The intensifying Georgian-Russian crisis is granting President Eduard Shevardnadze a reprieve from domestic difficulties. Some of Shevardnadze's most ardent critics in Tbilisi are rallying around the president, saying the need to defend Georgian sovereignty from Russian encroachment takes precedence over the internal political rivalries. But such support may prove fleeting, unless Shevardnadze alters his position on several sensitive issues, some political analysts in Tbilisi say.
The dispute between Tbilisi and Moscow over the alleged presence of Chechen fighters in the Pankisi Gorge has raised the possibility of a Russian military operation on Georgian territory. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive]. On September 18, the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov as saying Russian forces will not hesitate to carry out operations on Georgian territory if circumstances warrant such action. "If we see bandits [in Georgia] heading in our direction
Giorgi Kandelaki is a senior at the Department of Political Science at Tbilisi State University. He is a member of the Youth Atlantic Council of Georgia.