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NATO between Russia and Georgia

I just caught this post over at Heritage about the back-and-forth over NATO exercises in Georgia.  It seems that the opposition protests which have seized the capital have provided a nice cover for the Russians to begin making some movements.

Leading Russian officials are loudly protesting the forthcoming NATO staff exercise in Georgia. The exercises do not involve any armed troops and are essentially a crisis management drill. Yet, as the Bard said, “the lady doth protest too much.”

Since March 25, the Russian Federation has significantly increased its military presence in the occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow built up its forces, Georgia officials say, particularly in the areas adjacent to the troop separation lines in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. (…)

President Saakashvili stated in an interview on April 11 that Russia has 5,000 troops stationed in each of the breakaway regions. Saakashvili also went on to say that that despite the large-scale military build-up of the Russian forces both in the breakaway regions and on Georgia’s borders, he did not think that Russia would “renew any large-scale military adventure.” Instead, he believes these movements are aimed at “possible internal unrests [in Georgia]”, i.e. aimed to destabilize his administration.

The NATO unarmed staff exercise in Georgia is the bare minimum the West can do to send a signal to Russia not to undertake another military adventure in Georgia. The question is, whether Moscow will listen – even as the Obama Administration is offering it an unclenched hand and a “reset” button.