"'About 8,500 Russian troops will take part in military exercises starting this month in the country's North Caucasus region, just north of Georgia, the Russian defense ministry said on Thursday...'up to 200 tanks, 450 armored cars and up to 250 artillery pieces of various types will be used,' the defense ministry said in a statement detailing its plans...
The Russian exercises will run from June 29 to July 6 [and] will involve more troops than the 'Caucasus 2008' when some 8,000 soldiers took part in exercises in the same region, just weeks before the Russia-Georgia war."
Large scale military exercises along a border are often used as a prelude to invasions of neighboring countries, and Russia conducted a similar exercise last year prior to invading Georgia.
The Putin government tried very hard to bring down the Georgian government so it could install a puppet regime, both during the invasion and by supporting pro-Moscow forces within Georgia during the past year. One of these attempts led to a failed coup earlier this year. Putin never accepted the breakup of the Soviet Union, and seems to have Georgia in his sights for a forcible return to the Russian fold.
With Obama in the White House, Putin knows the time will never get better for Russia to take Georgia by force. The announcement of these war games may be an indication that plans are moving ahead for such an action.
If it happens, expect an effusion of nuanced verbiage from Barack and Hillary, and perhaps a sternly worded, though nuanced, note. Our "allies" in Europe will no doubt counsel caution to avoid "escalating the situation," mindful that they are dependent on Russian energy and have no military capability to speak of.
Barack will give a wonderful speech during which he will equate the Russian invasion with the American invasion of [fill in the blank]. He will declare that we shouldn't blame others for what we have done ourselves, particularly during the Bush administration. Finally, Barack and Hillary will deplore the "tragic situation" and offer humanitarian assistance to the displaced Georgians - and Russians.
If Russia does grab Georgia, it may not be satisfied with just one bite at the apple. Once Georgia is digested, Putin may decide that reassembly of the Soviet empire should take place before the Obama administration leaves office, since he knows any reaction is likely to consist of empty rhetoric.
It will be interesting to see whether an invasion of Georgia becomes the "big test" that Joe Biden predicted.