MOSCOW, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Several early conclusions already can be drawn from what is now happening in South Ossetia, the secessionist region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia in the Caucasus region.
One of them is that the Georgian president apparently has vastly overestimated his army's combat potential. Admittedly, Mikheil Saakashvili's armed forces are far ahead of the bunch of rabble and bandits that made up Georgia's army during President Zviad Gamsakhurdia's brief tenure in office after the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. But the number of Georgian troops with sufficient combat training is still limited, and so is modern military equipment. More than 90 percent of the equipment available is obsolete.
Saakashvili's plan was obvious. He wanted to invade Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, which is very close to the border, to establish Dmitry Sanakoyev's government there and declare it the only legitimate government of South Ossetia. That would have made the remaining part of South Ossetia invaded by Russian aggressors.
It is also possible that a quick and successful takeover of Tskhinvali could have demoralized the South Ossetian forces, and the Georgian army could have continued its march northward almost unimpeded.
But that plan failed. Georgia began its campaign shelling residential areas of Tskhinvali with Grad multiple rocket launchers. Then Georgian forces engaged in drawn-out street fighting with South Ossetian troops. And, once regular Russian units pulled into the region, Georgia was left with no chance of victory whatsoever, as the whole of its army is roughly equivalent to one of Russia's motorized rifle divisions.
Therefore, since Georgia's projected blitzkrieg failed, it has lost the war -- that much is obvious. On the other hand, it clearly has gained some political success, as Russia faces being labeled an aggressor by the international community.
Moscow indeed found itself in a dilemma once Georgian forces invaded the self-proclaimed republic. Neither of its options was acceptable. It either could let down South Ossetians and be condemned by North Ossetians as a traitor or begin an invasion of a sovereign state without a U.N. mandate and be condemned by the world at large as an aggressor. There was no other option available.
Russia chose the latter evil, wisely estimating it as the lesser of the two. It is preferable to be labeled an aggressor than a traitor. Incidentally, Russia is one of the five lucky nations having the right of veto in the U.N. Security Council -- the only international body authorized to define a country's actions as "aggression."
(Part 2: The political strategy to be followed after the fighting ends)
(Alexander Khramchikhin is head of research at the Institute of Political and Military Analysis in Moscow. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
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