In Tbilisi, the Russian delegation proposed to withdraw the troops from Batumi and Akhalkalaki and close those bases within in fourteen years–one year less than Russia had until now demanded. Such timeframes are meaningless, however. They suggest only that Moscow seeks to retain the bases indefinitely. Russia, moreover, presented a list of twenty-five military installations, some of them strewn about Georgia’s territory. Moscow would define those installations as part of the two bases and thus subject, as well, to retention.
Georgia confirmed its position that three years are amply sufficient for the Russian forces to close the two bases and leave. Within that timeframe, Georgia would accept Russian troops at only five, among the additional twenty-five, installations listed. Shevardnadze, for his part, personally reasserted that Georgia rules out inviting foreign troops to use the bases after the Russians depart.
For the first time publicly in these long-running negotiations, the Russian side suggested drastically reducing the timeframe for withdrawal, in return for Western money. They delegation held out the possibility of a withdrawal within three to four years, “if the United States and other countries help Russia financially.” The Russians suggested two different price tags: one for US$140 million and another for 4.3 billion rubles. Those supposedly would cover the relocation costs and the costs of building accommodations for the troops in Russia.
Significantly, Russia’s newly appointed deputy defense minister responsible for finances, Lyubov Kudelina, was included in this delegation to Tbilisi. Kosovan himself is responsible for rear services. This would seem to suggest that Moscow is prepared to negotiate seriously over a heavy financial compensation, or at least to give the impression that it might settle for such compensation and drag out the negotiations indefinitely while retaining the bases (Prime News, Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostei, RIA, May 15-16; see the Monitor, February 5, 9, March 27; Fortnight in Review, March 30).
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