#1 - JRL 7032
January 24, 2003
THE UNITED STATES PERMITS RUSSIA TO BOMB GEORGIA
...permitting itself to bomb Iraq
Russia has no need to bomb Georgia now, and the Americans know it
Author: not indicated
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
SENIOR DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE RICHARD ARMITAGE MADE IT ABSOLUTELY
CLEAR IN HIS INTERVIEW WITH ECHO OF MOSCOW RADIO YESTERDAY THAT THE
UNITED STATES WOULD NOT CRITICIZE RUSSIA FOR PREVENTIVE STRIKES AT
CHECHEN GUERRILLAS IN GEORGIA.
US Senior Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is on a
visit to Moscow, where he will attend a meeting of the Russian-
American group for terrorism. In an interview with Echo of Moscow
radio, Armitage was asked to comment on the statements of Russian
state officials that did not rule out the possibility of preventive
strikes at extremists in pursuit, even when the extremists in question
were actually on the territory of Georgia. "A country that believes in
preventive strikes will find it difficult to criticize another country
for doing the same," Armitage replied. The diplomat immediately
elaborated that the United States hoped that Russia would show good-
will, and that Russia and Georgia would remain at peace, but all these
phrases did not change anything. The United States, as represented by
its second most prominent diplomat, all but gave Russia carte blanche
for pre-emptive strikes at the territory of a neighboring state.
We approached the US Embassy for comments, only to be told
officially that it could not "comment on statements made by the senior
deputy state secretary." Off the record, sources said that they had
already compared reports from Russian news agencies with the text of
Mr. Armitage's original statement and that the translation was fairly
adequate. According to our sources, however, Armitage's words actually
shocked the US Embassy staff.
Tbilisi's reaction was similar. When it recovered, the Georgian
government immediately wrote it off as a misunderstanding on the part
of the Russian media.
It may turn out, however, that Armitage knew exactly what he was
saying - and that it was not a diplomatic lapse on his part. Russia
was expecting these words from its American partner in the counter-
terrorism coalition four months ago. Last September, Moscow
essentially announced that hostilities against Georgia were a distinct
possibility. President Vladimir Putin sent an ultimatum to Georgia
demanding extradition of all guerrillas - on penalty of preventive
strikes at terrorist bases.
Essentially, it was a deal Russia offered the United States then:
Iraq in return for Georgia. The message was clear. The Kremlin would
not object to Washington dealing with Iraq as it saw fit, and
Washington in its turn should accept Russia's plans with regard to
Georgia; especially since solutions to both problems were actually
similar, and criminals involved in the terrorist acts against both
Russia and the United States were hiding on the territory of Georgia.
The United States backed Tbilisi at the time, saying that restoration
of order in the Pankisi Gorge was a prerogative of the government of
Georgia alone. Moscow got what it wanted from Washington four months
Russian-Georgian relations are fairly stable now, and leading
federal politicians in Moscow are no longer talking of strikes,
preventive or otherwise. Georgia publishes operational information on
the situation in the Pankisi Gorge and on the connections between the
guerrillas hiding there and Al Qaeda. Moreover, only a couple of hours
before Armitage's statement the Kremlin officially announced that
presidents Putin and Eduard Shevardnadze would meet in the course of
the CIS summit in Kiev. Putin summoned heads of Gazprom and Russian
Joint Energy Systems Aleksei Miller and Anatoly Chubais shortly
afterwards and gave them twenty-four hours to resume deliveries of
Russian gas to Georgia.
In other words, Russia does not really need carte blanche from
the Americans any longer. It is not going to bomb Georgia - as the
United States knew perfectly well. It is the United States itself that
needed Armitage's statement. Offering Russia carte blanche in the
matter of Georgia (unnecessary or not), Washington expects an
analogous gesture from the Kremlin but with regard to Iraq. After all,
this is what Moscow itself suggested at one time. President George W.
Bush needs such a deal now.