A second US naval vessel has docked in Georgia, delivering more humanitarian aid. Its arrival came as Russia said it was taking “precautionary measures” against what it said was a build-up of NATO forces in the Black Sea.
The Americans avoided a direct showdown with Russia; the US Coastguard ship Dallas backed down from docking at Poti, still patrolled by Moscow’s forces, and unloaded supplies instead at Batumi.
The Georgian President poured scorn on suggestions the Kremlin could sustain an all-out confrontation with the West:
“The Russians are bluffing and are overplaying their hand,” said Mikheil Saakashvili. “They can have enough, more than enough, soldiers on the ground to confront (the) small Georgian army, of course. We can never match 3,000 tanks on our territory, no way, but you know, trying to bully the West, the Americans, this is just beyond their resources.”
But the rhetoric from Russia remains tough. It says its forces will continue to patrol Poti, outside what Moscow calls a “buffer zone” where it plans to post peacekeepers indefinitely.
Despite international criticism, the Russian leader defended his decision to recognise the independence of Georgia’s breakaway territories. Doing so was “the only way to preserve these people,” said President Dmitry Medvedev.
Moscow maintains the act, which sparked celebrations on the streets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, was in full accordance with international law.