OPINION

Saakashvili the Rash

The image of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze being rushed out of the back door of parliament by armed guards in order to avoid the protesters of the «Rose Revolution» on November 23, 2003, sent shock waves around the world. The «White Fox» of the Caucasus, as the last foreign minister to serve in the Soviet Union had been dubbed for his political wisdom and knack for maintaining the balances in such a volatile region, had been dethroned and a new star was rising. His name was Mikheil Saakashvili, American-educated and presentable. He was spotted in New York, where he worked in a law firm, by Zurab Zhvania, a recruiter for Shevardnadze of bright young Georgians. Saakashvili quickly rose through the ranks of Shevardnadze’s party and his administrations, managing eventually to topple him and get himself elected, at age 36, to the presidency. The United States and NATO saw in him the kind of leader they needed in the energy-rich and strategically crucial region, and he went far beyond their expectations. Completely ignoring the «Russian factor» and delicate geostrategic balances, he pursued a risky – for Moscow – pro-Western policy, going as far as applying for NATO membership and making an enemy of the mighty neighbor. The rash Saakashvili has persistently baited the «Russian bear» and has been warned by Vladimir Putin. Saakashvili crossed the Rubicon when he invaded South Ossetia. He led his weakened country to war against a giant and is now threatening to blow the Caucasus wide open. Did he really believe that he could win such a conflict, even if his army had received a few years’ training from American experts and some modern weaponry from the West and Ukraine? Probably not. He probably misread the messages from America and Europe, hoping they would step in to help and take on Russia. All indications are that he was wrong and the chances are that he will very soon pay a hefty political price.