When estimating the events of August 8–13 in purely military terms, one may speak of a “wellconsidered” choice by the aggressor of the precise timing of the surprise attack, when global attention was focused on the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games; the Chairman of the RF Government was attending the ceremony, while the RF President was on holiday. The disregard for the tradition of discontinuation of wars for the duration of the sports competitions is not surprising. It was evidently part of the plans nursed by the organizers of a new Blitzkrieg. The can be said about the merciless blows aimed by Georgia against the helpless civilian population and the large-scale propaganda campaign launched in mass media abroad.
It appears important to analyze the military-economic aspects of these events. The time for serious studies has not yet come, and therefore the conclusions are presented below in a very condensed form.
1. This “war” (we use the inverted commas simply because there was no formal declaration of war) yet again confirmed the high informative value of military-economic indices as an evidence of potential aggressors preparing for war. Rising military expenditures, growing numbers of regular troops and the swelling arsenals, participation in military actions beyond a country’s borders with an intense rotation of the servicemen undergoing “baptism by fire” – these and other developments were indicative of a high probability of Georgia’s invasion of the territories of its former autonomies.
Rapid economic growth in Georgia in recent years is not in itself a proof of any military preparations being underway in that country (Table 1). And the beginning of the year 2008, as demonstrated by macroeconomic indices, was successful for Georgia: as it had been forecasted as early as April 2008, its GDP was expected to reach the level of 13.5 billion USD21. And the Georgian lari’s exchange rate was considered to be rather stable22. At the same time, by its GDP per capita Georgia lagged far behind the ratings of developed countries, and its citizens’ wellbeing largely depended on the transfers of monies earned by physical and juridical persons in Russia23.
However, there is one circumstance that can be regarded as quite remarkable: in the past 4 years that country’s military expenditures (Table 1) have been growing much faster than GDP, and according to some analysts, for example P. Fel’gengauer 24, in 2008 they approximated the level of 10 % of GDP. A similarly remarkable fact has been the well publicized military aid provided by the USA. Its actual scope is, however, quite another matter.
Tskhinval: nedelia bez voiny. [Tskhinval: a week without war.] Rossiiskaia gazeta, No 182 of 28 August 2008.
Website of the International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2008/01/ weodata/weorept.aspxsy=2008&ey=2008&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=911%2C912%2C915&s =NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC&grp=0&a=&pr.x=37&pr.y=Website of the Federal State Statistics Service of Russia. http://www.gks.ru/bgd/regl/ b07_05/IssWWW.exe/Stg/d040/41.htm L. Grogoriev. Konflikt v Osetii i Gruzii: voina protiv razvitiia. [The conflict in Osetia and Georgia: a war against development.] Vremia novostei, No 153 of 22.August.2008.
P. Felgengauer. Ï. U Gruzii est’ komu voevat’ i chem. voevat’. [Georgia has those who can wage war, and that with which a war can be waged]. NBO No 25 of 25-31 July 2008.
Table Some military-economic indices displayed by Georgia (in million USD) Year Defense budget Military aid from USA 2003 28.2 8.2004 36.6 13.2005 947 11.2006 339 11.2007 583 10.Source: The Military Balance 2005–2008. London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies.
What were these means spend on Firstly, on increasing incentives for military services and elevating their status, and on selection of applicants for military service on a competitive basis. And secondly, on their training. The list of countries in whose educational establishments the military cadres from Georgia have been trained is quite impressive25. In addition to the USA, there are also Bulgaria, the UK, Hungary, Greece, Izrael, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkey, Ukraine, France, and Estonia. The available data on arms supplies to Georgia is no less impressive – they were coming from 14 states. It should be noted that such a “dispersive” character of the technical participation of other countries in enhancing Georgia’s military potential has made less noticeable the aggregate volume of military preparations.
2. Both sides in the conflict have confirmed the correctness of the course followed by the majority of contemporary countries, who are concerned with regard to the fact of preparation for any military actions (both aggression and retaliation), the professional training of military personnel and the provision of hi-tech equipment.
