27 June, 2013
Georgian society is caught up in a multitude of internal political problems and this affacts its foreign policy. Key issues are not in the limelight any longer, as they once were, albeit still omnipotent and strategic. In spite of the range of issues that remain important to Georgia, the region, and the international community, NATO integration and gaining EU membership remains paramount to Georgia’s policy direction. All other issues, even collectively – on the domestic level are less important –
and issues of so called “cohabitation” of former regime and current democratically elected government draws attention away from a larger and more pressing discussion. It is a matter of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
Georgians know only too well the problems they faced and are facing, as reflected in dragged-out fight between the defeated previous administration the current majority government of ruling political coalition: “Georgian Dream,” and “National Movement of Georgia”, which is described by many as resembling the Nazi, and is willing to do anything to cling to power or to redeem itself, or at least stay out of jail. Their blunders are well documented, and not only in the sphere of foreign policy.
Meanwhile, the show goes on but the word “geopolitics” gets lost in contemporary Georgian political lexicon. Georgians’ eyes are focused on what is happening at home, which is intrinsic to political pundits. Not a single politician or public sector representative views seriously the events that are currently occurring around Georgia.
However, the term “geopolitics” that is ‘lost in politics’ (certain euphemism and an allusion to the well-known Hollywood movie “Lost in Translation”), still really matters, and very soon failure to take heed could result in some very serious challenges; and this nonchalance could harm genuine Georgian national interests. When it comes to the issue of territorial integrity and international recognition processes of breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, these issues are not exclusively back-burners: soon they are going to be very hot and tropical.
Georgia’s foreign policy orientation is still irreversible, and still, much depends on NATO and EU membership. Nevertheless, global geopolitical problems, like civil war in Syria, Russia-US stalemate over strategic armament issues, Islamic radical group rising in South Asia, realization of geo-economics projects (like the “South Stream” gas pipeline), “great power” clashes for influence over Artic zone, “Iranian dossier on nuclear weapon”, etc. At least some of this collection of issues is truly linked to the Georgian regional geopolitical code development, and if attention is not paid, trouble will loom on the horizon in the nearest future.
We can identify the following predictable problems:
Geo-economic project realization: prior to the much touted “Rose Revolution” of 2003, Georgia used to be a very prominent energy gateway; it served as the transit point that made global economics between “West” (US, EU, and NATO) and “East” (CIS, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEAN), not only more effective but reliable as well. The realization of the oil and gas pipeline - for instance, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, Akhalkalaki-Kars railway project, “Nabucco” gas pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Poti oil pipeline – those are only part of greater geo-economic projects, which were quite prominent, and they stood out as an instrument to increase Georgia’s foreign policy potency and reinforce its regional status quo at large.
However, despite the pro-western orientation, professed by Mikhail Saakashvili’s regime, these truly western geopolitical projects have been suspended and ceased their development in the light of current difficulties at the home front. And just the opposite, especially in the wake of the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, the geopolitical landscape at the regional level sufficiently and drastically changed in favor of geopolitics, inclined to the Kremlin course. The development of geo-economic projects is starting to fall under Russia’s influence. Official Moscow is taking the initiative, further promoting its own geo-economic project of “South Stream” gas pipeline and joining the “Nabucco” project as one of the key stakeholders.
The Akhalkalaki-Kars railway development is lost in time, though it promised to be the most effective geopolitical processes taking place in the South Caucasus. Even pro-western oriented Turkey stated its staunch desire to join the Eurasian Customs Union; prior to that, it was engaged with gaining access into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, at first, with observer-membership status. Moreover, Ukraine became an Associate member of the Eurasian Custom Union, the Kremlin geopolitical project that aims to set up the “Soviet-type” new Eurasian Community led by Putin regime. In that respect, Georgia’s geopolitical mission is still unknown, underdeveloped and actually declining. However, Georgia is strong enough to fully realize its national interests and with time, get back to the right track and recover from the damage inflicted by the previous regime and some of its ill-fated decisions.