The director of Russia’s FSB intelligence service is accusing the Georgian government of being a secret ally of al-Qaeda, taking the country’s anti-Georgian rhetoric to a new height. Russia is apparently unsatisfied with absorbing Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Georgians, but what else do they want?
The FSB director said that Georgia’s intelligence services have been holding meetings with members of al-Qaeda and providing them with safe harbor, arms, and training in order to carry out attacks against Russia.
“They perpetually undertake to deliver weapons, explosives, and financing for subversive acts on high-security sites in Dagestan — first and foremost on oil and gas pipelines,” he said.
The Russians have long accused Georgia of sponsoring terrorism, but alleging a tie to al-Qaeda is a bold accusation, one designed to woo the West, rally the Russian public by accusing Georgia of essentially waging war on them, and justify some sort of action in the future. Deflecting attention away from Russia’s inability to prevent attacks like those that occurred in August by blaming foreign actors is also in the government’s interest.
The new accusation towards Georgia may not be just a new round of political rhetoric, but could be setting the stage for some sort of action to finish off its unfriendly neighbor. In its previous conflict with Georgia, Russia took advantage of internal conflicts to excuse its intervention, arguing they were protecting a Russian minority. It is probable that the Russians used proxy forces in Georgia to create those conditions in the first place.
The Russians again tried this strategy in May. Following Russian warnings of dire consequences if Georgia agreed to hold NATO exercises on its territory, a coup against the government was launched at the Mukhrovani base near Tblisi. The Georgian military responded, thwarting the coup and arresting its commander. Georgia found evidence of Russian involvement and said the coup was financed and coordinated with Russia.
One of those arrested was a former Georgian special forces major who confessed that the Russians were behind the action and that, according to the plan, 5,000 Russian soldiers were going to intervene once a march towards Tblisi had begun. The testimony is supported by the fact that on April 21 it was reported that Russia had moved its forces to within 25 miles of Tblisi. The Russians likely decided against intervention due to the quick failure of the coup and the inability of the resistance to spark a popular uprising.