From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng (Original Message) Sent: 8/30/2007 4:30 AM
ANOTHER RUSSIAN ATTACK ON GEORGIA: UNMISTAKABLE EVIDENCE
By David J. Smith (08/21/2007 issue of the CACI Analyst)
At 1831 on August 6, 2007, a Russian Su-24M fighter streaked into Georgian airspace above the town of Khazbegi. Three radars—military and civilian—tracked it to Tsitelubani, where it turned, released a Kh-58 anti-radar missile and hightailed back to Russia. If the missile’s target was the Georgian radar near Tsitelubani, it missed, falling, undetonated into a vegetable field meters away from houses in the village. Russia’s latest attack on Georgia followed less than four weeks after a United Nations report that, though officially inconclusive, all but accused Moscow of a helicopter attack against Upper Abkhazia in March. Preempting the Russian delay and obfuscation that hampered the UN report, an International Group of Experts comprised of specialists from Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the United States moved swiftly to the site and confirmed the facts of the attack in its August 14 report.
BACKGROUND: The first indication of the August 6 attack appeared on the radar screen of Tbilisi Air Traffic Control. At 1816, the Tbilisi duty controller radioed his Russian counterpart in Rostov-on-Don, north of the Caucasus Mountains. “Is your military flying in the region?” Rostov control denied seeing any aircraft on its radar screen. At 1824, Tbilisi tried again, “Something is flying and crossing the border…speed is about 810 kilometers per hour, 30-35 degrees.”
“I will inform my superiors that you are seeing something,” deadpanned the Rostov controller.
After examining all the evidence, the IGE concluded that a single unidentified aircraft penetrated Georgian airspace from Russia three times that Monday evening. The first incursion lasted less than one minute. The second violation lasted from 1813 to 1821. It was three minutes into the second incursion—1816—when the Tbilisi controller called his Rostov counterpart to seek clarification. When he tried again eight minutes later, his observation was exactly right—the Russian aircraft was headed northeast, crossing back into Russia. The third flight—which plopped the Kh-58 into a farmer’s field—lasted from 1831 to 1842. Of the Georgian radars that produced this information, the military radars meet NATO standards and the civilian radars are approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Multiple reliable radars and the voice record of the Tbilisi air traffic controller, checked by the IGE, corroborate eyewitness accounts.
Although Tsitelubani is outside the South Ossetia Conflict Zone, it is so close that the morning following the attack, a team from the Joint Monitoring Group for South Ossetia—Russian, Georgian and North Ossetian peacekeepers plus a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—hastened to the scene. “Based on parts extracted from the ground like missile engine, stabilizer-wings, electro-schemes and internal equipment,” the team’s written report says, “this is an air-to-surface guided missile, which did not explode after launch.” The team proceeded to interview eyewitnesses—North Ossetian peacekeepers and local villagers—who all corroborated the flight information generated by the radars; and some of whom saw an object separate from the aircraft and fall to earth.
Apparently, de facto South Ossetian forces also observed this aircraft. General Marat Kulakhmetov, commander of the Russian peacekeepers, reported, “The aircraft came into the Conflict Zone from the east. Then it turned in a southwest direction. Over the village of Gromi, it came under fire from the South Ossetian side. This, it seems, scared the pilot and caused him to fire a rocket, and then it went to the northeast.”
Russian Air Force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky denied any involvement: “Russian aircraft have not conducted any flights over that area and have not violated Georgia’s airspace.” And Russian diplomat Yuri Popov, in Tbilisi—far from Tsitelubani but close to news reporters—filled in the last bit of Moscow’s story line. The errant fighter was not an Su-24, but an Su-25, a type of aircraft also flown by the Georgian Air Force, Popov said.
According to Moscow, for the second time this year, Georgia has concocted to bomb itself with aircraft and weapons that it does not possess. The IGE report, in fact, exposes Moscow’s extraordinary hubris. The Kh-58 is the telltale evidence. The missile “warhead did not explode,” the IGE report says, “and the missile had burn marks on the rocket motor nozzle,” an account consistent with the Joint Monitoring Group’s report. “The IGE identified the missile as a Russian-designed Kh-58 (AS-11 Kilter) anti-radiation missile.” The international experts continue, “The Georgian Air Force (GAF) does not possess aircraft equipped with or able to launch Kh-58 missiles. The GAF does not operate aircraft able to fly the profile flown by the unidentified aircraft.”
By August 9, Kulakhmetov turned toward undermining the most prominent piece of evidence, the identification of the missile as a Kh-58. “When a group of peacekeepers arrived at the site early on August 7,” the Russian General said, “the Georgians had already removed all major parts of the missile and transported them to an unidentified location…For some reason, Georgia hurried to destroy the warhead before our arrival.” It is odd that Kulakhmetov failed to mention this on the spot and that his own team’s report belies his later words.
