Guest contribution by Gerhard Mangat
Putin’s ministry threatens Georgia – but there’s another danger for the Kremlin
Today, 03/14/2023 | 12:27 p.m
Protests erupted in Georgia against a law proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party to introduce “foreign agent” status for NGOs that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad. The demonstrations also had an implicit anti-Russian character.
An empty threat from Moscow
The Russian statement is typical of this great power’s behavior. Russia does not seek approval, does not seek recognition with soft power, but openly threatens, true to the principle: “Let them hate me until they fear me”. Although this approach did not work for many years, Russia stubbornly stuck to it. Russia does not rely on the power of coercion, but on the power of coercion.
However, this is an empty threat. Russia does not have the military strength to fight a war on two fronts. The Russian military is clearly disillusioned with the war in Ukraine. Armies there, overstretched, can no longer make large gains in territory. Instead, the Russian military should fear successful Ukrainian counterattacks there. Most of the Russian military is already stationed in Ukraine. Russia’s forces in Georgia are only sufficient to defend against a Georgian attempt to retake the separatist Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
A second front is dangerous for Russia
Actually it’s the other way around. The Ukrainian government is interested in Georgia opening a second front against Russia. Russia would then be completely overwhelmed militarily and would liberate Ukraine little by little in its own country. The current Georgian government is not interested in a military conflict with Russia. But the current opposition may succumb to Russia’s desire to recapture separatist territories occupied by Russia. This opportunity may seem appropriate after Russia has had to focus almost entirely on the front in Ukraine.
There is no danger of a Russian military attack on Moldova. This situation would still have existed if Russian forces had captured the Odesa region last year and built a land bridge to Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria. But that is precisely what the Russian side failed to do; And she can’t do that. Russia, in its current configuration, would be strategically foolish to try to attack Moldova militarily.
Military expansion would be in Ukraine’s interests
On the other hand, Russia is trying to destabilize the domestic political situation in Moldova. President Maia Sandu’s pro-Western government is set to be overthrown by escalating mass protests and bringing pro-Russian forces to power. Russia is working with Moldovan oligarchs like Ilan Shor and Vladimir Blahotniuk who have their own interests in overthrowing the government. Moldova thus suffers from Russian intrusion and destabilization, but faces no threat of a Russian military attack. Here too, military escalation would be in Ukraine’s interests.
Of course, the Russian leadership is also active in Georgia’s domestic political arena. Moscow can live with the current leadership and Russia indirectly strengthens. So Russia interferes very strongly in the internal affairs of Georgia and Moldova. However, Russian military action cannot be expected.
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