Contemporary Int’l Relations & Georgia’s Possible Response. Part II


Every coin has two sides, and what we are dealing with here does too. It is one thing to understand the dissatisfaction of US leaders with the current situation and their desire to change things, but it is another to soberly assess how such a revision could either strengthen global order and security or instead make things worse. This is especially thought-provoking for us, since it is quite possible that a change in global relations could create even more mind-twisters for us, and that our theories would hardly be compatible with reality.

That said, I personally believe in the realistic, rational, technocratic approach. Realism implies uncompromised thinking and an assessment of issues which rejects groundless hopes and illusory ideals. But here, too, we must remember that realism maintains that power remains central to political life and that the main concern of states is their own security, and that they must first of all rely upon their own resources instead of international norms and mechanisms.

Alongside its sober rationality and pragmatism, this form of realism does of course have its own side-effects, e.g. the dangerous rise of nationalism in international relations; using international judicial norms and orders to further an unhealthy state ego; and (unintentional?) pessimism when it comes to multilateral efforts to make the world a better, fairer and safer place. We will add here as well that, in terms of materialization, too, a new course towards an ‘offshore balance’ has quite a few faults and weaknesses which challenge its effective implementation both for the United States as well as for her regional partners.

Studying and analyzing these faults in detail would be important from our point of view, but we must unfortunately limit ourselves to a more general description and instead discuss this issue in detail some place else. At this stage, in any case, it is very difficult to predict whether the world will follow the path of cardinal rearrangements, whether traditional forms of inter-state relations will be maintained, or whether the post-pandemic world will offer us something new.

Be that as it may, at this stage Georgia should begin to analyse and model different scenarios and develop a response to every possible one. Precise prognosis is difficult, but the margin of error of these studies must be reduced to a minimum. It is equally important that the responses not be mere reactions but proactive, responsible and balanced, especially with regard to regional arrangements. Georgia must not only ‘fit’ into the post-pandemic world order, but wherever feasible also mold the order around us by participating in the process of defining its contours.

A more general discussion of the Georgian case

Any discussion of Georgia in this context must be neither too general nor too detailed, and I shall try to find a sensible medium between these two undesirable extremes. According to modern Western teaching of foreign policy, the US are the largest single contributor, and this indeed seems perfectly right and logical, but any world map of geopolitical actors identifies not one but several centers of power and gravity.

These are Europe, China and the region which we refer to as the Near East, whereas Western political vocabulary refers to it as the Middle East. Despite the usual geographical clichés and stereotypes, I obviously think that all three are important and relevant for Georgia, since what goes on in Europe, China or the Middle East affects our country’s domestic and foreign policy. Some might think that this assumption is somewhat exaggerated, but I believe that it is absolutely accurate. At this stage, we should of course not try to find explanations for our ‘uniqueness’ or ‘historic mission’, as any such attempts are hardly serious and make us lose the valuable grip of Realpolitik. We should instead search for the real explanation in the specifics of the region in which Georgia is located, but once again I cannot describe different theories and geo-strategic teachings at length in this format.

I have discussed these issues earlier, but I feel I should repeat and underline one of them again, the most important one for us: establishing the global actors of Eurasia as leading forces and the global results linked to this process. I will also add that the micro-region of the Black and Caspian seas is one of the knots of the Eurasian strategic space; more precisely, the area of which Georgia is one of the centers—with access to the sea, and neighboring with Russia, Europe and NATO’s eastern flank as well as with the Middle East. Georgia’s geographic and geo-political location is a destiny that can be a blessing when used properly and a curse due to the constant threats. Our principal foreign policy course adds itself to that, and as a result the entire palette of the ‘Georgian case’ is presented.

We already know that Georgia’s National Security Council announced that it was to begin work on a conceptual paper. I expect that working on this paper and discussing it will be an inclusive process, giving us the possibility to assess all the risks properly and to recommend ways of neutralizing or minimizing them. I would also like to share my opinions on a couple of circumstances and factors which I believe are important.

