The last thing that NATO needed on the eve of its controversial military exercises in Georgia was a mutiny, and that is exactly what happened yesterday.
The "episode" will most probably blow over, leaving only a minor trace of bad publicity, but it confirms to Moscow that NATO is caught in a triple trap - and has no escape strategy.
The principled non-cooperative attitude towards NATO has been a key element of Putin's assertive "take-that" foreign policy, launched with the famous "Munich speech" in February 2007. This policy is still very popular as it deliberately plays on the peculiar mix of superiority and inferiority complexes within an often contradictory Russian public opinion. Consequently, Medvedev dares not to step away from the "down-with-NATO" line. The downward spiraling economic crisis, however, inevitably destroys the foundation of this policy, as Russia does not have any justification to see itself as a rising power, even in comparison with "ungovernable Georgia" or "forever-squabbling Ukraine." The reckoning with this unpleasant reality can be postponed only for so long, and Medvedev's smart tactics of advancing a limited "liberalization" at home and demonstrating toughness abroad cannot be sustained throughout the second year of his accidental presidency.