As Georgians head to the polls Monday, analysts are warning that rising tensions could boil over just as the Russian military is conducting exercises near the de facto border line, a situation the Georgia government is worried Moscow could exploit. “We hope it will be made clear to Russia that a military invasion into Georgia with the goal of destroying Georgia’s sovereignty, which is still the goal of the Kremlin, will have a huge at minimum political price for Russia in its relationship with Western powers,” Georgia’s National Security Advisor Giga Bokeria told The Cable in a phone interview from Tbilisi. The European Union’s monitoring mission, which patrols the administrative boundary between Georgia and the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhasia and South Ossetia, noted in its most recent report that while the observers saw no movement of military equipment on the Georgian side that could be perceived as instigating an attack, the Russian forces on the other side of the boundary line are increasing. “The Mission has raised its concerns about this activity with the relevant Russian command structures,” their report stated.
The Russian buildup comes against the backdrop of increasingly violent protests that are spreading ahead of the Oct. 1 parliamentary elections, in which the ruling United National Movement party is facing its greatest challenge to date from the Georgian Dream Movement, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia but is now spending it to huge effect in the Georgian political arena. Ivanishvili’s party and the ruling party led by President Mikheil Saakashvili have been engaged in a bitter fight over the future of Georgia. The government accuses Ivanishvili’s camp of inciting violence, while the opposition charges Saakashvili’s police forces of abusing their power.