Current Foreign Policy of Georgia: How Effective is it in Dealing with the Existing Challenges?
Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation
On 8 January 2017, commenting on the US intelligence community’s (Central Intelligence Agency – CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI and the National Security Agency – NSA) joint report Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections during one of his last TV interviews as the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama pointed out: ”Part of the reason that I ordered this report was not simply to re-litigate what happened over the last several months, but rather to make sure that we understand this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe. Initially, in the former satellite states where there are a lot of Russian speakers but increasingly in western democracies…”
This marks the admission of reality and waking up from the slumber; however, it only describes the tip of the iceberg. The main condition here is that, in principle, given its nature and the state philosophy, Russia is outside the confines of the world political mainstream. More accurately, it is opposed to the mainstream. This is well documented in the conclusion of the aforementioned report.
As it turns out, the fact, which the Georgian diplomats have been trying to explain to our partners for the past several years, is already well understood, at least in the United States. The main idea goes like this: Russia’s occupation policy towards its neighbors is not a mere exception to the rule but rather a more extreme manifestation of its general political nature in the given conditions.
In addition to this, the norms and principles of the international law, laid down in multilateral and bilateral documents are quite easily disregarded by Russia. There are a lot of examples for this, including practically throwing the documents, ratified by the Russian State Duma, into the garbage can without even denouncing them first.
Georgia – 2008, Ukraine – 2014. Who is going to be next? This question becomes very important and not only for the immediate neighborhood of the Russian Federation.
The situation at hand poses a major challenge to the Georgian diplomacy and there are, in principle, three main approaches for tackling this challenge:
- Exercise policy under the Russian umbrella, opposing the main Western political mainstream (example – Armenia, with certain reservations);
- Become an organic part of the general political mainstream, exercising principled policies towards Russia, which will have certain costs for us, for example joining the sanctions against Russia (example – Ukraine, with certain reservations);
- A middle foreign policy vector, which can be called “burning neither the meat, nor the skewer,” when the course of approximation with the West is compatible with the attempts of establishing more cooperative relations with Russia.
Today we are exercising the third option of the foreign policy vectors listed above. After the Georgian Dream coalition’s victory in the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, this was definitely a rational approach. However, today, after five years, we can already draw some conclusions and learn some lessons as well.
Here we shall draw the attention to two specific results. First, when the Western leaders talk about the sanctions against Russia today, only the context of Ukraine is visible in the discourse. This means that if we theoretically imagine that Russia stops its military operations in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and returns Crimea to Ukraine, it will once again become a full-fledged member of the international community, even with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region being occupied by its forces. Nobody will impose sanctions on Russia because of this, especially when Georgia itself is not currently participating in the sanctions.
On the other hand, what have been the results of our new policy towards Russia? The tensions in bilateral relations have been lowered, exports of our wine and mineral water have increased; however, imports from Russia have increased as well (negative trade balance with Russia reached USD 468.7 million in 2016 (USD 674.9 million – USD 206.2 million)) as opposed to USD 430 million in 2012 (USD 476.8 million - USD 46.8 million), increasing by USD 38.7 million. Russia has regained its place among the top three trade partners for Georgia. Whether this is a good thing, given the political problems in our bilateral relations, is very hard to say and there can be no simple answer to this question.
As for Russia’s attitude towards Georgia, it has not changed for the past couple of years, even becoming more extreme in certain components – wire fences on the dividing lines, kidnappings or murder of Georgian citizens, pressuring the Georgian language, closing down Georgian schools, destroying Georgian churches and so on.
The comparison of the two Foreign Policy Concepts of the Russian Federation (those of 12 February 2013 and 30 November 2016) reveals that Russia’s attitude to Georgia has not changed even slightly. It is absolutely identical.
The 12 February 2013 document, page 20, point 52: Россия заинтересована в нормализации отношений с Грузией в тех сферах, в которых к этому готова грузинская сторона, при учете политических реалий, сложившихся в Закавказье.
The 30 November 2016 document, page 19, point 59: Россия заинтересована в нормализации отношений с Грузией в тех сферах, в которых к этому готова Грузинская Сторона, при учете политических реалий, сложившихся в Закавказье.
