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Mutiny in Georgia

It seems that if Russia wanted to do something dramatic about Georgia, now would be the perfect time, given that Barack Obama’s options may be more constrained now than in the future and Mikheil Saakashvili is on political death watch.  Whether or not that is what is happening right now with the rebellion of a tank battalion (on the eve of exercises with NATO) is still unknown.  From the Financial Times:

Russia’s interest in seeing Mr Saakashvili leave power is clear, although Russian officials on Tuesday rushed to deny Kremlin involvement in the uprising, which Georgia has said is a Moscow financed coup attempt.

Mr Klimov called the action a “show” made for western consumption, which would help Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili distract Georgians from the opposition demonstrations. “This is one of Saakashvili’s tricks, he is a master of such shows” he said. “Honestly I’ve been called by colleagues in the Kremlin, they are just as surprised as I am. This is not us doing it. We are out of this, so to speak” he said.

But Alexander Rondeli, the head of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Tbilisi, said it was possible that the uprising was at least partly inspired from Moscow:”Russia is not just sitting on its hands and watching our country,” he said, adding that the public needed more proof about events surrounding the mutiny.

Alexander Iskandaryan, the director of the Caucasus Institute inYeravan, Armenia, said it was doubtful that Russia had orchestrated themilitary uprising although it was its goal to unseat Mr Saakashvili. Hesaid the military revolt more likely reflected a struggle within theGeorgian ruling party where “people are not very happy with the rulingpower.”

The situation in Georgia has put the new US administration of BarackObama in a difficult position – Washington’s support of Mr Saakashviliis a continuing sore point in a steadily improving relationship withMoscow, underlined by a successful meeting between Mr Obama and MrMedvedev in London in April. (…)

Russia has been angered by Nato’s decision last week to expel two ofits diplomats in the aftermath of a spying scandal.. Mr Obama haslittle room to manoeuvre diplomatically – his overtures to Russia haveattracted the ire of the US right wing, even though no concreteconcessions have been made. A decision to delay the wargames would beviewed as a concession to Russia, and might cost Mr Obama politicallyat home, said one Washington based analyst.