Russia: Former Republics Revolt

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Georgian President Saakashvili's government is actively hunting for Russian spies - the timing of this operation perhaps coincides with the recent Hart-Hagel Commission report that recommends putting Georgia's NATO inclusion on hold in favor of better relations with Russia proper. In the Georgian city of Zugdidi, there was a massive operation to arrest a single person. Georgian special forces arrested a citizen of Russia Vladimir Vahaniya. During the search of his home, police discovered two grenades and automatic weapons. The court sentenced Vahaniya - a businessman, doctor, author of several books, a former member of the Russian prosecutor's office and a candidate for the State Duma in 2003 - to two months preliminary detention.

As the daily "Izvestia" reports, "today Vahaniya probably curses the day when Mikhail Saakashvili gave him a second, Georgian citizenship, which is granted to citizens of other countries only by the Presidential order, and only for services to the state of Georgia. Saakashvili signed the decree 11 months before Vahaniya's arrest in Zugdidi." According to "Izvestia," Vahaniya's arrest coincided with the promotional campaign of the Georgian authorities, who claimed that the planned large-scale anti-government protests to take place in April were planned by the Russian secret services. Vahaniya therefore suits the role of an "agent" - he lived in Russia for the past 30 years, and chaired a Union of the military and law enforcement officials of Moscow region.

Georgia is not the only country actively engaged in seeking out pro-Russian elements amongst its population. Life may get more uncomfortable for the Russian citizens of Latvia, a republic with the largest post-Soviet ethnic Russian population in the Baltics. According to the daily "Gazeta," Latvian nationalists proposed to their compatriots to photograph license plates of cars from the Russian and Soviet symbols, and send pictures to the police. Such a "Rolodex," in their opinion, will help to identify "the most aggressive colonists" of their country. Of particular interest are license plates with the Russian flag, Russian national emblem, the flag of the Soviet Union - as well as the actual plate numbers of cars with such symbols.

The Club of Latvian Nationalists announced on their website that: "It seems that in recent months, people are paying attention to the fact that on our streets there are too many cars with visible Russian or Soviet flags. It is clear that in this way, the car owners have demonstrated their loyalty to the policy that is hostile to Latvia. The collected information can be useful for identifying the most aggressive colonists, which is especially important prior to May 9 (Commemoration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany), and prior to the upcoming elections." Latvian security forces have no intention to take any action, considering such actions only as a publicity stunt by the nationalists.

In order to counter real and possible threats to his country, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russian army will soon be a totally new, modernized and battle-ready entity. "We have never had such favorable conditions to create a modern, efficient army," - said the President at the Annual Military Review in Russia. According to Medvedev, the country should see a "new look of our army and navy have by December 1 of this year."

Explaining the upcoming changes, Medvedev clarified that they will include "transfer of all military units to the category of permanent readiness." Such a force could have "peace-time composition" - without additional military units - and should be able to effectively counter the emerging military threat. "This is a key component of the new model, the new image of the Armed Forces," stressed Medvedev. He further pointed out that a "modern, well-trained and equipped army with the newest weapons is the best guarantee against any potential aggression or external pressure." Russian head of state further outlined specific threats that such army should confront: "The analysis of the military-political situation in the world shows that some regions retain the threat of a serious potential conflict. Such threats can spark local crises that are also exacerbated by the international terrorism. There are also continued attempts to expand NATO's military infrastructure near the borders of Russia."

Yevgeny Bendersky is the Senior Strategic Advisor for International Operations at Jenkins Hill International, LLC and a RealClearWorld contributor.
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