Russia may have quickly defeated Georgia in the 2008 war, but Moscow still speaks of a Georgian menace to regional security. To suss up the nature of this "menace," a Russian reporter from the Kommersant daily recently spent a week behind enemy lines with a Georgian special forces unit.
The elite Georgian servicemen live in barracks that look like “a three-star hotel," reporter Vladimir Solovyev wrote in the March 21 piece; they do not salute, but, rather, exchange handshakes and kisses; they know how to use a condom to stop bleeding from a wound and, to add insult to injury, the American-trained soldiers are learning English and have taken to using American military terms.
To top it off, President Mikheil Saakashvili and his five-year-old son, Nikolozi, both decked out in military fatigues, showed up to visit the troops during the Russian team's time at the base.
What was the point of Tbilisi agreeing to all this? It could be a PR stunt for the negotiating table; another attempt to show Moscow that Georgia's armed forces are no longer ragtag guerilla fighters, and deserve respect. Or, alternatively, another chance to show the West that Georgia, unlike Russia, welcomes media scrutiny -- even from an enemy state.
A story run by Georgia's effervescently pro-government TV station Rustavi-2 reinforced both those impressions.
Still, the visit's purpose was apparently less than clear to all of the Georgian special forces who came into contact with the Russian team. “How did you get in here?" asked one perplexed captain. "Even Georgian -- much less Russian -- journalists have never been here."
Nonetheless, that didn't stop another captain, tasked with showing the Russians around, from proposing plans for future cooperation. Holding joint exercises with special forces from the GRU [Russian military intelligence] or FSB [Russian security services] "would be interesting," he told the Kommersant reporters.