IMPLICATIONS: As in the wake of the March 11 attack – and as it did as early as 1993 – Moscow is spinning the yarn that Georgia bombed itself. Unlike the March 11 incident, evidence of a Russian attack at Tsitelubani is unmistakable. Nonetheless, Moscow is mounting a brazen propaganda offensive.
A Russian MFA statement “sees it as an attempt to wreck the positive trends that have been noted in Russian-Georgian relations and also to complicate efforts for a settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.” And Air Force Chief of Staff Igor Khvorov said, “All these accusations are political speculation.”
Then Khvorov—accompanied by Special Envoy for the CIS Valery Kenyaikin—led Moscow’s own investigation team to Tsitelubani. “There was no border crossing by an airplane,” he repeated. Moscow’s most recent political speculation did not even require an aircraft. “We have the impression that the missile was destroyed somewhere else, and its pieces were later delivered here.”
That was Kenyaikin’s cue to deliver a threat that maintained only the sheerest veil of innocence: “If Georgia continues trying to worsen its relations with Russia on other major issues—Euro-Atlantic integration, its special relations with the West—then Georgia will continue to invent these incidents in the future. If Georgia reaches the conclusion that it needs to have a balanced relationship with Russia, then the situation will change.”
CONCLUSIONS: Just like Russia’s March 11 helicopter hop into Georgia, the Tsitelubani missile attack seems bizarre to most westerners. But in the Caucasus, truth is often stranger than fiction. Moreover, Moscow’s behavior of late can only be understood with willful suspension of disbelief—dioxin poisoning, assassination by irradiation and defenestration, mysterious gas pipeline explosions are only some examples. Wackiness is part of the plan—Moscow delivers its message, plausibly denying any involvement. Western countries receive the message, while the episode is so weird that they can plausibly deny having seen anything amiss.
But the Tsitelubani attack was made in broad daylight in central Georgia and Moscow’s protestations of innocence are farcically thin. Whether by accident or design, the element of plausible denial has been lost. Russia can continue to deny, of course, but few believe it. More important, the western countries have lost their plausible denial not to see. Tsitelubani begs a response.
The West should respond as a matter of principle—it is unacceptable that Russia is free to violate Georgian sovereignty. The West should also respond in its own interest. Emboldened by western acquiescence, Moscow will eventually miscalculate and do something that cannot be ignored—in the Caucasus or maybe elsewhere. Then the West will have a far greater mess on its hands than a crater in a vegetable patch. The time to react calmly but firmly is now.
Another team of western investigators—from Estonia, France, Poland and the United Kingdom—has arrived in Georgia. Meanwhile, Georgia and the United States are seeking to raise the Tsitelubani attack in the UN Security Council. The courage with which the current team of investigators speak, and the hearing Georgia gets in New York over the next few weeks, will tell whether western capitals have understood the message borne by Russia’s Kh-58 missile.
AUTHORS’S BIO: Ambassador David J. Smith is Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, and Director of the Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi.
THE SCO SEEKS ENERGY COOPERATION, BUT PROBLEMS REMAIN
Erica Marat and Asel Murzakulova
On August 16, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held its annual summit in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Cooperation in security and energy sectors were the summit’s main themes. Russia and China in particular were able to broker potentially lucrative deals in gas exports from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The SCO’s future expansion will be driven by its members’ energy needs in addition to their security concerns. The organization, however, still has its member states’ interests represented asymmetrically and a myriad of inefficient agreements.
BACKGROUND: The summit collected presidents and high-ranking officials of 12 states. Among them were the SCO’s members states – China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; observer states – Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Iran, Mongolia, and Turkmenistan attended as distinguished guests. At the summit, the SCO’s six members signed two main documents: “Long Term Treaty of Good-neighborliness, Friendship, and Cooperation” and the “Bishkek Declaration”. Both mention the importance of multilateral responses to the emerging security threats and explicitly condemn unilateralism. They also focus on economic cooperation among the SCO member states, treating it as part of their security. The SCO differentiates between producer, transit, and consumer countries in the energy trade.
Today, almost the entire budget of the SCO is spent on staging joint military exercises and organizing annual forums. Even if the SCO member states will manage to build mutually beneficial energy links, military cooperation will still remain the organization’s hallmark. Since the SCO’s annual military exercises have turned into a somewhat routine activity, the organization will be able to pay more attention to attracting countries with energy export potential. Already now Russia has made substantial progress in negotiating gas imports from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan and Iran expressed their strong interest in boosting energy trade with the SCO’s major partners, Russia and China. Turkmenistan will likely be the next country to join the SCO, as the Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov has publicly recognized the organization’s strategic role in the region. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was enthusiastic about participating in the SCO’s oil and gas projects.
