November 15, 2007

Russians No Longer Have Georgia On Their Minds

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming .... home. For the first time since Georgian independence, the Russian troops stationed in the former Soviet republic will withdraw. Georgia will regain control over its two restive provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the first time, although some Russian troops remain, with apparent Georgian coordination:

A top Russian general said early Thursday that Russia has completed its withdrawal of troops that had been based in Georgia since the Soviet collapse, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

The presence of Russian troops in the ex-Soviet republic was one of the longtime irritants between Georgia and its giant neighbor.

"There are no more Russian troops in Georgia, there remain only peacekeepers ... in Abkhazia and those that are part of the combined forces in South Ossetia with the participation of Georgia," the news agency quoted Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Ground Troops Gen. Alexei Maslov as saying.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are two separatist regions of Georgia that have been outside Georgian control since the mid-1990s. Georgian leaders complain that Russian troops in both regions support the separatists, and their continued presence is likely to remain an issue of hot dispute between Tbilisi and Moscow.

The troops in the rest of Georgia will pull back into Armenia. The Armenians appear cooperative with this plan, although it may strain relations between themselves and Georgia if they remain for any length of time. Georgia will not want to live under the threat of occupation, but it certainly beats actual occupation.

This will allow Georgia to ease its emergency decree if all goes well. The tension between Russia and Georgia, as well as the separatist movements that Georgia accused Russia of fostering, provoked the government in Tbilisi to declare the emergency days ago. John McCain remarked about his opposition to that decree and his intent to ask the Georgian government to reverse it, but in this case it may have accomplished a key goal -- the removal of Russian troops.


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