Apr 24, 2008

Find the “Abkhaz Anti-Aircraft Weapons”

These days, cameras are everywhere: shopping malls, street corners, Georgian reconnaissance drones... In fact, this has created a little problem for the Russian Foreign Ministry, following the shoot-down of a Georgian recon drone over Abkhazia.

When the news first broke of the incident, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying, "It was shot down by Abkhaz anti-aircraft weapons."

That’s when everyone learned an important lesson about cameras.

Straight away, Georgia provided amazingly clear video of a twin-tailed Mig-29 firing an air-to-air missile at the unarmed drone (top left). The Georgian military also claims to have a radar record of the jet taking-off from inside Abkhazia.

Now, faced with these minor details, Russia could argue that it takes an extremely liberal interpretation of ground-based “Abkhaz anti-aircraft weapons” to mean "Russian operated Mig-29." However, any missile launch by a Mig-29 is a big no-no, regardless of whose flag is painted on the tail.

Under the terms of the 1994 Georgia-Abkhazia Ceasefire Agreement, Russia could be allowed to position its own Mig-29's in Abkhazia under the Kremlin’s mildly ridiculous assertion that its armed forces in the region are “CIS Peacekeepers.” However, under Section 2(h) of the same agreement, Russia would have to somehow argue that an unarmed recon drone presented a “direct military threat” to its forces – an incredulous assertion at best.

Also, Section 2(g) states in that the United Nations, and not Russia, is responsible for monitoring the air space over the security zone. Strike two.

Now, Russia could argue that Georgia violated the ceasefire by sending a military aircraft over the security zone. However, this isn't neccessarly a violation, since the document only states, "There shall be no armed forces or heavy military equipment," defined as artillery, mortars, tanks, and armored transport vehicles. There is no mention of drones, leaving Russia holding the bag for firing a missile at a Georgian reconnaissance aircraft that technically, isn't prohibited under the ceasefire terms.

In the broad view, none of this really matters. Russia can veto any unpleasant UN resolutions which attempt to sanction the act. As such, it is unlikely we’ll see immediate blowback. Indeed, some analysts are noting that NATO’s lack of a Membership Action Plan for Georgia will only embolden Russia.

More drones are going to die.

Anyway, here’s a cool map of the security zone, fiy.

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