Among Three Fires
06 February, 2015
Among Three Fires
Georgia and Ukraine are trying to squeeze themselves into the favors of the West whereas Russia has declared the holy war on the selfsame West, especially the US.

As it seems, Georgia is currently caught between three fires, so to speak, and the heat in between those three flames is gradually turning into a stifling blaze. One of the fires is Russia, the other is Ukraine and the third happens to be, let us say, the West. I don’t remember
this country’s international stance being as precarious as it is now, even during the hardest years of its becoming an independent state as a consequence of the grand soviet breakup. At that difficult time, the trickiness of our international position was somewhat understandable, but now, when we are a full-time sovereign nation, claiming a seat among the NATO and EU member countries, and all our decisions are autonomously made – seemingly, at least – our political bungles might trigger a lot of raised eyebrows if we err seriously. We might be allowed to slip up slightly, and our minor blunders could be taken in stride by international community, but if we get it wrong real bad, we will certainly find ourselves in a very unpalatable mess. Who wouldn’t say that living in the chasm between the devil and the deep blue sea, as we are now, is not easy at all, but when the time of political accounting comes round, Georgia might start feeling very uncomfortable and lonely because nobody will put our blames on their own shoulders for a simple reason that all those friends of ours worldwide will most probably have to mind their own screwed up businesses in terms international. To put it plainly, Russia and Ukraine are at war. Georgia and Ukraine are on friendly terms with plenty of helpful interaction going on and a lot of longstanding goodwill working on both sides. Russia and Georgia have long been at daggers drawn for very well known territorial problems, which Georgia has desperately been trying to tackle rationally with no reaction on part of Russia. Georgia and Ukraine are trying to squeeze themselves into the favors of the West whereas Russia has declared the holy war on the selfsame West, especially the US. This is in brief the current international situation in which Georgia’s place is extremely delicate, to put it mildly. Well, Georgia is fragile as an international player in general, so nobody is overly surprised at the delicacy of its position on the world arena. Now the dilemma for the worrisome Georgian government is how to behave on the background of the suggested state of affairs. The overall governmental attitude is that Georgia should not make a lot of waves in relation to other countries and keep its scanty apple cart in balance so that if it is upset all of a sudden, we the people could make a peaceful survival anyway. Well, this sounds reasonable enough, doesn’t it? Of course, it is easier to say than to do all that. Keeping the country in favorable political equilibrium in as much troubled world as it presently seems to be, would probably take a genius to fulfill. This is why there are more questions than answers in our society when the discourse is in progress about Georgia’s being among the mentioned three fires. Georgia’s support for the friendly Ukraine is a sacred international obligation and a matter of political integrity. Can we eschew the responsibility? Probably not! Constructive dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia has also loomed as inevitability that Georgia cannot afford keeping away from. Georgia cannot either turn its back on the West which has lately done so much to let us endure enumerable social, economic and political quandaries that came around in the crises-ridden post-soviet era. Having all this as a given, Russia is at war with other two ‘fires’ that Georgia is scorched by because Georgia is right there in the middle of the belligerent sides, dangerously caught up among the three fires. ‘Fires’ could be added in principle, and those would be other players in the region like Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia, each with their own historical claims concerning Georgia. So the number of ‘fires’ may very well exceed umpteen! So what to do? I bet on million dollars – having not even a cent in my piggy bank – that nobody has a qualified ready answer in this country. And beyond its boundaries too! I might consider only one version of the answer – although only ideologically formatted – modestly provided by one of our political scientists and diplomats, who says that the solution might be in looking within this nation for what will help, not who will help. Georgia, as a country of global consequence has to quickly and clearly determine its current national exigencies and adapt its political methods and strategy to those exigencies as well as to the needs and demands of the world around, rendering its internal and foreign policies well-matched, and skillfully using its geopolitical resource to reinvent its international function in the globalized world. Kill me if I am wrong, but I truly see something very rational in this type of conceptual insight into Georgia’s current international situation which needs to be rectified based on the compatibility of Georgian national interests with the interests of every regional player who Georgia has to do with. To make all this more conceivable, I have asked the author of the idea Professor Zurab Khonelidze to answer the questions, sounding more specifically in the context, which follows hereafter:
Destiny of Georgia as Seen by Zurab Khonelidze

– What has prompted you to create the concept, called “South Caucasus – GeoPolitical Space (New Format of regional cooperation)”?

