Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 219

The commander of Georgia’s border troops, Maj. Gen. Valery Chkheidze, yesterday announced that the country’s fledgling navy — comprised of eight cutters — began on November 19 to patrol Georgian coastal waters. The move signifies "a further step toward asserting the country’s independence," Chkheidze stated. He added, however, that Georgia is not yet capable of fully controlling its territorial waters. In response, the command of the Russian border forces’ stated that its warships will continue patrolling Georgian waters as heretofore.

Earlier this month, Tbilisi announced that it had introduced a new air communication code designed to control Russian military flights at Vaziani and Alekseyevka, the main Russian airfields in the Tbilisi area. Russian military aircraft use those airfields for unauthorized flights, including commercial ones, that circumvent Georgian border and customs controls. The Georgian government now seeks to introduce checkpoints there.

The Georgian military command and President Eduard Shevardnadze have also asked to take over at least in part from Russian forces the control of Georgia’s border with Turkey. Russian border troops have been stationed there since 1994. A further sore point is the Russian border troops’ control of the Abkhaz sector of Georgia’s border with Russia. In apparent retaliation, the Russian side has threatened to dismiss Georgian officers and NCOs serving under contract in Russian border units on the Georgian-Turkish border. It has also discontinued the attendance of officer trainees of Georgian border troops at Russian training centers. (Interfax, November 20; Iprinda, November 8, 14)

Georgia has not signed the treaty on "joint protection of CIS external borders" and has not ratified the bilateral treaty on the stationing of Russian troops in Georgia. All these issues will probably be discussed again during the upcoming visit of Russia’s Border Service commander, Gen. Andrei Nikolaev, to Tbilisi. The visit will take place amid an incipient détente as Moscow offers some military assistance in the hope of legalizing the presence of its troops in Georgia.

Georgian-Chechen Meeting Opens Way for Good Neighborly Relations.