Viewing cable 08TBILISI923

08TBILISI9232008-06-02 13:20:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi
DE RUEHSI #0923/01 1541320
P 021320Z JUN 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000923 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/13/2017 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
¶1. (C)  Summary:  On May 9, Georgian Defense Minister 
Kezerashvili and First Deputy Defense Minister Kutelia told 
DAS Bryza that they were very concerned by the build-up of 
Russian forces in Abkhazia, claiming that at least 600 of the 
forces that purported to be peacekeepers are actually 
paratroopers deployed outside the conflict zone.  They 
foresaw that the Abkhaz situation will soon calm, and the 
Russians will bring in businessmen and official 
representatives to Abkhazia to "normalize relations." 
Kezerashvili assessed  that in the absence of political 
consequences for the latest Russian actions, the current 
situation will soon become the status quo from which Medvedev 
will operate.  He believed it was vitally important to return 
to the status quo ante.  Bryza explained his effort to 
de-escalate tensions by working with the Georgians and the 
Abkhaz on a new forum to negotiate a settlement.  He 
cautioned that should Georgia go to war, it would go alone 
and would lose to Russia's stronger force.  He said that 
Georgia would also completely lose politically and 
economically in such a situation.  End Summary. 
Doubtful of MAP in December 
¶2.  (C)  Kutelia told Bryza that CDU MPs from within German 
Chancellor Merkel's inner circle had told them informally 
that Georgia will not be offered MAP in December, citing the 
issue as "too politically sensitive."  Kezerashvili said that 
Europe was reluctant to side with Georgia against Russia, 
even in the face of the recent investigation into the downing 
of a Georgian UAV by Russian aircraft on April 21. 
Kezerashvili said that if international support disappears 
for Georgia, it will be harder for the GOG to make the right 
decisions in response to Russian provocations. 
Build-Up in Gudauta 
¶3.  (C)  Kezerashvili found worrisome the build-up of troops 
at Gudauta which he stressed were not only peacekeepers but 
also 600 paratroopers and 600 pensioners (Note:  Although 
Kezerashvili said retirees, it is likely he was referring to 
mercenaries with previous military service, who are now 
civilians under contract.  End Note.)  He found particularly 
troubling the fact that no one is able to verify the exact 
number of troops there.  Kutelia said that Georgian 
authorities had inquired about Open Skies flying over Gudauta 
in an attempt to clarify troop levels, but it was deemed too 
dangerous.  Kezerashvili emphasized that the international 
community cannot expect Georgia to wait forever to respond to 
the troop build-up situation.  As he put it, "I am not a hawk 
but each day we are losing on the ground there, and if 
finally there will be 10,000 troops, artillery, anti-air 
defense weapons and tanks, Abkhazia will be lost forever." 
He worried that one day Georgians would look back at this 
time and assess that they had missed their chance to stop 
Russian annexation.  Although he was not pushing for war, 
Kezerashvili would rather fight and lose than not fight at 
all.  He warned that Georgia's redlines included killing of 
Georgians living in the Gali district of Abkhazia, an Abkhaz 
and/or Russian military action to take the Kodori valley, and 
a significant further Russian troop increase in Abkhazia.  He 
told Bryza that without Western political support against 
Russia, it was hard for him and other moderates to put the 
war option to rest.  Bryza said bluntly that if Georgia were 
to go to war, it would go alone and it would lose not only 
militarily but also politically--by losing U.S. and European 
support, including for MAP--as well as economically. 
Kezerashvili acknowledged Georgian offensive military actions 
would squash any hopes for MAP, as well as ruin the Georgian 
Abkhaz Motives 
¶4.  (C)  Kezerashvili was doubtful that Abkhazia truly wants 
independence.  He opined that perhaps the "old warriors" 
wanted independence, but the current de facto ruling elite 
looks to Moscow for direction--and that the "boots on the 
ground" of Russian troops underscores this.  Kutelia was 
doubtful that establishing direct dialogue with de facto 
authorities would build political capital which could be used 
against the Russians.  As he put it, whenever they had tried 
to establish informal links with the de facto regime, 
meetings were canceled at the last minute due to KGB 
intimidation of Abkhaz or there were assassination attempts 
if meetings were planned in a third neutral country, like 
Turkey.  Kutelia said that all the Abkhaz have their families 
safely tucked away in Russia, which further strengthens the 
TBILISI 00000923  002 OF 002 
Abkhaz-Russia bond. 
Return to the Status Quo Ante 
¶5.  (C)  Bryza said that he is trying to establish a new 
forum with political teeth which would overshadow the Friends 
format and become the primary locus of direct Abkhaz-Georgian 
negotiations.   In this way, the U.S. could help Georgia move 
toward a political settlement.  Bryza said he supported 
President Saakashvili's proposal to the Abkhaz which would 
permit IDP returns and create an economic zone.  Bryza's idea 
is to work with the Black Sea Trust and members of the 
international community such the EU, UN, OSCE, Ukraine, 
Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and the current members of the 
Friends to implement such a plan.  Such a forum will yield 
positive results, build political capital with the Abkhaz 
from the Georgian side, which could then be used to block 
Russian political moves.  This new forum would emerge 
organically alongside the Group of Friends, at first to 
support economic and social links between Abkhazia and the 
rest of Georgia, and then evolving into a forum to support 
direct Abkhaz-Georgian talks. 
¶6.  (C)  Both Kezerashvili and Kutelia attributed Putin's 
recent actions not only as punishment for Georgia's pursuit 
of NATO membership, but also to a strong demand within 
Russian domestic politics to respond to Kosovo independence. 
Kutelia's big concern was that if the international community 
does not react demonstrably to Russian's latest provocative 
steps--Putin's announcement of withdrawing from the CIS 
economic and military sanctions, the Kremlin's April 16 
instructions to establish semi-official relations with the 
separatist authorities, building up troops in Abkhazia--that 
soon the situation will morph into a new status quo from 
which all future negotiations would begin.  They asked the 
U.S. to help return the situation to the status quo ante. 
¶7.  (U)  DAS Bryza has cleared this cable.