The translation reads: Russia is interested in normalizing relations with Georgia in the spheres where the Georgian side is ready to do so, taking into account the political realities which have been established in Transcaucasia.
We should not focus on the utilization of politically and geographically incorrect term – Transcaucasia as the attempts of establishing Soviet terminology in the official Russian documents are not new. The only change that can be found is that in the new document the words “the Georgian side” have been honored with capital letters. Russian diplomats also did not bother to note the existence of the new Abashidze-Karasin cooperation format and the advances achieved in the fields of economy and culture, through this format. There are no new messages, given the new foreign policy approaches exercised by Georgia – nothing at all. The obvious message from this, however, is that Russia does not consider the steps taken by Georgia towards cooperation with Russia to be worthy of note.
It is already clear that Georgia cannot normalize its relations with Russia without making concessions on principal issues. The cost of these concessions is either forgetting the issue of territorial integrity altogether, or accepting the principle of limited sovereignty. No government will be able to do this, even if it has a constitutional majority in the Parliament. The Russian government understands this rather well and formulates its policies not only towards Georgia but other neighbors as well based on this understanding. The philosophy is simple – the more complicated the situation in the neighboring countries, the easier it is for Russia to implement its agenda in the resulting murky waters.
We have failed to prove a simple truth to Russia – that European and democratic Georgia is not a threat to its interests. Perhaps, this is even impossible. Otherwise we would have seen some kind of positive changes in this regard after five years of consistent attempts to do so.
We cannot forcefully place the glasses on Russia’s nose in order to make it see the objective reality; however, we can do what we consider needs to be done.
- English version will be added soon
- War in Ukraine and Russia’s declining role in the Karabakh peace process
- Tajikistan’s Costly Chinese Loans: When Sovereignty Becomes a Currency
- The Russian Exclave of Kaliningrad and the Lithuanian "Sting"
- Seventh Package of Sanctions and Embargo on Russian Gold
- What could be the cost of “Putin’s face-saving” for European relations
- Why the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Railway Matters More than Ever
- In line for the candidate status, Georgia will get a European perspective. What are we worried about?
- Failed Tskhinvali Referendum
- The War and Georgia
- “Rural Orbanism”- Polarization as a determinant for Hungary's political future
- Illegal Presidential Elections in the Tskhinvali Region: Why Bibilov Lost and What to Anticipate in Future
- How to Respond to Russian Ultra-Orthodox-Historic-Hegemonism?
- The War in Ukraine and the UK’s New Role in Eastern Europe
- What Will the Abolition of the OSCE Minsk Group Bring to the South Caucasus?
- Why Has the Abkhaz Side Become More Active on Social Networks?
- Why a Neutral Ukraine Is Not on Putin’s Mind (Ukraine’s Neutral Status Is Getting Closer, but What Does It Mean to Putin?)
- Europe's energy future - challenges and opportunities
- Uncontrolled Mass Immigration and the Position of the Georgian Government
- Changes in Putin's propaganda narratives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- Ukraine will soon embark on a path of practical integration into the European Union. What about Georgia?
- Positions and Actions of Turkey in the Russo-Ukrainian War
- NATO’s possible expansion in Northern Europe and its significance for Georgia and Ukraine
- Political Winter Olympics in Beijing
- What Is behind Putin’s Sudden Gambit in Ukraine?
- Abkhazia in 2021: Energy Crisis, New “Minister” and Political Controversy
- L'Europe pourra-t-elle éviter le “déjà vu” ? (France, President of the Council of the European Union, and the Tensions in Eastern Europe)
- US-Russia Relations and the Issue of Ukraine
- The New Targets of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Regime
- What are the Prospects of the Eastern Partnership Summit Set on 15 December?
- What Will the Post-Merkel Era Mean for the EU’s Russia and Eastern Neighbourhood Policy?
