The Tanks of August

Table of Contents

Source: The Tanks of August

Foreword

  • Anthology of 7 chapters
  • Details the Russo-Georgian War
    • Took place over a period of 5 days in August 2008
    • First comprehensive account of this short, but vicious war
    • The Russo-Georgian War defies those who would proclaim an "end of history", and claim that state-on-state conflict is no longer likely after the end of the Cold War
    • Produced by the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST)
      • Moscow-based think-tank
      • Presents the Russian perspective on most matters
      • However, they still clearly address issues such as wartime atrocities, air and missile attacks on civilian targets, and Russian military losses
  • Presents an ideal point of departure for future histories of the Russo-Georgian war
  • Book's contents
    • Lead essay describes the development of the Georgian armed forces from the formation of the state of Georgia in 1991 to the conflict in August 2008
      • Reveals the nature and perceived intent of Georgia's military modernization program
      • Assesses the impact of that program on the outcome of the ensuing war
    • Second essay: detailed account of the military dimension of the war
      • Describes the war's course chronologically
      • Assess the performance of the contending armies
      • Highlights controversial issues such as military and civilian losses
      • Demonstrates the striking continuities in Russian military's force structure from Soviet Union
    • Third essay: impact of the war on the Russian and Georgian armed forces
      • Emphasizes changes in force structures
      • Increasing importance of automated command and control
      • Influence of new types of weaponry
    • The next 4 essays cover
      • The nature, causes and effects of Russian aircraft losses during the war
      • The nature and reasons for the Georgian Army's excessive personnel and equipment losses
      • Post-war establishment of Russian bases inside Abkhazia and South Ossetia
      • Russian and Allied losses during the war
  • Above and beyond the specifics of the Russo-Georgian war, the book focuses on and analyzes the probable nature of military operations in the post-Cold War world
    • Politically, the war pitted the Russian federation, the successor to the Soviet Union against the new Republic of Georgia
    • Russia perceived genuinely severe threats to its national security because the dissolution of the Soviet Union deprived it of strategic depth in key areas
    • The newly formed Republic of Georgia seemed determined to sieze the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, without consulting either the inhabitants of those regions or the Russian Federation
    • The nature and conduct of the war closely resembles the Arab-Israeli war of 1967
      • Israel absorbed an Arab first strike, and the counterattacked and routed the Arab states in just six days
      • Similarly, Russia absorbed a Georgian first strike, and then routed Georgian forces in just five days
      • Just like Israel seized the Golan Heights, the Russians seized Abkhazia and South Ossetia and granted them independence
      • Just like the Six-Day War presented a new IDF, capable of taking on the combined strength of its Arab neighbors, the Russo-Georgian war presented a new Russian Army, capable of holding its own against more modern opponents

Georgian Army Reform Under Saakashvili Prior To The 2008 Five Day War

Brief History of the Georgian Army Since 1991

  • Georgian Army was born when Georgia was still part of the Soviet Union
  • December 20, 1990 – Georgian authorities announced the formation of a "National Guard"
  • April 30, 1991 – Georgian authorities start recruiting for National Guard
  • In the early '90s, the National Guard consisted of volunteers, often with no formal higher military education
  • Suffered from lack of training and poor discipline
  • Was eventually incorporated into the Ministry of Defense, but that incorporation was still its early stages at the end of the 1992-1993 war in Abkhazia
  • Ministry of Defense was created in 1992, well after Georgia's declaration of independence
  • 11th brigade (1st brigade of the 1st corps) was created in the spring of 1992
  • Other formations that took part in the 1992 war with Abkhazia were the 23rd Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the 2nd corps and various law enforcement agencies from the Interior Ministry
  • Other (para)military forces fielded by Georgia in 1992 were:
    • Non-governmental paramilitary formations (most notably the Mkhedrioni militia)
    • Zviadi militia, loyal to Georgia's deposed first president Zviad Gamaskhurdia
    • These forces had even greater problems with indiscipline than the Georgian military
    • Zviadi militia actually staged a mutiny against the Georgian military in the last days of the defense of Sukhumi
  • The Georgian military, during the 1992 Abkhazian war, suffered from lack of unified military command, which prevented it from being able to concentrate forces where they were needed
  • Also suffered from indisciplined commanders, who were more eager to find glory than follow orders
  • After the initial defeat in Abkhazia, the Georgian state stepped up the reform of its military
    • Brought paramilitary groups to heel
    • Zviadi loyalists were crushed
    • Mkhedrioni militia was disbanded
    • Other non-govermental militias were brought under (partial) government control
    • National Guard's remit was shrunk to that of a reserve training force
  • The speed of this reform process was held back by a number of limitations
    • Meager funding
      • Low pay for officers and enlisted soldiers
      • No budget for maintenance or modernization
    • Pervasive corruption
    • Uncertain loyalties of Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze
  • However, there were a number of positive changes in the Georgian military and government
    • Growing foreign military assistance, most notably the United States' 64m dollar Georgia Train and Equip program (GTEP)
      • Money was used to train the 1st Infantry Brigade (formerly 11th brigade)
      • Also bought training and equipment for a number of other formations
      • In addition, GTEP allowed Georgian officers to attend schools and training programs outside of Georgia, allowing them to professionalize
    • In addition to training and money, the Georgian military also received direct transfers of military equipment from foreign powers
      • Received 10 UH-1 helicopters from the US
      • Received L29 trainer jets from Ukraine
      • Received a Project 206MR fast attack missile boat from Ukraine
  • On the whole, the Georgian military had begun to reform and modernize under Shevardnadze, and that process only accelerated under Saakahsvili

