Russia Assimilates Armed Forces of Georgian Breakaway Region
MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed his government on Tuesday to finalize a deal to absorb the military forces of Georgia’s South Ossetia breakaway region into Russia’s military command hierarchy. The order came just one day after the Kremlin published a related draft agreement allowing separatists in South Ossetia to serve in the Russian armed forces.
The bold moves represent a major development in Putin’s quest to reconstruct the Soviet empire, and leaders in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and beyond are alarmed.
Officially, South Ossetia is part Georgia, a nation that was formerly part of the Soviet bloc. But in 1992, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after several eruptions of violence, the region declared independence from Tbilisi. For over a decade, South Ossetia existed as a semiautonomous region in a state of general peace with the rest of Georgia. But in 2004, the Georgian government launched efforts to regain control of the region, and conflicts between Georgian soldiers and South Ossetian separatists began to increase.
The tension culminated in 2008, when Georgia carried out a resolute ground and air assault on Tskhinvali, South Ossetia’s primary city. Putin responded to the offensive by invading Georgia and pushing Georgian soldiers out of South Ossetia and out of Abkhazia, Georgia’s other pro-Russian breakaway region.
After concluding the invasion, Moscow recognized the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Putin then asserted control over the two regions, and a handful of Russia’s allies, including Venezuela and Nicaragua, followed Moscow’s lead in recognizing their independence.
Georgia, along with the United States and the European Union, labeled the Russian move a blatant and illegal land grab. Georgia continues to insist that both regions remain part of Georgian territory, and international law supports this view. But such claims mean less and less as Russia asserts more real-world control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The new agreement to incorporate South Ossetia’s armed forces into Russia’s military makes Moscow’s control over the region certain in all but name. Reuters said that, under the agreement, South Ossetian forces “will adopt new operating procedures for their armed forces which will be subject to approval by Moscow, and the forces’ structure and objectives will be determined in agreement with Russia.”
Georgia has denounced the new agreement, saying it is “illegitimate” and is “impeding peaceful process.” But such denunciations do not change the facts on the ground.
Russia’s absorption of South Ossetia’s military comes just three years after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and during a continuing conflict in which Russian forces are aiding separatists in eastern Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Georgia were part of the Soviet Union before its collapse. In 2005, Putin called that collapse “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.” This declaration provides insight into the Russian leader’s worldview and into his overriding geopolitical goal: to reconstruct a Russian empire.
Many in Georgia see that Russia’s assertion of greater control over South Ossetia parallels its recent actions in Ukraine. “Russia, in a way, is pulling a Crimea here,” Dr. Irakli Bokuchava, a Tbilisi-based political commentator, told the Trumpet. In both nations, he said, Putin’s plan is the “creation of a renewed ussr.”
Russia Is Alarming Europe
Russia’s increasing control over South Ossetia is also fueling concern among European leaders, some of whom fear that it could inspire secessionists in other former Soviet nations—within Europe. The Irish Times explained that Europeans are fearful of Putin’s reconstruction of the Soviet empire but, at present, too disunited to counter it:
[A]larmed but unwilling—unable—to do anything, the European Union watches on. The dispute and Union’s impotence epitomize its difficult relationship with Russia and the former Soviet states, which the latter still regards as its “sphere of influence,” Russian minorities in most of them still under Moscow’s protective wing. The EU’s response, notably in Ukraine, has been fumbling and uncertain.
Of the six former Soviet states which participate in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership”—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine—only Belarus has made it through the last quarter century without being involved in armed conflict internally, while the latter joins Azerbaijan as the most politically stable of the regimes, albeit the most authoritarian. … Russia knows it can continue its bullying. Putin regards South Ossetians as Russians that, like Crimeans, history has wrongfully parted from their homeland.
The Irish Times said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s disparagement of nato and his “apparent sympathy with strongman Putin” are exacerbating the worry among Europeans, with the article concluding, “These are dangerous times.”
A Bold Forecast Vindicated
These “dangerous times” appear to have taken many analysts by surprise. But the Trumpet fully expected them. Just after Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry issued this precise forecast:
Russia’s attack on Georgia in August marks the beginning of a dangerous new era in history. This was the first military strike of a rising Asian superpower—and there will be more! … Today, you have [Western leaders] trying to also bring Georgia and Ukraine into nato. I don’t believe Russia will ever allow that to happen. … Will a crisis occur over Ukraine? That area is the breadbasket of Russia, and surely it is willing to wage war over that as well.
Time has proved that forecast to be stunningly accurate.
Almost a decade ago, Mr. Flurry understood that Ukraine and Georgia were not safe from Putin’s expansionist ambitions, and now it is clear that he was right. He also said long before the Irish Times that Russia’s aggressive behavior would frighten Europe into uniting. For a shocking insight into the Russia’s—and Europe’s—present and future, watch Mr. Flurry’s Key of David program “The Prophesied Prince of Russia.”