The agreements were signed in the Kremlin by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh and South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity. Under the agreements, Russia will guard and control the Abkhaz and South Ossetian borders, including maritime frontiers. The agreements give effective control of the Georgian borders with the breakaway republics to the Russian forces. So, it is very significant and important.
Of course, the signed agreements are the latest moves by Russia to strengthen and consolidate its growing military power in the South Caucasus in general, which is focused presently on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In fact, Russia has already set up land bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which was confirmed by the commander of Russia's ground forces, Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev, on March 20. He said that the so-called fourth and seventh military bases would be ready to host tactical exercises by the end of 2009.
In addition to these land bases, Russia is also planning to deploy military aircraft to a base in Abkhazia, near Gudauta. The base in question is the Bombora Air Base, which is the largest military airfield in the Southern Caucasus. Bombora is strategically very important not only because of its four-kilometer-long runway, but also because of its closeness to the sea. In fact, the runway ends less than 100 meters from the sea, allowing aircraft to take off at very low altitudes over the sea and fly undetected by enemy radar in the initial stages of flight. During the war in 2008, Russian airborne troops landed in Bombora and proceeded to western Georgia to fight against the Georgian army.
Now, according to various sources, Russia is planning to deploy some 20 aircraft, including a wing of the Sukoy-27s (Flankers in NATO terminology), a squadron of the Sukoy-25s (Frogfoot) attack aircraft and several Antonov-26 (Curl) military transport aircraft.
Other than the base in Bombora, Russia is planning to establish a Black Sea naval base in the Abkhaz port of Ochamchire. In fact, this was confirmed by the Abkhaz leader Bagapsh last January. Then he had said no signed treaty existed on the matter, but an agreement was reached that the construction of the base would start this year and it would be done within the framework of a comprehensive treaty on friendship and cooperation.
Ochamchire is an important port about 60 kilometers southeast of the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi, near the cease-fire line established after the last war with Georgia. When stationed there, Russian warships would essentially control the Georgian territorial waters all the way to the Turkish border.
In addition to this, the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi would become very vulnerable in terms of the Russian navy's striking capability from the planned base in Ochamchire. This, of course, would provide Russia with an advantage -- the future intimidation of Georgia.
When Ochamchire becomes operational, it will also provide the Russian navy with a new but limited alternative to Sevastopol, the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean coast of Ukraine, which wants the Russian navy to quit the base when the bilateral agreement expires in 2017.
Ochamchire will be a limited alternative to Sevastopol because it is relatively small; its waters are shallow and it does not have a protected bay. Nevertheless, it will serve as a key forward supply base for the Russian navy, seaborne special troops and marines deployed in the Black Sea region, as well as a strong naval deterrent against Georgia.
With the establishment of land, air and naval bases in Abkhazia, including the already present 3,700 Russia troops, Russia clearly aims to consolidate its military muscle in the Southern Caucasus and the Black Sea not only for setting up a credible and formidable deterrence against Georgia, but also to change the balance of power in the region.