Grenade Incident Won't Damage US-Georgian Relationship
It turns out that a grenade tossed in the direction of US President George W. Bush during his recent speech in Tbilisi was live, and not a dud as Georgian security officials originally claimed. While the grenade incident could prompt a review of security procedures concerning Bush%u2019s public appearances during foreign trips, it does not appear the controversy will damage US-Georgian relations.
A US Embassy official in Tbilisi revealed May 18 that the grenade, which landed approximately 100 feet from where Bush was addressing a crowd assembled on Tbilisi%u2019s Freedom Square on May 10, was live but failed to detonate. When the incident first came to light, Gela Bezhuashvili, the secretary of the Georgian National Security Council, indicated that a preliminary investigation showed the grenade, a RGD-5, to be a dud that never posed a threat to Bush or Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Richard Jones, editor of the widely respected publication Jane%u2019s Infantry Weapons, said RGD-5 grenades are easily obtainable in the former Soviet Union, adding that they weigh less than one pound. One facility in Tbilisi, the Delta State Military, Scientific and Technical Center manufactures RGD-5s. Jones characterized the RGD-5 as fairly reliable. "I wouldn%u2019t have thought that [it would malfunction]," Jones said in a telephone interview.
There were reports of a breakdown in security procedures during Bush%u2019s Freedom Square appearance. Numerous eyewitnesses said large numbers of Georgians attending the Freedom Square speech avoided going through metal detectors.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan indicated that the grenade incident may prompt a security review. Deputy White House Press Secretary Trent Duffy, during a May 19 briefing, vigorously defended the Secret Service%u2019s conduct in Tbilisi. "As you can imagine," Duffy told reporters, "the Secret Service is taking steps, real time, minute by minute, second by second, assessing the threat and making decisions as to protect the security of the president."
At a May 18 appearance at the International Republican Institute, following the announcement the grenade was indeed live, Bush did not make a reference to the incident. In his speech, he spoke about the "resolve of Georgia%u2019s leaders and the spirit of the Georgian people." He indicated that his visit to Georgia served to solidify the US-Georgian partnership. He described Saakashvili as a "true lover of freedom," adding that "they [Georgia%u2019s leadership] have the will to succeed, and the United States of America will help them," Bush said.