"A crucial test for the Georgian democracy." On a trip to Tbilisi,, general secretary of NATO, clearly expressed his concern regarding the future of Georgia. While Russia is increasing its military pressure along Georgian borders in light of Georgia’s upcoming elections, the international community is concerned about the possible destabilization of the Caucasus region.
During his visit to Tbilisi, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference on Thursday that “The general elections in October and presidential elections in 2013 will be a crucial test for the Georgian democracy.”
Indeed, Georgian democracy is at a pivotal fork in the road, regarding the future of democratic freedom in the nation. The National Democratic Movement - the political party of current President Mikhail Saakashvili - must cope with the populist and xenophobic campaign that has been aggressively led by the "Georgian Dream" party, led by the oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili is known to have close Russian connections, and is expected to vie more for Russian interests rather than Georgian interests, if elected president. Despite the impending aggression from Russia, Saakashvili is keeping a stiff upper lip, saying "On October the 1st, we will arrange the freest elections, the most transparent in the history of the independent Georgia."
The visit from the NATO Secretary General arrives amid serious tensions in the Caucasus. In light of Vladimir Putin’s recent admission that the 2008 war with Georgia was in fact a premeditated and orchestrated attempt to attack the country, in spite of years of denying this accusation, Georgia is once again forced to keep its wits about it, as the Russian army has decided to shift its traditional yearly military exercises from June to September - just one month before elections.
For Georgia, the choice of Russia to change their date to perform the operations, dubbed "Caucasus 2012", from June to September has to have something to do with the elections that are set to be held just a few days later. While Georgians flock to the polls, 8,000 Russian soldiers, supported by the Navy and Air Force, are camping on the outskirts of the Caucasus. These exercises involve the Russian Armed Forces, the Federal Protection (FSO), the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry, as well as the troops of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway provinces of Georgia. Even Russian missiles, with a maximum range of 500 km, are planned to take part in the exercise, said Alexandr Postnikov, Chief of Staff of the Russian Army.
Even though Moscow has ensured that these operations do not involve military bases in the Caucasus, including troops of the 58th Army, who are well-known to be the aggressors of the attack on Georgia in 2008, many observers note that the operations would seek to put pressure on the population, in order to bring Ivanishvili’s party into power.
For Russia, Georgia could indeed represent an attractive model to the former Soviet republics who are thinking about forming democratic states. This is an attempt to keep an eye on its "near abroad", as Moscow seeks to destabilize Georgia, for the good of Russia. The prediction of famous Russian blogger Zabugina, as well as the Russian journalist Alexandr Podrabinek, states that the possibility of war, as was the case in 2008, is more than just a possible disaster.