- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2010

Russia waged a covert war against Georgia that included missile attacks, arms shipments to anti-government rebels and car bombings since 2004, a newly disclosed U.S. Embassy cable says.

Among the secret war operations were a 2007 helicopter gunship attack on the headquarters of a pro-government group in the Georgian province of Abkhazia, and the murder of Georgian police officers in the town of Gori. Known inside the Russian security services as “active measures,” the tactics employed against Georgia included political disinformation campaigns, industrial sabotage and assassinations.

“The variety and extent of the active measures suggests the deeper goal is turning Georgia from its Euroatlantic orientation back into the Russian fold,” said the cable, signed by the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Tefft.

The July 20, 2007, cable, labeled “confidential,” was written nearly one year before Russian military forces invaded Georgia, and raised questions about President Obama’s reset policy with Russia. The White House has limited its opposition to Russia’s bullying of former Soviet republics like Georgia to public statements. In the interim, the administration has touted an arms control treaty and Russian cooperation at the United Nations as evidence of better cooperation between the two cold war rivals.

Privately, however, several secret cables made public by the website WikiLeaks reveal that senior U.S. officials hold Russia’s government and its policies in low regard.

The cable dealing with the Russian-Georgian conflict sheds particular light on the origins of the 2008 war. At the time, some international observers accused Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of provoking Russia, and sparking the war. Russian troops today remain in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

But the cable shows that at least the U.S. ambassador in Tblisi believed Russia was conducting a war of its own against Georgia.

In an interview, Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s national security adviser, declined to comment on the cable.

However, he told The Washington Times that Russia’s covert war against his country has been under way since Georgia’s independence in 1991, and that the campaign intensified in 2004 when the pro-West Mr. Saakashvili became president.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington, Yevgeniy Khorishko, declined to discuss the cable. But he said there was no proof that Russia had engaged in any covert actions inside Georgia and that the allegations were false.

The cable begins by describing the May 11, 2007, attack on the provincial government in exile for the province of Abkhazia. Abkhazia is home to a Russian population that has in the past said it would like to be part of Russia and not Georgia. Many ethnic Georgians were forced to flee Abkhazia in the 2008 war.

UN investigators have told us privately that they agree with the Georgians that only Russia could have launched the attack, noting that while the final written report does not directly assign blame, ‘any reasonable person’ would conclude from it that Russia was responsible,” the cable said.

At the time, the Russian government officials claimed their radar were not working during the time of the attack and could therefore not provide the United Nations any information.

“It was an attack from helicopters and from the ground on civilian infrastructure,” Mr. Bokeria said. “The evidence was overwhelming that these helicopters were Russian.”

Mr. Khorishko, however, said, “As I remember the situation in 2007, the Georgian side could never produce evidence that this was a Russian attack, these are pure allegations and speculations.”

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