- What Lies Behind the Growing Cooperation of the Georgian and Hungarian Governments
- “Doberman” as a Minister: Inal Ardzinba’s Prospects and Challenges
- The Belarus Crisis: How to Enhance Our Resilience Against the Russian Strategy for Its Near-Neighborhood
- Moldova’s Gas Crisis Has Been Russia’s Yet Another Political Blackmailing
- Belarus One Year On: An Insecure Regime Under Russian “Protection”
- Russia’s Parliamentary Elections - What Can Be Said About the Regime’s Stability
- Vaccination: “To Be, or not to Be”…
- Can Georgia use China to balance Russia?
- Belarus’ exit from the Eastern Partnership and what to expect next
- Pacta Sunt Servanda: Agreements must be kept
- The West vs Russia: The Reset once again?!
- Associated Trio, What is Next?
- Formation of a New “Political Elite” in Abkhazia - Who Will Replace the Old “Elite?”
- The Cyber-Dimension of the Geneva Summit
- Securitization of the Arctic: A Looming Threat of Melting Ice
- Europe in Anticipation of the Results of a “Harmful Deal”
- What Should Georgia Expect from the NATO Summit
- The Issue of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region in the Context of NATO and European Union Membership
- (Re)Mapping the EU’s Relations with Russia: Time for Change?
- USA, Liberal International Order, Challenges of 2021, and Georgia
- What does US President Joe Biden’s Recognition of the Armenian Genocide Imply?
- The Political Crisis in Moldova: A Deadlock without the Way Out?
- Russia's Testing or Bullying?
- Georgia's transit opportunities, novelties and challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic
- ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’: A New Opportunity for Global Authoritarian Influence?
- Georgia’s Application for European Union Membership
- A New Dawn for Transatlantic Relations under Biden’s Presidency: What Are the Hopes for Georgia?
- The End of the Russian Natural Gas Monopoly in Balkans
- Who did the judge sentence: Navalny, Putin or Russia?
- Biden’s Conundrum
- 2020 Developments in Abkhazia: “Elections,” the Pandemic and Deeper Integration with Russia
- Could Belarus Become a Prelude to the Great Polish-Swedish War 400 Years Ago?
- Vladimir Putin's Annual Grand Press Conference - Notable Elements and Messages
- COVID 19 Pandemic Economic Crisis and Reducing the Instability of Georgia’s National Currency
- Russia’s Energy Policy in the Tskhinvali Region
- Who Won and Who Lost with the War in Karabakh?
- What Russia has Gained in Karabakh
- What Armenia Did and Did not Lose as a Result of the Ceasefire Declaration in Karabakh
- Escalation of the Karabakh Conflict: Threats and Challenges for Georgia
- Protests in Belarus, Lukashenko and the Russian Federation
- Some Thoughts on the Use of the Term „Post-Soviet Space“
- Georgia’s European Way During the Period of Pandemic Deglobalization
- Khabarovsk Krai Protests as an Indicator of the Russian Federation’s Stability
- The Pragmatism and Idealism of the Georgian-American Partnership
- Independence of Georgia and the Historic Responsibility of Our Generation
- Trio Pandemic Propaganda: How China, Russia and Iran Are Targeting the West
- Complications Caused by the Coronavirus in Turkey and Their Influence on Georgia
- From Russia with… a Canny Plan
- “Elections” in Abkhazia: New “President’s” Revanche and Challenges
- Consumer Crisis in the Tskhinvali Region: Food for Thought
- Georgians Fighting the Same Battle 99 Years Later
- Georgian Defense – Political Paradox and the Vicious Circle of Not Having a System
- Confrontation between Russia and Turkey in Syria
- Why It Matters: Georgia’s 'Troll Scandal' Explained
- Political Crisis in Occupied Abkhazia
- What is the Significance of Killing General Qasem Soleimani?
- What Will the New Dialogue Format with Russia Bring for Georgia?
- On the “Russian Culture Center” in Georgia
- Whither Economic Policy?
- Main Messages of Russian Propaganda
- Massive Cyberattacks On Georgia Calls For Defense And Resilience
- What do we know about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Georgia?
- What is the Connection between NATO and Reclaiming Abkhazia?
