The situation in the autonomous republic of South Osetia is still uncertain, although the authorities of Georgia and South Osetia agreed on the policy of not exerting military or economic pressure to each other.
Nevertheless, Georgia will not abandon its idea to take over South Osetia under Georgian jurisdiction. This issue is critical for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
After the banishing of former head of Adzharia Aslan Abashidze, Georgian President made public his intention to pass on to South Osetia and Abhazia. These two autonomous republics are formally the parts of Georgia, but in fact they are self-governed territories. The call to unite Georgia was the key point in the election campaign of Mr. Saakashvili. The problem of dismissing the opponent leader of Adzharia was solved relatively easy, and this made Georgian authorities more confident. For this reason, the current situation in Southern Osetia was predictable, but Georgian authorities provoked the new crisis surprisingly quickly, and they are too excited about it.
Southern Osetia is not Adzharia, it has no opposition supported from Georgian capital Tbilisi. There are some villages populated by Georgians, in the territory of the unrecognized republic, but they are controlled by South Osetian authorities. For this reason, it will be hard for Georgian authorities to organize the actions of civil protest in Tskhinvali as they did in Batumi, the center of Adzharia.
Georgian leaders went on the path of demonstrating their military power. Additional units of Georgian police and special forces were deployed in South Osetia under the excuse of anti-smuggling operation. They were withdrawn several hours later, but some posts of the Georgian troops remained in South Osetia. Since June 3, Georgian peace-keepers (350 soldiers) and armored vehicles have been deployed near the borders of Southern Osetia. Georgian leaders say that Georgia is authorized to have some peace-keeping troops in the conflict zone, up to 500 soldiers, according to the agreement between the countries of the former USSR. Meanwhile, South Osetian authorities say that about 3,000 Georgian soldiers and several dozens of armored vehicles are deployed near the borders of South Osetia.
This does not mean that military clashes are inevitable. So far the situation has been developed according to Adzaria’s scenario – the war of characters is taking place. As during the conflict in Adzharia, Mikhail Saakashvili is winning as he is conducting efficient information warfare against the authorities of South Osetia.
Nobody will criticize the intention of the state to restore its territorial integrity. Moreover, Georgian President said many times that he is going to use only peaceful means to meet his goals. President Saakashvili even sent his wife to South Osetia whose authorities did not let her in city Tshinvali, and she had to fly to one of Georgian villages by helicopter. Good propagandist move: the wife of the President is carrying gifts to children, and some unshaven individuals in camouflage disturb her. Whom will the so-called “world public opinion” represented by the US Ambassador in Georgia Richard Miles?
As for Russia, it again finds itself in a very complicated situation.
Moscow cannot support South Osetia publicly as it risks to be accused of supporting separatism and double standard policy – “you are fighting separatism in your territory but support it abroad”. On the other hand, Russia will lose face if the outcome will be like in Adzharia. Nobody will be interested in Russia’s opinion on the issues of the states-former republics of the USSR.