Professor Zurab Khonelidze:

– Firstly, the necessity!
Inside the country: It is necessary to help our society, the authorities of this country and its political elite to comprehend and embrace not only the notion of ‘motherland’ as such, but the significance of a modern nation state, which gives us the opportunity to serve that nation state without pointless efforts and preposterous sacrifices.
Outside the country: We must demonstrate to the rest of the world the actual value of Georgia, which should be considered not only as a qualitative entity, based on its (relatively dormant) versatile resources but also as part of a certain geopolitical space – the South Caucasus. Secondly, the need! The idea needs to be made a subject of public and societal discussion, not only the topic of state-level discourse. Thirdly, the obligation! I and others truly feel obliged to give back to our country the accumulated knowledge and experience we have gained from a variety of spheres

– What is the main subject of research of your project?

– Georgia and the South Caucasus!

– Why the South Caucasus?

– The world today is mostly governed by current and future interests of the main players of global politics (i.e. U.S., EU, Russia, China) to possess natural resources, control the movement of those resources and make use of international markets. The interest towards Georgia is mainly due to its regional geopolitical and geo-strategic space. The South Caucasus – Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia – is one of the most important crossroads in the world and is already heavily relied upon by the main global players. By the very nature of its location, the South Caucasus must be a free and open space belonging to the entire world, not just one particular super state.

– What is it that you want to achieve specifically?

– To provide for Georgia the niche in world politics which would be most compatible with its naturally determined historical function; and then to work to balance the interests of major world players in the region, using the entire space and influence of the South Caucasus because the Georgian space is not enough for achieving this goal.

– And what is Georgia’s naturally determined historical function?

– In our era, Georgia has been both the geographical and cultural junction for various civilizations, playing its role of a connecting bridge between the East and the West. Georgia is itself a mix of the cultural features of both the East and West and has always been a model of cultural diversity and religious tolerance. Georgia has an ability to demonstrate to the East and the West the necessity, propriety and significance of cooperation between them. Such a role for Georgia has not been contemplated and implemented well enough by the Georgian authorities of various periods.

– Isn’t this an exaggerated evaluation of Georgia’s international functionality? Is today’s Georgia ready for this role? And what did you mean when you said that Georgia’s space is not enough to accommodate the interests of major geopolitical actors?

– No, it is not exaggerated because Georgia has every reason and ability to create the space (arena) for harmonious political agreements and accords on global, regional and national levels. This is corroborated by our historical roots. I am not talking about the Georgia as it is today - but about the new peace-making space which can be created by Georgia, which in this space can potentially acquire an international function, and by necessity, not appertain itself to any particular orientation or civilization. And the only way for Georgia to acquire this international function is for it to effectively widen its space of activity to include the entire South Caucasus; accommodate the concerns of major global players interested in the region; and finally to achieve the integration of the unified geopolitical space of the South Caucasus into the modern system of international relations.

– As I have understood, the power of Georgia is in its historical diversity and its effectiveness rests in widening the space of activity as part of the South Caucasus. Could we say that this is the only choice for Georgia?

– Absolutely. There is definitely a new world order we must recognize. We can either take our rightful place within that order – or be totally consumed by it. Moreover - this is not only our choice, but our destiny!

– And how do you want to implement your project which has stirred my imagination too?

– Implementation of this concept will require access to governmental resources as well as the support and united action of our society, authorities, political elite and the Church. Of course it must also include a coordinated strategy of consultation and interaction with the global players as well as all of our regional partners, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Ukraine, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, etc.

– Are you optimistic about the success of this concept?

– Yes, as this concept encompasses all aspects of regional cooperation: economic, cultural, religious, political, educational, defense, Diaspora, energy security, etc. – and most importantly - must be implemented with and through real projects. Such projects already exist and are ready for implementation.

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