08TBILISI718, GEORGIA REACTS TO RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING INCREASE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI718 2008-04-30 13:54 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO2086
OO RUEHBW RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0718/01 1211354
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 301354Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9361
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000718 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR DAS BRYZA & EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/30/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA REACTS TO RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING INCREASE 
 
REF: A. A. TBILISI 536 
     B. B. TBILISI 714 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b&d). 
 
Summary 
------- 
1.  (C)  On April 29, acting Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze 
told ambassadors and charges from the U.S., U.K., Germany, 
France, and the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) that 
the increase in strength of the Russian peacekeeping force 
was the latest in a series of Russian steps intended to draw 
Georgia into an armed conflict.  Vashadze emphasized that 
Georgia would not take military action nor would ask the 
Russian peacekeepers to leave, but cautioned that the current 
situation was in a "dangerous stage" as Russia continued to 
strengthen its control over Abkhazia.  Minister for 
Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili made a public statement 
calling the Russian increase "illegal," because the move was 
not agreed to by the Georgian side.  UNOMIG estimates that 
the CIS PKF is increasing its strength by approximately 500 
personnel, which would bring the total number of peacekeepers 
to 2,500 - about 500 short of the maximum allowed by the 1994 
CIS Decision establishing the peacekeeping force.  President 
Saakashvili gave a televised address directed explicitly to 
the populations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, offering them 
a "hand of friendship" and outlining his proposals for Abkhaz 
and South Ossetian autonomy and representation in the 
Georgian government.  Separately, two U.S. experts arrived in 
Georgia April 30 to join an international fact finding group 
organized by the Georgian Ministry of Defense to investigate 
the April 20 shootdown of a Georgian unmanned aerial vehicle 
(UAV) over Abkhazia.  End summary. 
 
Vashadze Objects Strongly, Says Georgia Will React Rationally 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------- 
2. (SBU) Georgia's acting Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, 
told ambassadors and charges from the U.S., U.K., Germany, 
France, and UNOMIG April 29 that the increase in the strength 
of the Russian peacekeeping force (announced, he claimed, 
with the help of five Russian public statements in one day) 
was the latest in a series of Russian steps intended to draw 
Georgia into an armed conflict.  Vashadze said that in normal 
circumstances Georgia would not object so strongly to the 
additional peacekeepers, but over the last two months, Russia 
has been carrying out a concerted policy to gain firmer 
control over Abkhazia by changing the "situation on the 
ground," while Georgia has been playing catch-up with 
statements in response.  He called the current situation a 
"dangerous stage." 
 
3. (C) Vashadze made it clear that Georgia would not do 
"something stupid" by taking military action.  He said 
Georgia would not even ask the Russian peacekeepers to leave. 
 He said Georgia would, however, like to see its western 
friends signal to the Russians in a concrete way, not just 
through statements, that we disapprove of Russian actions. 
For example, he suggested, why not give Georgia a NATO 
Membership Action (MAP) immediately, to show the Russians we 
will not accept their policy?  Vashadze agreed with the 
Ambassador that there had been strong signs of international 
support recently, including the joint statement by Western 
countries in New York April 23.  He also expressed 
satisfaction with the international response to Georgia's 
request for experts to review the evidence of the April 20 
shootdown of a Georgian UAV (Note: two U.S. experts arrived 
in Georgia on April 30 to participate in this international 
fact finding group.  End note).  The French Ambassador noted 
that a French expert analysis (the text of which is currently 
classified) indicated the plane responsible for the shootdown 
was a MIG-29 or an SU-27, both planes that could 
realistically only be operated by Russia. 
 
UNOMIG: Russia increasing PKF to 2,500 
-------------------------------------- 
4. (C) According to unofficial UNOMIG estimates, the Russians 
are increasing the troop strength of the CIS PKF by 
approximately 500 personnel, which would bring the total 
number of peacekeepers to 2,500.  This is within the maximum 
3,000 personnel allowed by the 1994 CIS Decision establishing 
the peacekeeping force, although Minister for Reintegration 
Yakobashvili has denounced any increase without the agreement 
of the Georgian side to be illegal (Comment:  the 1994 CIS 
Decision is vague on this point, though one passage states 
that "the plan of operations on deployment of the collective 
force shall be approved by the conflicting sides in 
compliance with the (1994 Moscow Agreement,)" which implies 
the need for Georgian approval.  End comment).  According to 
UNOMIG, 12-13 BMP armored vehicles arrived to the Zone of 
Conflict on April 27, with an additional trainload of 25 BMP 
armored vehicles, nine armored personnel carriers, eight 
 
TBILISI 00000718  002 OF 002 
 
 
trucks and their associated personnel arriving April 29. 
UNOMIG officials told us that UNOMIG typically receives 
written notification with specific da
tes and details in 
advance of any CIS PKF troop rotations.  In this instance, 
UNOMIG did not receive written notification of the increase 
until April 29, after much of the military hardware had 
already been moved into Abkhazia. 
 
5. (C) As justification for the Russian increase in PKF troop 
levels, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement 
on April 29 that Georgia, in violation of the 2000 Gali 
protocol, had stationed more than 1,500 personnel in the 
Upper Kodori Gorge and claiming Georgia was "concentrating" 
its forces on the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia 
(Note:  the 2000 Gali protocol limits the number of police to 
600 inside the Zone of Conflict, though either side can 
exceed this number with prior notification to UNOMIG.  The 
Upper Kodori Gorge is outside the Zone and neither the Gali 
protocol nor the 1994 Moscow agreement places limits on the 
number of police in Kodori.  End note).  UNOMIG, which has an 
observation post in the Upper Kodori Gorge, confirmed to us 
that despite these Russian claims, there has been no 
significant buildup of Georgian troops either within the Zone 
of Conflict or in the Upper Kodori Gorge.  A UNOMIG official 
acknowledged to us that the Georgians have increased their 
numbers slightly in Kodori to about 800 personnel, but 
estimated these forces did not have the capacity to carry out 
an offensive action. 
 
Saakashvili Reaches Out to Abkhaz, Ossetians 
-------------------------------------------- 
6. (U) President Saakashvili gave a televised address April 
29 directed explicitly to the populations in Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia, encouraging them to "stand together" with 
Georgians against an "outrageous and irresponsible force" 
(meaning Russia) that threatens their security and denies 
them a better life.  He stressed that Georgia offers the 
Abkhaz and South Ossetians peace, a "hand of friendship," 
better living conditions built by working together, and 
specific proposals for autonomy and representation in the 
Georgian government.  Life with Georgia, he said, would mean 
"life without corruption...opportunities for free and legal 
business activities...an open economy and borders, rule of 
law and order," as well as freedom to choose leaders 
democratically.  He pledged that no one would be allowed to 
question the existence of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian 
nations, whom he called brothers and sisters.  He 
acknowledged the "difficult conditions" of life in the 
separatist regions, created by criminal ruling groups imposed 
from outside.  Saakashvili said Abkhaz and Ossetians needed 
"protection, care, and development," not an outside force 
making decisions for them and trying to engage them in 
conflict with Georgia for its own purposes. 
 
Comment 
------- 
7. (C) Senior Georgian officials, despite increasing Russian 
pressure, are remaining calm and continuing to push President 
Saakashvili's plan for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts 
(ref A).  The Georgians continue to publicly and privately 
express their willingness to solve the conflicts peacefully, 
a position that we will continue to encourage.  This latest 
Russian move, however, coming so closely on the heels of the 
April 16 "Putin instructions" and the April 20 downing of the 
Georgian UAV has only reinforced Georgian fears of an 
accelerated annexation of Abkhazia by Russia. 
TEFFT

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