Mutiny in Georgia?

The beleaguered republic of Georgia claims to have stopped a military mutiny in its tracks, almost literally, as it squelched an uprising in one of its tank battalions.  President Mikhail Saakashvili accuses Russia of plotting the rebellion as part of an assassination attempt.  Russia calls the rebellion a response to the “crazy” policies of Saakashvili, but they haven’t left Georgia as they promised, either:

A tank battalion has mutinied at a military base near Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, the government has said.

Tanks and armoured personnel carriers are being sent to quell the rebellion at the Mukhrovani base, witnesses say.

The authorities say the mutiny is part of an attempted coup – linked to Russia and aimed at assassinating President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Russia’s envoy to Nato described the charges as “mad”. The trouble comes a day before Nato exercises in Georgia.

Georgia says that they’ve isolated the rebellion, and that they’ve followed the plot for two months before putting an end to it:

President Mikhail Saakashvili says a mutiny in a tank battalion based near Georgia’s capital is an isolated case and the situation in the country is fully under control.

The defense minister says the base where the mutiny occurred Tuesday has been sealed off.

The mutiny followed an announcement by the Interior Ministry that it had uncovered a Russia-supported plot to overthrow the government and had arrested the suspected organizer.

Saakashvili said in a televised address that the government was taking the mutiny seriously but it was an isolated incident. He said the situation in the country was under control.

Russia promised to leave Georgia as part of the peace agreement brokered by France.  Thus far, they have reneged on that agreement.  If they haven’t plotted to assassinate Saakashvili, they’ve certainly acted to destabilize him and attempt to absorb Georgia as a de facto satellite, if not annex it.

This eruption comes on the eve of NATO exercises with Georgia, which were meant to send a signal to Russia to back off.  Russia has apparently sent a countersignal to NATO.  Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have openly criticized NATO engagement with Georgia, cooling relations with the military alliance since last summer over their support for Georgia.  The mutiny may well convince NATO to postpone the exercises indefinitely, which only benefits Russia in this instance.

Russia wants to play for the gas and oil pipelines coming out of the Caucasus, which mainly serve Europe.  If Putin and Medvedev control Georgia’s energy output, they will control most of Europe’s imports — and therefore put itself in position to make the EU a vassal state of sorts to a new Russian empire.  Even an engineered coup d’etat that puts a Putin lackey in charge of Georgia would be sufficient for those aims.  Will NATO hold firm in its support for Georgia’s elected government, or will Europe and the Obama administration hit reverse?