What will be the outcome of the Georgian-Ossetian war?

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - The very real possibility of full-scale war between Georgia and South Ossetia raises questions about its possible outcome.

At present, the Georgian armed forces have more than 30,000 men, including 20,000 ground forces. They are equipped with more than 200 tanks, including 40 T-55s and 165 T-72s, which are currently being upgraded. Apart from tanks, the ground forces have 200 combat armored vehicles, including about 180 infantry combat vehicles and armored personnel carriers (APCs). The ground troops can receive artillery support from 120 artillery pieces of 122 mm-152 mm caliber, 40 multiple-launch rocket systems, and 180 mortars.

The Georgian Air Force is equipped with five Su-25 (Frogfoot) close support aircraft, 15 L-29 and L-39 combat training aircraft, which can be used as light assault planes, and 30 helicopters, including eight MI-24 attack helicopters.

Available estimates put the South Ossetian forces at a mere 2,500 officers and men, or 16,000, including reservists. They are armed with 15 T-55 and T-72 tanks, 24 Gvozdika and Akatsiya self-propelled artillery units, 12 D-30 towed howitzers, six multiple-launch rocket systems, four 100-mm Rapir anti-tank weapons, and more than 30 mortars. In addition, the South Ossetian army has 22 infantry combat vehicles, 24 APCs, and six combat patrol vehicles.

The infantry is equipped with small arms of Soviet or Russian make, and has several dozen Fagot and Konkurs anti-tank rocket systems. Its air force consists of four MI-8 multi-purpose transport helicopters. South Ossetia can defend itself against air attacks with four to six Osa, three Tunguska, three Shilka, and six Strela-10 air defense rocket systems. It also has 12 23-mm ZU-23/2 twin antiaircraft guns (some of which are mounted on GAZ-66 trucks), and up to 100 Igla and Strela man-portable air-defense missiles.

A forecast of the outcome of this war (as well as a potential conflict with Abkhazia) cannot be based on mathematics alone. In the mountains, even a very small unit can resist a numerically much stronger enemy. In this case, the outcome of the conflict will primarily depend on the training of forces and the influence of third parties.

The training of the Georgian army is not likely to have changed much in the last two months and, with the exception of a few units, it is not rated too high. Like the Abkhazian armed forces, South Ossetian armies are better trained and motivated. Moreover, the Abkhazian leader has already expressed readiness to support South Ossetia in a war against Georgia.

Georgia can win only if it is backed by the United States and its other allies. And even with such support, its victory will mean heavy losses, and entail lengthy guerilla warfare.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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