The summit’s participants refrained from openly condemning the U.S. military presence in Kyrgyzstan. Before the summit, the Kyrgyz government indicated that its military ties with the U.S. are a matter of bilateral relations disconnected with its membership in the SCO. Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ahmadinejad criticized western unilateralist plans to station missile-defense shields in Eastern Europe. Both Putin’s and Ahmadinejad’s statements indicated that the SCO’s antagonism with the U.S. goes beyond just the military base in Bishkek. The SCO’s implicit confrontation with the U.S. stems from the organization’s future intentions to expand and consolidate with new member states, as well as its interests to construct a common energy market. Indeed, Moscow’s recently deteriorated relations with NATO incited Putin to condemn western unilateralism. Unlike Moscow, official Beijing was not eager to voice open statements against the U.S or the West in general. “It is simply not in Beijing’s diplomatic tradition to make harsh unexpected statements at international events”, commented one Kyrgyz public official. Although Chinese President Hu Jintao’s speech remained inaccessible to most of the summit’s participants due to the logistical failure on the part of the Kyrgyz organizers to provide an interpreter, China’s fight against the three evils of “terrorism, separatism and extremism” was still reflected in the Bishkek Declaration. Afghan President Hamid Karzai managed to pull the SCO’s attention to the importance of the fight against drug trafficking.
IMPLICATIONS: Prior to the summit, Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev expressed hope that Kyrgyzstan would become a transit country for the prospective gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and China. However, on August 18, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an agreement with Hu Jintao to have the pipeline pass through Kazakhstan. The SCO also approved Kazakhstan’s recent parliamentary elections where the pro-presidential Nur Otan party acquired 98 seats of the total 109. Shortly after the summit, the Kremlin announced its intention to double the number of personnel in its airbase in Kant. Putin also promised to invest $2 billion into Kyrgyzstan’s economy. Most likely, these funds will be spent on building the Kambarata-1 and -2 hydropower stations.
After holding its largest summit to date, the SCO staged military exercises in Russia’s Chebarkul city involving about 5,000 military personnel. The exercises aimed at preventing terrorist attacks in a small town, a scenario allegedly reminiscent of the upheaval in the Uzbek city of Andijan in May 2005. With Kazakhstan’s recent elections unanimously supported by the SCO and military trainings set to protect member states’ incumbent regimes, the organization exhibits a clear lack of incentive to promote political openness on its territory. Similar to Nazarbayev, other Central Asian presidents rely on the SCO’s support of their leadership. At the same time the SCO experiences difficulties in promoting mutual trust among some of its member states, thus decreasing the potential value of joint anti-terrorist drills. The organization is obviously incapable of improving relations between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan. For instance, Uzbek President Islam Karimov pointed at the potential conflicts over water and land resources in overpopulated parts of the region. Should Iran and Pakistan ever become members, the SCO’s internal cohesion would continue to deteriorate. However, the SCO might also seek expansion vis-à-vis NATO’s potential enlargement in Eastern Europe and former Soviet states.
The summit’s participants often appealed to the “Shanghai sprit”, a concept that should represent a shared identity among the SCO member states. However, the concept bears unclear meaning and every member can interpret it differently. In 2006, Alexander Lukin, Head of the department of East Asia and SCO research at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, initiated an informal forum for academics from the SCO countries to generate recommendations on the organization’s functioning. So far the forum was held twice, in 2006 and 2007, and collected representatives of major research centers. The central theme at the June 2007 forum was the listing of criteria for potential member and observer states. However, the forum’s participants faced difficulties in agreeing on these criteria partly because none of the SCO’s current members could qualify under a similar set of criteria. The suggested criteria for potential member states included absence of disputed border areas, respect of human rights, and recognition of the SCO’s main documents. Importantly, the forum presented a rare opportunity for the Central Asian, Russian and Chinese academics to stage debates on regional and international security. Russian and Chinese participants were noticeably better represented.
CONCLUSIONS: The Bishkek summit displayed the SCO’s willingness to move towards increasing energy cooperation. China remains the organization’s main energy consumer, while Russia increasingly seeks the role of a transit country. Although remaining largely of a political nature and lacking practical usefulness, the SCO’s regular military exercises created a platform for expanding cooperation in the energy sector. However, the SCO is experiencing troubles with formulating its identity, as well as finding common criteria for its existing and prospective member states. The organization’s numerous agreements in the economic and cultural sectors still lack efficiency. The SCO is mostly based on bilateral ties between member states as opposed to maintaining multilateralism.
AUTHOR’S BIO: Dr. Erica Marat is a Research Fellow at the Central Asia – Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program; Asel Murzakulova is a Rresearcher at the Institute of Strategic Studies under the President of Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek.
U.S.-AFGHAN DIFFERENCES OVER NARCOTICS PERSIST
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