A crisis between Georgia and Russia on April 12–13, 2002, had several new, troubling features, suggesting that war between Georgia and the breakaway region of Abkhazia or, even worse, an armed conflict between Georgia and Russia, might break out.
The increasingly dangerous trajectory of events in the South Caucasus requires close attention from Washington, particularly because U.S. military personnel might find themselves in the middle of a conflict. A site survey team left for Georgia on April 29 to coordinate logistical requirements for a larger contingent of approximately 150-200 troops scheduled to arrive after initial logistical groundwork is complete (initially their arrival was expected in late March). U.S. military personnel will train Georgian troops for an antiterrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge (a small enclave of Georgian territory bordering Russia where Chechens separatists and, reportedly, international terrorists have taken refuge).
Any conflict in Abkhazia will threaten the stability and integrity of the international antiterrorist coalition. At the very least, Georgia and Russia will shift their attention from global to regional issues. Georgia might request political or even direct military support from the United States. Russia is already unhappy about the U.S. military and political presence in Georgia, and U.S. actions in Georgia could undermine Russia’s support for the U.S.-led global war against international terrorism. […]