Georgian Army Priorities Under Saakashvili

  • Saakashvili was elected in 2003, and immediately promulgated a number of documents spelling out the priorities for Army reform
    • National Security Concept
    • Threat Assessment Document
    • National Military Strategy
    • Strategic Defense Review
    • Defense Minister's Vision
  • The National Security Concept outlined the following priorities and challenges:
    • Priorities:
      • Territorial integrity
      • Stability in the Caucasus and Black Sea region
      • Secure a role for Georgia as a transit corridor
    • Challenges:
      • Threats to territorial integrity from Abkhazia and South Ossetia
      • Spread of armed conflict from the Russian North Caucasus
      • Military aggression from other states (considered unlikely) or from non-state actors (considered more likely)
      • Terrorist attacks against key infrastructure and locations, such as pipelines and embassies
      • Contraband and organized crime
      • Short-term threat from Russian bases on Georgian soil, pending their withdrawal
  • The Threat Assessment Document and National Military Strategy contained much the same priorities and challenges
  • However the National Military Strategy also highlighted the Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a potential threat
  • By 2007 the completion of Russian withdrawal from military bases in Georgia led a lowering of the assessment of the threat for large scale aggression in the Strategic Defense Review of that year
  • The 2007 SDR laid out the following threat picture:
    • Large-scale aggression against Georgia (unlikely)
    • Renewal of hostilities in the breakaway autonomies
    • Spread of conflict from the North Caucasus
    • Spread of conflict from the South Caucasus
    • International terrorism
  • Military planning was carried out with an eye towards which threats were the most likely and which threats would have the largest impact
    • From 2007 to 2012, renewal of hostilities in the breakaway autonomies was seen as the most likely threat and large-scale aggression was seen as the most dangerous
    • From 2013 to 2015, international terrorism was seen as the most likely threat, and the spread of conflict from the North Caucasus as the most dangerous
    • The 2007 SDR anticipated that the conflict over Abkhazia and South Ossetia would have been settled by 2012, and that both provinces would have been reintegrated into Georgia
    • Another assumption was the Georgia would have become a NATO member by 2012, making the country safe from large-scale military aggression
  • Although large-scale aggression from a foreign power (i.e. Russia) was seen as unlikely, preparations for such a scenario were a key part of Georgia's military planning
  • In addition, NATO membership was seen as a bulwark against such aggression, as Georgia's ability to fend off such aggression were questionable
  • In order to make Georgia more attractive as a NATO member, Georgia wished to integrate with NATO standards and make its military able to fight in NATO missions outside of Georgia
    • Doing so went against the need for operational self-sufficiency
    • The difficulty this contradiction posed was compounded by the limited resources available
    • Participation in NATO missions meant that Georgia had to reconfigure its armed forces into a relatively small, professional, lightly armed force
    • Sending troops on foreign missions meant diverting resources from other military programs
  • However, in order to face Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia needed a large force, able to overmatch separatist forces in a classic or counterinsurgency clash
  • In addition, preparations for defending against large scale aggression called for a large professional army, lots of heavy weapons, a large and well-trained reserve, and ancillary equipment (such as air-defense systems) that would be superfluous on NATO missions
  • As a result, the Georgian military strategy called for its army to be able to fight both conventionally and unconventionally
  • Georgian military strategy called for troops to switch to unconventional warfare as they were overrun, rather than retreat
    • Small size of country meant that there were few places to retreat to
    • Past experience indicated that territory, once lost, was not easily regained
    • The best way to deter an adversary was thought to be create a situation which would require high losses for uncertain chances of success
  • Overall, the National Military Strategy (NMS)

Author: Rohit Patnaik

Created: 2019-01-22 Tue 20:10

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