Understanding the Georgian Mutiny

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Reports from Georgia indicate that an attempted coup has been suppressed near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.  Russian defense analyst Aleksandr Golts examines the official version of events, and takes a skeptical eye to the “very convenient conspiracy” and whose interests it serves.  The article first ran in the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online newspaper.

A Very Convenient Conspiracy
May 6, 2009.
Aleksandr Golts
Yezhednevny Zhurnal

Mutiny, as is well known (thanks to [poet] John Harington in the [Samuil] Marshak translation), can never succeed.  Otherwise it’s no longer called a mutiny*.  If the poet was right, then a conclusion can be drawn from this axiom: any description of a failed revolt reads like the script of a mediocre operetta.  Georgian officials are offering up precisely such a story.

And so, on May 5th, Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) uncovered a military plot.  Under watch of the surveillance cameras and microphones of Georgian intelligence, its organizers cheerfully reported that first of all, the participants of the plot were all relatives (son-in-laws, cousins, and such), and secondly, that Russia would support them at any moment.  Five thousand soldiers would be sent, to help take Tbilisi and eliminate several well-known Georgian politicians.  Several former and active military officers were arrested for taking part in the conspiracy.  An hour after they were exposed, a tank battalion mutinied (the only separate armored unit in the Georgian army, it seems) at a base 30 kilometers from the capital.  Its commander, Vice-Colonel Mamuka Gorgishvili, circulated a statement to local media where he underscored that he was refusing command orders, since it was “impossible to calmly watch the collapse of the country and the continuing political confrontation.”  In short, the vice-colonel immediately warned that the battalion would take “no aggressive actions…We are in our barracks and we are not going to leave them.” Well, clearly they’re just like the Decembrists at the Senate square.

The way things developed next was obvious for those who know something of history.  If the conspirators refuse to take initiative, the authorities necessarily take it over.  Just three hours later, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (not earlier noted for his rash courage) appears before the mutinied tank crews, who then calm down, turn in their weapons and surrender to the Georgian court, the fairest court in the world.

In a remarkable manner, this caricature of an abandoned conspiracy works in the interests of all the conflicting parties.  Saakashvili has the chance to connect the growing opposition protests with Russian subversion.  And in such a way show his political opponents as agents of the enemy.  It is no coincidence that the Georgian opposition, sensing the threat, immediately demanded an international investigation.  And one of its leaders, Nino Burjanadze openly said: “I can unequivocally say that I preclude the notion that Georgian armed forces took part in a Russian plan, like the MIA asserts.  These, by the way, are the same soldiers who fought heroically in the Tskhinvali region when their commander-in-chief was running away.”

Aside from discrediting the opposition, Saakashvili gains an excellent opportunity to discredit Russia, which has fought against NATO exercises that are completely unimportant in scale, with an insistence better suited for another cause.  As result, Georgian officials released a peculiar version of events: the tank forces took part in the plot (that is, an egregious crime against the state), in order to derail the NATO maneuvers, which start today.

Aside from that, Saakashvili gains a wonderful chance to cleanse the armed forces, which, to put it mildly, aren’t at all enraptured in a Supreme Commander-in-chief who forced them to take part in blatant military adventurism.

At the same time, this parody of a military conspiracy serves the purposes of Russian foreign policy, root and branch.  According to Moscow’s version of events, Saakashvili’s criminal regime is already running into serious military opposition.  Consequently, his end will come any day now.  Concurrently, our national analysts act as if they don’t understand that Saakashvili’s opponents are just as “anti-Russian” as he is.

And so, what actually happened?  Most likely, the natural irritation of Georgia’s officers with their not-too-competent and not-too-brave commander-in-chief became the focus of interest of Georgia’s intelligence agencies.  And those created yet another clone of “Operation Trest”, that is, a fake anti-government organization.  That’s the only way to explain the video recordings from the Georgian MIA.  I don’t exclude that Russia’s intelligence agencies may have fallen for this provocation (just like the “Intelligence service” once fell for the OGPU [Joint State Political Directorate] provocation).  As result, in the eyes of Georgians, they probably managed to discredit the opposition.  Furthermore, I don’t exclude that Saakashvili managed to prove to his western partners: his country is just a step away from Russian intervention.  Yet this victory is fairly dubious: no one can believe in the stability of a regime protested by its own military.

*Harington’s 17th century poem reads:
“Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”

translation by theotherrussia.org