It is for this purpose that Georgia (under the supervision of US military advisers), according to the data cited by P. Felgengauer, has fully abolished conscription and introduced instead an exact replica of the US system of manning the army. It should be noted, however, that according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Georgia in 2008 still had some servicemen who had not completed their service under the draft. But the army was manned predominantly on a voluntary basis – which is true not only of regular forces but also of the reserve. Georgia’s troops were “trained under fire” in Iraq. Since military had been financed not only from the national budget but also from abroad, Georgia had no problems with its army’s economic backing, equipment and combat training in accordance with “NATO standards”.
Table Information on the numerical strength of Georgia’s armed forces (thousand persons) IISS RF mass media General Staff (GS) Parameter, its characteristic \ of the RF Armed source Forces Numerical strength of regular 21.15 More than 30 forces Major method of manning regu- Voluntary service Voluntary service Voluntary service lar forces Numerical strength of Reserve 1.6 + 11.7 40 (Reserve) + 60--(Resource) 25 (resource) Method of manning Reserve Service in Reserve Service in Reserve Service in Reserve (Resource) However the Georgian military, even after having left the civilian sphere for well-paid positions in the army, put on the smart uniform and got to grips with hi-tech equipment, were by no means eager to fight in earnest and risk their lives. Besides, the intensive “training under fire” of their military servicemen in Iraq created an illusion in the minds of the organizers of aggression that the combat readiness of the troops was very high, while the servicemen became convinced that their combat service Concerning military aid to Georgia from foreign states. Zarubezhnoe voennoe obozrenie. No 6, 2008. p. 9495.
would always be like this, when they would have an unquestionable superiority over an unarmed and despised population. So they were unprepared for courageous stand of the opposite side.
Next we are going to look at other data (Table 3) demonstrating the strength of those fighting on the side of the aggression’s victims Table Information on the numerical strength of the troops repulsing the aggression (thousand persons) RF mass media General Staff (GS) of Parameter, its characteristic \ source the RF Armed Forces Numerical strength of regular forces, including ---- South Osetia 3 2.5–Abkhazia 4.5 Russia (North Caucasus Military Okrug’s forces ) 100 Method of manning regular forces Mixed Mixed Numerical strength of Reserve (resource), includ- --- ing --- 15–South Osetia, 10 10–Abkhazia, not involved not involved Russia Thus, the bulk of the military tasks involved in the repulsion of aggression was also shouldered by professionals – Russia’s27. The engagement of draftees was minimal. Besides, there were militiamen from South Osetia. And on the other “front”, servicemen from Abkhazia were fighting, who had also been prepared in advance, it should be noted, repulse potential aggression. The combat readiness of Russian troops was determined by their combat training, which the leadership of the RF General Staff had succeeded in organizing due to bringing proper order to the system and the ample financing allocated recently. And the most important thing was that both the military and the militiamen were convinced that they were fighting for the right cause.
Therefore the declarations of some supporters of the draft system voiced in the mass media to the effect that the military actions in Georgia were demonstrating a low level of combat readiness of contractees are incorrect.
And one more circumstance. According to our laws, no draftees should ever be engaged in military actions in hotspots beyond the RF borders. And the top military officials of the RF have made numerous declarations that draftees will never be used anywhere in military actions. Regretfully, this time it was the other way round, and until 20 August this fact had been for some reason hushed up. But then it became known that no less than 4 of the 64 men killed in action had been draftees. It is quite another matter if they had consented or volunteered to participate in combat operations. They should be honored for their patriotic feelings. But the fact of their death, beside the guilt of military leaders in the eyes of their families, and not only in terms of law, should be treated as a lesson learned in confirmation of the following requirement: that Russia must speed up the switchover of all its regular troops to exclusively voluntary method of manning during the time of peace, and to preserve conscription only as a way to prepare the personnel to service on contractual basis and to replenish the numerical strength of the mobilization resource. Yet another lesson is also evident, which is hard to learn but is a logical conclusion drawn on the basis of the recent events: to lie to their country’s own citizens and society at large is not a legitimate “military trick”; it is always counterproductive and shameful.
