Georgia’s PM & the Changing Geopolitics of the Caucasus


The world is in deep turmoil. From Syria to the South China Sea and from Iran to the European plains, developments of a vast geopolitical caliber are taking place. We are essentially witnessing a restructuring of the world order, which means that if not complete, but at least serious changes are being made in the security architecture.

Georgia, being a small country and at the crossroads of various geopolitical combinations of great Eurasian players, is particularly vulnerable to the changing situation on the continent.

Perhaps the most serious problem for Tbilisi is the nascent rapprochement between the West and Russia. Political statements as well as various practical moves show that there is a serious discussion going on in the EU on reinstating at least some parts of erstwhile relations with Moscow. Quite naturally, the countries (Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova) hammed in between and close to Russia, see this development as troublesome for their vulnerable security.

On top of this there is also a bigger destabilizing factor, namely the US’ reconsideration of its global status. Whether Washington plans to continue its tacit security obligations to the former Soviet countries is unclear, but the fact that the US policies towards Ukraine and other states have seen some unusual changes, undermines America’s status in Eurasia.

Thus, the small and vulnerable states of the former Soviet space, being in an increasingly hostile geopolitical situation, have to maneuver, which includes among many things, establishing direct (closer) contact with Moscow. It is no surprise then that the first ever high level meeting between Georgian and Russian officials since Russian invasion in 2008 took place several weeks ago.

While many castigated the ruling party for re-establishing a high-level contact with the Russians, a larger geopolitical perspective has been missed: the need to secure its positions in an increasingly destabilized region drove Tbilisi to act at this specific moment.

Georgia is not the sole country to initiate active diplomacy. The Ukrainian President’s efforts to reach even partial progress in eastern Ukraine fits well into the bigger picture of an increasingly unpredictable world order, with a lower US military presence on the continent and larger chances for European Union (EU)-Russia rapprochement.

Taking a longer-term view of geopolitical processes in the region, the Georgian government thus will need to reconsider many of its traditional policies. The backbone of the state strategy should again serve the Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan trilateral format. Appreciation of this geopolitical near-alliance from the Georgian side can be seen in the Georgian PM’s first ever foreign trip since the appointment: Azerbaijan. This will be followed later on by a similar visit to Turkey.

Armenia is also important, but in many ways the relative poorness of both countries, as well as Yerevan’s close (strategic) relations with Moscow, limit the development of Georgian-Armenian relations.

Further afield, closer relations with the EU and the US will continue as usual, but with the consideration that grand strategic shifts are taking place in the perceptions of western elites as regards Georgia’s major problem – Russia.

In the years to come, on top of its internal problems, the Georgian government will see a further deteriorating of the geopolitical landscape in and around the South Caucasus. Many will remain the same as it was for decades (and some might argue for centuries) – Georgia will try to minimize/balance Russia’s power with increasing cooperation with other states’ regional or global powers. But it will nevertheless require exceptional diplomatic skills from the ruling party officials to play a delicate balancing game to maneuver in the deteriorating regional balance of power.

By Emil Avdaliani

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10 October 2019 16:52