GORI, Georgia, Aug. 17 — Russia pledged Sunday to begin removing its troops from Georgia on Monday, but the streets of this occupied city reflected a broadening, not a waning, of Russia's military incursion. [Snip]Luke Harding of the Guardian reports:
Russian soldiers dug fortified positions for tanks along highways east and west of Gori and trucked in television and radio equipment to begin broadcasting in their own language.
The Russians, with an estimated 10,000 troops and 150 tanks in Georgia, show no intention of withdrawing the entire invasion force, and plan to leave troops in Georgia proper, beyond the two pro-Russian breakaway provinces. Yesterday, troops set up a series of checkpoints between Tbilisi and Gori. [Snip]It's pretty obvious now what the buffer zone will be.
The Kremlin said from today Russia would "begin the withdrawal of the military contingent moved to reinforce Russian peacekeepers after the Georgian aggression against South Ossetia". But it said the force would not retreat to Russia, only to South Ossetia, and that forces would stay in the "security zone."
The Russians intend to establish buffer zones in previously Georgian-controlled territory beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
[Emphasis mine - Editor WTF-o]
By holding Gori, Russia cuts Georgian in half and eliminates Tbilisi's control of Western Georgia, including the Abkhazia province. On NPR this morning it was reported that a span of a railroad bridge on the rail line parallel to the road through Gori has been blown up. There is now no rail and no road communications between east and west Georgia that the Russian military does not completely control.
The Russians said that they would protect South Ossetia, where they have been handing out Russian passports for several years to South Ossetians, and they would hold parts of Georgia they need for "Security." (Read "Gori" and the transportation routes through Gori.)
The Russian military have also not protected Georgians living in South Ossetia from marauding bands of South Ossetians who have followed the Russian troops burning out Georgians. This is ethnic cleansing. The Russian are also moving missile launchers into South Ossetia, suggesting a long military stay.
By holding Gori Russia effectively dismembers Georgia. The Georgian military can no longer reach South Ossetia or western Georgia, and the Russian military owns the choke point.
Google maps does not show the road net or towns in Georgia and will not give distances between cities there, but the distance between Tskhinvali in South Ossetia and Gori in Georgia is at most a few hours tank drive. The Russians intend to destroy Georgia as a unitary state, and holding Gori will do that.
Since the European Union is dependent on Russia for gas supplies that provide much of Western Europe's heat and electricity in the Winter, there is little likelihood that Europe will do much beyond make noises. Since the US under Bush is severely overextended militarily and economically, there isn't much the US can effectively to.
Bush's blustering rhetoric and efforts to push NATO right up against the Russian border has left the Russians fuming. Saakashvili's blustering rhetoric and clear effort to join western Europe at the expense of Russia, his next door neighbor, hasn't helped the situation, nor did his taking the bait and invading the breakaway South Ossetia. It doesn't help any that the Bush administration has been acting like it was still the Superpower that Clinton handed them in 2001, even though the invasion of Iraq has sapped most American military power, while the idiotic tax cuts in the face of war expenses has similarly squandered much of America's economic power.
The result is that Europe is looking to the US for leadership, and the Bush administration has nothing to offer.
So we are going to listen to the clueless media discuss a lot of empty words from helpless and similarly clueless politicians in the near future as the Russians sit on Abkhazia and South Ossetia and dismember Georgia as a functioning state.
The Russians have accomplished a fait accompli in Georgia. That's just one more piece of the Bush Legacy.
Here is a good road map of Georgia.