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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Army, Caucasus Reconsider Severed Ties

Since 1992, the Russian army has done everything possible to withdraw as many troops and as much military hardware as possible from the Caucasus region. In October 1993, when the Russian army undertook an operation to free the Poti-Kutaisi railroad from the forces of Georgian nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia, it was forced to deploy all the forces of its Russian Caucasian Army Group, or GRVZ, and still needed help from a Black Sea Fleet marine unit. New weaponry has not been sent to the Caucasus for fear that it might be captured. The main factory that repairs military hardware in Tbilisi is not working: According the GRVZ commander General Reut, it has been captured and stripped by the Georgians. The Russian military presence in the Caucasus is increasingly becoming symbolic. But this year it began to become clear that the slow death of these Russian garrisons is not at all what local leaders want. The local population is extremely interested in preserving Russian military bases. The Russian garrisons in the region provide employment for the majority of the local population in garrison towns and their huge salaries -- by local standards -- are an important source of revenue for local merchants and farmers. Armenian President Ter-Petrosyan and his government have decided not only to maintain Russian military bases in Armenia, but to work to have them reinforced. To guard against the possible interference of Turkey in the Armenian-Azeri conflict, Armenia needs not just a symbolic Russian presence but a fully capable Russian force on the Turkish border. Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisyan said he is convinced that "an agreement concerning a Russian base in Armenia will be signed and ratified this summer." The Russian force in Armenia will be increased by several thousand troops. The Defense Ministry will send modern equipment to Armenia to replace aging interceptor aircraft, S-300 surface-to-air missiles, attack aircraft and helicopters. The Russian force will be augmented by graduates of Ukrainian military schools who are attracted by the relatively high pay. General Reut reported to Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev that he has already received thousands of transfer requests. Russia plans to create a unified, cooperative security system for the entire region. But for now it is being created in Armenia and in the region of Turkey's border with Georgia, including the Armenian-settled region of Akhalkalaki and the semi-independent area around Batumi. Georgian and Azeri leadership must prove their loyalty to Moscow and their ability to control their own territory and military forces. Then, perhaps, the Russian army will be able to trust them, as it has Ter-Petrosyan. Pavel Felgenhauer is the defense and national security editor for Segodnya.