This was a last-minute change of direction, after the US embassy in Tbilisi said Tuesday, Aug. 26, that the two warships delivering aid to Georgia Wednesday would put in at the Black Sea port of Poti, irrespective of the Russian decision to search all incoming cargoes.
The two ships, the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas and the command and control USS Mount Whitney , docked at Batumi, which is controlled by Georgia. The latter is equipped with facilities for commanding sea, land and air combat operations.
DEBKAfile’s military sources: This abrupt U-turn represents a striking American falling-back in the face of Russia’s determined hard line. To avoid an inevitable clash, the US has clearly gone back on its resolve to break Russia’s illegal naval, ground and armored grip on the Georgian port of Poti and to establish a Black Sea naval presence.
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Russian military chiefs have charged that US aid consignments for Georgia by sea, which could just as easily been delivered by air as warships, were a cover for new arms deliveries to Georgia. Russian checkpoints have been posted in and around Poti for searches.
The first of the three US aid warships, the USS McFaul , docked at Batumi Saturday to avoid friction with the Russians at Poti. Our sources report the vessel carried 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of striking land and sea targets.
In Moscow, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, Capt. Igor Dygalo, deputy commander of the Russian Navy, announced Tuesday that the Moskva missile cruiser would carry out a naval exercise on the Black Sea.
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The Russians are clearly marking out their control of this inland sea against US and NATO challenges. Capt. Dygalo said the Moskva would practice its wire-guided weapons, communications and missile guidance systems. The exercise will no doubt interfere with the movements of NATO vessels, as clearly intended.
Russian Dep. chief of staff Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn spoke Monday, Aug. 25, of nine Western vessels in the Black Sea – 2 American, 4 Turkish and the rest Polish and Spanish. He said their presence was not a cause for concern.