Lincoln Mitchell on Lavrov, Macmaster and Georgia’s Future
03 March, 2017
Perhaps the most memorable thing that happened at the Munich International Defense Conference, that is, aside from the thinly veiled ultimatum delivered by Defense Secretary Matis to NATO allies on the latter’s need to increase their financial contributions to the Alliance, was Sergey Lavrov’s sweeping speech. Russia’s controversial foreign minister had a go at a wide variety of subjects, ranging from criticism towards OSCE to what he believes the Post-Cold War world order should be like, including the relations with Georgia.
Lavrov lost no time in declaring Georgia as a transit corridor for terrorism, earmarking the police cooperation from the Georgian side in this regard as one of the prerequisites for a possible visa-free regime with Georgia. However, Lavrov’s speech was not the only bit of international politics that was discussed in Georgia during the last week. The appointment of General Mackmaster as a national security advisor of President Trump also piqued the interest of Georgia. Unlike Flynn and his sympathetic (at least) stance towards Russia, Mackmaster seems to be a proper Hawk: just what Georgians would like him to be.

“H.R. McMaster is a very different kind of choice than Michael Flynn,” said political analyst Lincoln Mitchell in an interview with GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV show. “McMaster is very much from the mainstream on conservative foreign policy thinking. He is hawkish on most issues, but neither fanatical, given to conspiracy theories or prone to seeing the world in racist terms the way Flynn was. For Georgia, this is a very good sign, as both McMaster and Defense Secretary Mattis are wary of Russia and inclined to support American allies in the region who are threatened by Russia, such as Georgia. The major questions that will be answered in the next weeks and months is whether the Mcmaster/Mattis faction will have more power than the pro-Russia Bannonites in the administration; and how Putin will react if they do.

“If the McMasters/Mattis faction wins out, I would expect to see sanctions on Russia remain in place and the US continue to at least rhetorically support Georgia’s getting into NATO. If the Bannonites win, I would expect McMasters to have a short and unhappy tenure at the NSC and to see the US become less involved in the region,” said the analyst, who also commented on Lavrov’s Munich Security remarks, stressing it was “hypocritical” of Russia to talk of solving conflict with the West.

“If you don’t want a conflict with the West, don’t create it,” Mitchell said, adding that Lavrov’s remarks on post-Cold-War order and trilateral dialogue with the US and the West carried the air of self-aggrandizing. “We should be careful with these terms. Maybe many people in Georgia won’t be pleased to hear this, but I think when we’re talking about Cold War analogies, about the new Cold War, we might be overstating Russia’s strength quite a bit. In a global sense, Russia is not the power that the Soviet Union was. This is not the bipolar world. If there are two [super]powers in the world, its China and the US, not Russia.”
The San-Francisco based analyst also offered his views on how the White House and Kremlin should approach the problems of Ukraine and Georgia, saying that behind the scenes deals would only result in more harm.

“Washington and Moscow should not be sitting down at the table making deals on the fate of Georgia and Ukraine without the leadership [of these countries],” Mitchell said. “And I think you’ll have to view these two separately. There is a sense in Washington, when you talk to people privately, that Crimea is lost, its gone and [they think] that perhaps the smarter thing for Ukraine would be to behave like it already lost Crimea. Regarding Georgia, it’s a little different. What would the deal be regarding Georgia and Russia? What more does Russia want in Georgia? Russia’s real goal in Georgia is not to let it become a NATO member, but frankly, they’re doing that anyway. Does Russia really want to set tanks on Rustaveli Avenue? I know it’s an unpopular thing to say [to Georgians], but I don’t really think Russia wants that - I don’t think it’s worth it.”

By Vazha Tavberidze

Source: Georgia Today