3. Some lessons have had to do with the military-economicî role of the means of armed struggle applied by the parties.
It is quite inhuman that the aggressor and its advisers were applying multiple rocket-launching systems (MRLSs) of Russian and foreign make, heavy artillery and tanks, as well as air bombs.
The other party – the victims of the aggression – were applying in their retaliatory actions mainly similar types of armaments. Their ratios are shown in Tables 4 and 5. It can be noticed that Georgia’s potential is underestimated in the documents provided by the IISS.
V/ Miasnikov. Proverka boem Soshlis’ dve kontractnye armii. [Testing by combat. Two contracted armies have engaged in fighting.] NBO Â No 28. 15-21 August 2008.
Table Information on the arms and weapons of Georgian troops (units) IISS RF mass media General Staff Parameter, its characteristic \ source (GS) of the RF Armed Forces Tanks (T-55; T-72, T-54) 128 + 10 light --- tanks Armored vehicles and armored personnel 91 + 44 + 34 carriers (80 infantry combat vehicles (ICVs), armored personnel carriers (APCs), armored reconnaissance vehicles (ARVs) MRLSs --- --- Artillery (150 towed and self-propelled 109 + 50 --- guns), Mortars (180) Between 7 and Attach planes Su-25 and trainers (15 L-29 9 + Su-25, modernized and L-39), adapted for combat mission by Israel Attack air squadrons Helicopters (8 attack helicopters Mi-24 and 9 + 19 + 7 Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-24;
+ transport aircraft 32 transport helicopters: 6 Bell-212, 6 UH1H, 20 Mi-8) One Ñ-200 complex Anti-aircraft systems (anti-aircraft com- 75 --- from Ukraine supplexes “Buk”), as well as large number of posedly participated portable anti-aircraft complexes 1 air squadron --- Reconnaissance and target-detection drones --- (up to 40 drones) Armed with missiles RPÏMissile, landing and patrol craft, models 6 + 2 --- 20 (Russia) and “Exocet” 205 and 1400M (France) Table Information on the arms and weapons of the troops repulsing the aggression (units) Parameter, its characteristic \ source General Staff (GS) of the RF Armed Forces Tanks: 87 from S. Osetia + 50 from Abkhazia (T-55; T-72) + 620 from Russia Armored vehicles and armored personnel carriers: 176 from S. Osetia + from 80 Abkhazia (infantry combat vehicles (ICV), armored personnel carriers (PC), armored reconnaissance vehicles (ARV)) + 200 ICVs from Russia MRLSs: 6 from S. Osetia + from Russia Artillery: 40 from S. Osetia + 40 from Abkhazia + 875 from Russia, 1,Mortars: 30 from S. Osetia + 40 from Abkhazia Attack planes: 4 (2 Su-25 and 2 L-39) from Abkhazia + 160 (60 Su-24, 100 Su-25) from Russia; 1 Tu-22M aircraft of unspecified purpose Helicopters: 4 Mi-6 from S. Osetia + 10 Mi-2 è Mi-8 from Abkhazia + 75 Mi-24 from Russia Air defense means: 160 fighter aircraft (100 Mig-29 and 60 Su-27) from Russia, as well as portable anti-aircraft complexes Ships of the Navy: 1 missile cruiser “Moskva”, 1 patrol craft “Smetlivyi”, boats and --- auxiliary craft – all from Russia.
The superiority of the forces involved in the launching of retaliatory actions is obvious, while their composition gives rise to questions, especially with regard to the means that are not included in the table. The Georgian military were equipped with GPS sets, friend or foe identification systems and much more modern communications systems. The Russian army was applying relatively primitive equipment.