 July
While the official reports state that
the BTC pipeline will "channel oil to Western markets",
what is rarely acknowledged is that part of the oil from the Caspian
sea would be directly channeled towards Israel, via Georgia. In
this regard, a Israeli-Turkish pipeline project has also been
envisaged which would link Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon
and from there through Israel's main pipeline system, to the Red
The objective of Israel is not only to
acquire Caspian sea oil for its own consumption needs but also
to play a key role in re-exporting Caspian sea oil back to the
Asian markets through the Red Sea port of Eilat. The strategic
implications of this re-routing of Caspian sea oil are far-reaching.
(For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon
and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 2006)
What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline
to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel's
Tipline, from Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon.
"Turkey and Israel are negotiating
the construction of a multi-million-dollar energy and water project
that will transport water, electricity, natural gas and oil by
pipelines to Israel, with the oil to be sent onward from Israel
to the Far East,
The new Turkish-Israeli proposal under
discussion would see the transfer of water, electricity, natural
gas and oil to Israel via four underwater pipelines.
"Baku oil can be transported to Ashkelon
via this new pipeline and to India and the Far East.[via the Red
"Ceyhan and the Mediterranean port
of Ashkelon are situated only 400 km apart. Oil can be transported
to the city in tankers or via specially constructed under-water
pipeline. From Ashkelon the oil can be pumped through already
existing pipeline to the port of Eilat at the Red Sea; and from
there it can be transported to India and other Asian countries
in tankers. (REGNUM)
In this regard, Israel is slated to play
a major strategic role in "protecting" the Eastern Mediterranean
transport and pipeline corridors out of Ceyhan. Concurrently,
it also involved in channeling military aid and training to both
Georgia and Azerbaijan.
A far-reaching 1999 bilateral military
cooperation agreement between Tblisi and Tel Aviv was reached
barely a month before the NATO sponsored GUUAM agreement. It was
signed in Tbilisi by President Shevardnadze and Israel's Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyu. These various military cooperation
arrangements are ultimately intended to undermine Russia's presence
and influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
In a pro forma declaration, Tel Aviv committed
itself, following bilateral discussions with Moscow, on August
5, 2008, to cut back military assistance to Georgia.
In response to the attacks, Russian forces
intervened with conventional ground troops. Tanks and armored
vehicles were sent in. The Russian air force was also involved
in aerial counter-attacks on Georgian military positions including
the military base of Gori.
The Western media has portrayed the Russian
as solely responsible for the deaths of civilians, yet at the
same time the Western media has acknowledged (confirmed by the
BBC) that most of the civilian casualties at the outset were the
result of the Georgian ground and air attacks.
Based on Russian and Western sources,
the initial death toll in South Ossetia was at least 1,400 (BBC)
mostly civilians. "Georgian casualty figures ranged from
82 dead, including 37 civilians, to a figure of around 130 dead....
A Russian air strike on Gori, a Georgian town near South Ossetia,
left 60 people dead, many of them civilians, Georgia says."
(BBC, August 9, 2008). Russian sources place the number of civilian
deaths on South Ossetia at 2000.
A process of escalation and confrontation
between Russia and America is unfolding, reminiscent of the Cold
Are we dealing with an act of provocation,
with a view to triggering a broader conflict? Supported by media
propaganda, the Western military alliance is intent on using this
incident to confront Russia, as evidenced by recent NATO statements.