Should Russian forces undertake an operation against Georgia, Western governments would not be able to plead surprise (see the Monitor, October 5-6, 21, November 8, 12; The Fortnight in Review, October 22, November 19, December 3). As danger signals accumulate, continued Western silence–the Clinton administration’s in particular–risks being misread in Moscow or by Russian commanders in the theater as a hands-off attitude. Against this background, the pressure is mounting on Georgia to fall into line with Moscow’s policies in the North and South Caucasus. Russian authorities now claim that Chechen forces and Georgian authorities are preparing “provocations” against Russian diplomatic and military personnel in Georgia and their families.
Russia’s Federal Security Service and the Defense Ministry allege that Georgian security services and Chechen “terrorists” plan to entice soldiers at Russian military bases into selling weapons to the Chechens, so as to discredit the Russian military presence in Georgia and to “demonstrate that Georgia has nothing to do with arms deliveries to Chechnya.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has advised dependents of Russian diplomats and other Russian citizens to prepare to leave Georgia–“on a voluntary basis” for the time being–because of “threats on the part of Chechen terrorists.” According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin, Russia is prepared to “evacuate” its citizens from Georgia in the event of an emergency.
As has been the case since the beginning of the war in Chechnya, Moscow did not produce any evidence to substantiate these charges. They appear designed to suggest that Georgia condones the presence of Chechen armed groups on its territory and is unwilling or unable to suppress them. At the recent meeting of the Euroatlantic Cooperation Council in Brussels, Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze expressed “serious apprehensions” in connection with this new aspect of Russian accusations (Segodnya, Nezavisimaya gazeta, December 4; Krasnaya zvezda, December 8; Itar-Tass, December 3-8; Golos Armenii, December 9; Prime-News, Kavkasia Press, December 8; Turan, December 10-11).
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