Thursday, October 23, 2008

Russia increases military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia

TBILISI, Georgia -- Russia has officially ended its peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Instead 7,400 combat troops will be based in the two regions, and Russia is repairing the defunct Soviet deep-water naval base at Ochamchire and an airfield at Gudauta, both in Abkhazia. There have been reports that Russia is turning Abkhazia's Gali district, which borders the rest of Georgia, into a military district under military law. That would make it essentially Russian territory.

The ramifications go far beyond the Caucasus, though. The move effectively buries the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which Russia has been violating since the 1990s. In addition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia has stockpiled heavy weapons, equipment and troops in Transnistria (Moldova) and Armenia.

Whoever the next president is, he will have to deal with Russia's militarization of its presence in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

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