The Caucasus Tinder Box
The ominous storm clouds of war are gathering once again over tiny, besieged Georgia have shed their first droplets of conflict.
On May 13th, Russia stood alone against the entire Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in order to veto a measure proposed by Greece calling for the extension of the OSCE's monitoring assignment along the troubled border between Ossetia and Georgia, where war broke out last August. Not even Russia's erstwhile allies Belarus and Kazhakhstan would support the Russian demand that the OSCE recognize Russia's annexation of Ossetia following its invasion of Georgia. As Reuters reported: "U.S. and European Union officials regard an OSCE presence in Georgia as crucial to preventing further fighting between separatist and Georgian forces and mistreatment of civilians." Now, because of Russia's unilateral actions, which clearly echo the stony "nyet" plied so often by the USSR on the UN Security Council, that presence will disappear.
The mutiny occurred at a tank base at Mukhrovani, some 30 kilometers east of the capital Tbilisi. The rebels at Mukhrovani were surrounded by Interior Ministry Special units, with army artillery and armor, and Saakashvili arrived at the scene in a theatrical showdown -giving the rebels one hour to surrender, which they did without firing a shot. The rebel officers were arrested, while privates were disarmed. Saakashvili specifically praised the Georgian army artillery officers, who in his words not only surrounded the rebels with guns, but were also prepared to open fire and that their dedication facilitated the early capitulation
Before the recent events in Georgia unfolded, we heard warnings all across the Internet that Georgian opposition would take to the streets and that Saakashvili's regime would fall on April 9. Meanwhile, Russia once again mobilized its forces along the South Ossetian border, as it had done in the weeks before the August war. Russian sent its tanks to Tskhinvali and dispatched its ships to patrol the Black Sea waters near Georgia. In short, everything was pointing to an imminent coup. That is what happened in 1978, when Babrak Karmal and the Moscow-backed People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew the Kabul government. Moscow later installed Karmal as president of Afghanistan. But that scenario seemed unlikely for Georgia. After all, where would the Kremlin find a Georgian version of Karmal? But it did find one -- and not just one but three: Kobaladze, Karkarashvili and Gvaladzeb [the arrested leaders of the coup].
The failed coup certainly looked like something from the "Keystone Cops." The whole affair was rife with incompetence, if not idiocy, but this is no excuse. When plotting a coup, idiocy is an aggravating circumstance and not a mitigating one -- like when an intoxicated driver is guilty of causing a severe accident. It seems that the Kremlin does not understand that Georgia has emerged from chaos to become a full-fledged independent nation. Moscow can't orchestrate a coup in Georgia just by waving its little finger, as it did during the reign of Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.