The withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia remains the most acute problem in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. Timetables for the pullout have been a constant stumbling block in negotiations between the two countries. The Georgian side is insisting that the withdrawal be completed within three years, while Russia believes that eleven years will be needed.
Moscow's position on this issue looks more justified. It is based on the bitter experience of relocating Russian troops from East Germany, when, in order to fulfil its obligations, Russia was forced even in winter to accommodate servicemen's families in tents and to leave combat hardware out in the open. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has stated, "There will be no repetition of such a withdrawal". The minister says that, first of all, it is necessary to build housing for servicemen's families, barracks for soldiers and depot facilities for combat equipment; in other words, the appropriate infrastructure has to be created before the troop withdrawal begins. Ivanov also estimated the cost of this withdrawal at $500 million. The head of the defence ministry stated, "If Georgia or anybody else allocates the resources for that purpose, then it might be possible to accelerate the Russian troops' relocation."
However, Georgian Foreign Minister Tedo Dzhaparidze immediately said this level of financing was excessive. Moreover, while talking live on the Rustavi-2 TV station, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lynn Pascoe promised on behalf of his government "to render certain financial assistance in relation to troops' withdrawal", but said that the States was not prepared to provide all the necessary money.
According to military experts, though, the deadlines and costs involved are not the crux of the problem. Essentially, the problem is that Russia considers the CIS as an area of its national interests and does not want to cede its political, economic, cultural and military influence on the territory of the former Soviet Union, primarily, due to security interests. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Russia withdrew its forces from the Baltic states, as well as eastern and central Europe. This was immediately followed by the emergence of American military bases there and plans to deploy them under various pretexts. In addition, the military infrastructures of those states were completely re-structured to meet NATO combat requirements, while the construction of radar stations began to control air space in the East.
The Kremlin hardly wants to see the same thing happen in Georgia.