The last few days have been difficult, even in the context of the tumultuous recent history of Georgia. Riots, and government demonstrations in Tbilisi, the declaration of a state of emergency. A familiar tale of instability in the Caucasus, would be most observers diagnosis.
Except it is not.
Georgia is a country of absolutely critical geo-strategic significance. Put simply the Baku-Tbilisi corridor is the only way that oil can get to the global markets from the vast fields of Kazakhstan and the Caspian without passing through Russia.
For the West Georgia is a vital part of global energy security: for Russia Georgia poses a defiant challenge to Russian hegemony over the central Asian energy reserves.
Constantly Russia has harried and harassed the Western oriented government of Mikheil Saakashvili- it illegally expelled thousands of Georgian traders and business people in 2006- a policy condemned by Human Rights Watch . In August of this year the repeated illegal over flights of Georgia by the Russian Air force even included a missile attack.
The constant open pressure by Russia has not caused Georgia to fold, but there is also a more secretive aspect to the Russian policy. The mysterious death of the previous Prime Minister, Zurab Zhavania has been linked to the Russian secret service. Last October, Russia sealed the border after Georgia uncovered a series of Russian officials and soldiers in the country illegally with plans to either take hostage or kill several Georgian officials: the soldiers involved were handed over to the OSCE .
In the context of the constant pressure from Russia, the latest unrest in Georgia begins to assume a far more sinister shape. The extraordinary allegations made against the government by the former defence minister, Irakli Okruashvili, are so extreme that they carry eerie echos of the kind of brainwashing that former GRU agent Viktor Suvorov alleges took place under the Soviet Union.
In the face of the protests that these extraordinary allegations provoked, President Saakashvili has done the right thing: brought forward elections which he hopes will confirm that he has a mandate to continue the open market, democratic policies that have led the country into dramatic economic growth and a close relationship with the West.
It looks as though this move has defused the protests- but it has also revealed that the regime, far from being the dictatorship of Russian imagination, is firmly rooted in a democratic outlook. In fact the economy minister, Kakha Bedukidze, Is an openly avowed libertarian, who has pursued a complete transformation in the Georgian economy by massive deregulation and by a radical privatisation programme. These are not generally policies consistent with dictatorship.
The Russian propaganda machine continues to launch attacks against Georgia, while the West has been more tepid in its support for a critical ally. Georgia may be "a faraway country of which we know nothing", but as in 1938 Czechoslovakia, the fall of Georgia into the Russian sphere would dramatically weaken the strategic position of the West.
It is a game of high stakes. The Russians need to be told that their meddling must cease- now.