- New Focuses of the Anti-Occupation Policy
- Georgia's Problems are not Addressed at G7 Meetings: Who is to Blame?
- Vladimir Putin’s Main Messages in his Interview with the Financial Times
- Georgia and Russia’s Post-modern Fascism
- Dugin has Come Out as a Supporter of Georgia – How Did This Happen?
- The Outcome of the European Parliament Elections - What Does it Mean for Georgia?
- Deterring Russia
- On NATO, Russia and Pat Buchanan
- Why Local Elections of March 31, 2019 in Turkey are Important?
- Does the Principle of Strategic Partnership Work in Ukraine-Georgia Relations?
- A New Chance for Circular Labor Migration between Georgia and the EU
- Modern Russia’s Own Wars of Religion
- Georgia’s Trade with Electricity: The Influence of Bitcoin
- Bolton’s visit to Moscow– what to expect in U.S-Russia relations?
- Georgia’s External Trade: How to Strengthen Positive Trends
- The Risk of the Renewal of the Karabakh Conflict after the Velvet Revolution in Armenia
- The Situation in Syria’s Idlib Province, Interests of the Parties and Threats
- The Helsinki Summit and its General Results
- Why It Is Necessary to Know the Day the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 Started
- Decisive Struggle for the Independence of the Ukrainian Church
- Georgia’s Position in the Westernization Index 2018
- Why Did the Results of the G7 Summit in Charlevoix not Meet Our Expectations?
- How to Win Cold War 2.0
- The Ben Hodges Model – a Real Way for Georgia’s Membership in NATO
- The Russian “Ambassador’s” Rotation in Abkhazia
- Why did the Foreign Ministers of G7 not remember Georgia during their 23 April 2018 Toronto Meeting?
- Georgia and the American Strategy
- Putin’s Pre-Election Economic Promises: Myth and Reality
- Trade of Electricity: Successes of 2016, Reality of 2017 and Future Prospects– the Impact of Bitcoin (Part Two)
- Let Geneva Stay the Way it is
- Trade of Electricity: Successes of 2016, Reality of 2017 and Future Prospects – the Impact of Bitcoin (Part One)
- Turkey’s Military Operation in Afrin – a New Phase in the Syrian Conflict
- Kremlin New Appointments and the Occupied Regions of Georgia
- Geopolitical Vision of the Russian Opposition
- Dangers Originating from Russia and Georgia’s Security System
- Eurasian Custom Union and problems of Russian – Georgian FTA
- Is Georgia’s Export Growth Sustainable?
- The 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit and its Results
- Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Tskhinvali Region is Growing: Support for Full Integration
- What Awaits the People of Gali?
- Growth of Military Spending and Relations with Russia: Azerbaijan trying to Gain Advantage over Armenia
- Disrupt and Distract: Russia’s Methodology of Dealing with the West
- Trojan Horse Model IL- 76 or Why Would Russia Want to Fight Georgia’s Forest Fires
- Russian Diplomats in Georgia – who are they, how many of them are there and what are they up to
- Putin’s Visit to the Occupied Abkhazia: Was our Reaction Actually Adequate?
- Pence’s Visit to Georgia: Several Lessons and What We Should be Expecting
- Is it Acceptable for Georgia to Declare Neutrality?
- Georgia’s European Perspective in the Context of EU’s Future Evolution
- Brexit Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been re-launched: What will be their Influence on Georgia?
- How to Stop the “Creeping Occupation”
- Kremlin’s Policy in the Occupied Regions of Georgia Moves to a New Stage
- Syrian Civil War in the Context of Regional Security
- The Winnable Second Round of Russia’s Neighbors’ Struggle against Its Imperialism
- Turkey’s Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Context of Regional Security
- Post-Soviet States – Struggle for the Legitimation of Power
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia – The Triumph of the Governing Party
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia: Sagsyan’s post-elections plans
- Military Resilience - a Needed Factor for NATO-Partners
- US Foreign Policy: The Law of the Pendulum
- Observations on the Agreement Reached with Gazprom
- New Russian Weaponry in the Caucasus and Its Impact on Georgia’s NATO Aspiration