One of these is the possibility of establishing Georgia as a keystone state in the region, but I have recently spoken of this matter quite widely and will therefore only touch upon a few of its nodal components.

First of all, it should be mentioned that this status is not linked to any formal recognition. In reality, this role indicates the country’s functional usefulness for its allies and partners as well as its contribution to regional security and stability. However, before we consider the question of regional contribution, we should not forget that Georgia herself needs support for her national security and stable development. Some practical mechanisms for this do exist, and here of course the ultimate one would be Georgian membership of NATO’S collective security system, but the problem is the absence of clarity from NATO regarding the question of further expansion.

It is true that in recent years several important steps have been taken in the rapprochement between NATO and Georgia, especially in the Black Sea, but a feeling of dissatisfaction remains and against the background of fast-changing events is linked to the absence of commensurately fast ideas and decisions. On the other hand, the Black and Caspian Sea micro-region, as one of the knots of Eurasia, deserves much more attention and resources. On the path towards better security, another mechanism is Georgia’s bilateral defense pact with the US, particularly since it could coincide with the above-mentioned doctrines of realism and ‘offshore balance’. Equally acceptable and more tactical in nature would be so-called intermediate scenarios such as agreements providing for the visits of allied armed forces. Analogues of this specific step can be found in practice, and their mission is mainly linked to joint intensive training. In short, there are ways, but all this requires more thought and most importantly action in order to remain a step forward of current events. In this regard I am still left with a feeling of disappointment.

I would also mention Georgia’s regional diplomacy, including second-level diplomacy, its establishment as a hub, as well as the country becoming one of the main contributors to knowledge and information databases in the region. Both these circumstances could also be seen as contributing to the development of Georgian ‘soft power’.

I would also emphasize Georgia’s potential place in the rearranged global chain of supply and demand, which we see as a precondition for rethinking the country’s economic sovereignty and long-term development. I already have already discussed this question in the past.

Georgian-American relations: a solid precondition for development

There is a general consensus that Georgian-US relations are developing dynamically and in practically every sphere. That said, I would still focus upon the military aspect and security issues in general, of which the American approach to Georgia (as a country not part of NATO) can serve as a good illustration. On the July 6, 2016, for example, Georgia and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding on deepening their partnership in defense and security spheres, which later became a framework agreement for cooperation in 2016-19 and was renewed on November 21, 2019. This agreement defines the two countries’ strategic partnership and defines priorities for mutual cooperation with the aim of improving defense readiness and levels of compatibility. Logically speaking, neither political nor economic ties fall behind the increasing dynamics of security which was specially underlined in the assessments dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the strategic partnership. This process of productive cooperation gives rise to the hope of even more interesting perspectives, especially in our unpredictable modern world and region. The wish to develop multilateral links through somewhat non-standardized and sometimes brand-new decisions and approaches is also linked to this hope. This is why the recent assessments published by a party group of the US congress caused such surprise, not only because they were far removed from reality but also because they cast a shadow over the two countries’ main achievement. To quote the US ambassador in Tbilisi, ‘[our] strategic partnership with Georgia has never been as strong as it is today’.

Large-scale change is never a simple process; this is something that we all understand, and we should be just as understanding whenever assessments of change differ. But we must always remember that, in our assessments, it is very important that we never unintentionally damage our high-level relations with well-wishing partners. Achieving this level of relations has required enormous efforts over several generations, and maintaining them will require many more. In this regard, we must always remain objective when evaluating external events and actors and be twice as critical and demanding towards ourselves. Our country’s ‘grand strategy’ should also provide a concrete guide to Georgian ‘realism’ and provide guiding principles which could ensure that the ‘strategy’ is in constant development and capable of responding to specific moments in history and concrete national interests.

By Victor Kipiani, Geocase Chair


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Contemporary Int’l Relations & Georgia’s Possible Response. Part 1


09 July 2020 18:28