A Roundup of the Georgian Defense & Security Conference 2019

The 13th Georgia Defense and Security Conference (GDSC) was held in Batumi city of the Ajara region on November 6-7. It was hosted by Hilton Hotel and saw among its attendees high-ranking Georgian and foreign politicians, military experts and representatives of civil society, mass media and academic circles.

The Conference was opened by the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, who stressed on the importance of the conference and noted that Georgia has managed to remain "an island of stability" in the region.

Alongside the President, Georgian top officials Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze once again raised the issue of the occupation of Georgian territories by Russia.

“I am convinced that the debates and discussions here will be particularly topical and distinguished by quality and results, as we are in a country where 20% of the territory is occupied by the Russian Federation” Gharibashvili said at the conference, while Talakvadze noted that 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, 27 years after the occupation of Georgian territories and 5 years after the annexation of Crimea, Russia still remains a major threat.

“We believe that our partners will deliver to the Kremlin the message that changing borders in Europe through occupation and aggression is totally unacceptable. However, as we represent a nation that strives for the principles of democracy, tolerance and justice, we should not be afraid and should not retreat," he said.

High-level foreign politicians also took part in the GDSC, one of them US Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who regularly advocates for Georgia.

“We [the USA] recently approved the Georgia Support Act. It was my initiative. There is a big chance that it will be backed in the Senate and the White House. We are glad. This means that the US does not recognize Georgia’s occupation by Russia… Republicans and Democrats disagree on many things, but we are united when it comes to Georgia,” Kinzinger said.

The cross-party act highlights the US’ strong support of Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and further starts the imposition of sanctions against individuals who infringe human rights within Georgia’s occupied regions.

Alongside Kinzigner, top NATO officials, as well as the US Ambassador-Designate attended the Batumi Conference. Rosaria Puglisi, Head of NATO Liaison Office, commented on Georgia’s security situation, saying that “The greatest challenge for Georgia’s security is the placement of Russian soldiers on [its] territory; the fact that two of Georgia’s regions remain controlled and occupied by foreign forces; and that the process of ‘borderization’ ensues”.

The US Ambassador-Designate Elizabeth Rood articulated her anticipation about the Conference and further commented, “This year, the GDSC mainly focuses on topics such as the modernization of Georgia’s defense and security, close relationship with NATO forces and the concept of Georgia’s universal defense notion… It is a great opportunity for government officials and experts to converse on Georgia’s progress and on the direction of its Atlantic integration.”

Former NATO Deputy Secretary-General, Rose Gottemoeller spoke at the GDSC via a live video-feed from Brussels and promoted the Georgian-Euro Atlantic relationship. “First and foremost, it is based on Georgia’s aspiration for membership in the Alliance. You all know that the decision made at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 stands: Georgia will become a member of NATO. Through the work we have done together in the years since the decision, Georgia has moved closer to membership of NATO and all allies support this progress. There are several tools at Georgia’s disposal to spur this continued progress, among them the second pillar of our cooperation. The NATO-Georgia Commission is a dedicated venue through which we take forward political dialogue.”

According to Gottemoeller, Georgia has made “noteworthy accomplishments” in the five years since the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package was agreed.

By Beka Alexishvili

07 November 2019 18:19