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Update on the Russian-Georgian Conflict

12:46 AM, Aug 28, 2008 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The latest from Fred Kagan, current as of 12:30 A.M.:

* The deployment of NATO warships to the Black Sea has definitely gotten Moscow's attention, drawing a combination of bravado, threats, and shrugs from the Russian military. The key issue is most likely that Russia cannot match the naval buildup it sees coming in the Black Sea with its own vessels, at least not in a timely fashion. Moscow is reacting as though it has confidence that NATO ships will not do anything but sail around for a few weeks and leave, but it is manifesting its discomfort at the demonstration that it does not control the Black Sea.
* Russia continues to accuse Georgia of planning to re-attack South Ossetia, and has served notice that any American attempt to rearm Georgia to pre-war levels will be seen as American encouragement for such an attack.
* Russia is expanding its peacekeeping perimeter, but refuses to define its "security zone" with any precision. It acknowledges the presence of Russian forces in Poti, but obfuscates the basis and nature of that presence. Russian forces are cleansing South Ossetia of Georgians, but the evidence in the MoD releases is naturally oblique, and I will return to this issue in subsequent updates.

* Moscow is exerting a combination of pressures and promises on Ukraine, holding out the possibility of continued military-industrial collaboration but denouncing Ukrainian haggling over the Black Sea Fleet's presence in Sevastopol. In general terms, the tenor of Moscow's messages to Ukraine appears to be calming from its initial flurry of indignation. On the other hand, the Russians ostentatiously sortied the Black Sea Fleet flagship from Sevastopol, giving the Ukrainians no notice and initially offering a false explanation of its destination and the purpose of its mission. Moscow has thereby served notice that it will not respect President Yushchenko's demands for notification of planned sorties, their destinations, and their purposes.
* Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, China, and the Czech Republic have all been singled out in MoD releases for supporting Russia either by offering humanitarian aid to South Ossetia or by considering sending military advisors there under the auspices of the OSCE.
* The General Staff also announced that it is reviewing the experience of this conflict for lessons for Russian military modernization, particularly in the areas of suppressing enemy air defenses and in information operations.
* Strong evidence suggests that Moscow still aims to encourage the Georgians to remove Saakashvili from power and will continue to exert various forms of leverage, including the occupation of Georgian territory, to that end.