Georgia is a small country in the South Caucasus. The country shares borders to the North with the Russian Federation, to the East with Azerbaijan, to the South with Turkey and Armenia and to the West with the Black Sea. During the whole era of the historic development, Georgia’s unique geographical location at the strategically vital crossroads between Eastern Europe and Western Asia played the most decisive roles in political, economic and cultural aspects of the country. Georgia’s easy access to the Black Sea ports brings the country into significant worldwide attention and has many times been the center of geopolitical interests of the worlds’ greatest Empires, including the Russian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Roman and Persian Empires etc.
During the Soviet era, Georgia had been a part of the Soviet Union. Under the umbrella of the USSR was formed Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, in 1922. For almost seventy years Georgian people had to accept Soviet ideology beliefs which were grounded in the fundamental principles of Communism (Rondeli, 2001). However, In the immediate afterward of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, on April 9th, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of Georgia passed the resolution on the restoration of independence of Georgia out of the shadow of Moscow (Neidze, 2003).
Though, during the early post-Soviet period, furious economic crises erupted in the number of former Soviet Republics, shaped with massive internal contradictions that the countries were confronted with to the way of independence. Georgia was one of those republics. Ethnopolitical conflicts in the country in the late 1990s, turned into a civil war, resulting the formation of Abkhazian and South Ossetian separatism, hugely supported by Russia. The war ended with expelling the first President of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia from his homeland and undermined the legitimate government of the country. The civil war drastically weakened Georgia’s economy and resulted in the so-called unresolved “frozen conflicts”. Despite the frequent meetings between Eduard Shevardnadze and Boris Yeltsin in Moscow in 1990s, over the peaceful resolution of the Georgian conflicts, the negotiations appeared to be pointless since they inevitably ended in deadlock (Koiava et al., 2017; Lomia, 2017; Pavlishvili 2011; Pavliashvili, 2013).
As highlighted by King (2008) Russian-Georgian five-day war in August 2008 has demonstratively reflected that small countries are still facing serious security dilemmas in the 21st century and they are still threatened by big powers to play according to the rules of their games. Russia’s military intervention in Georgia and recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states showed the international community that Russian “pattern is still on work”. The war drastically worsened the political climate between Tbilisi and Moscow and marked another deterioration of the mutual relations between the neighbouring countries.
Today, 20% of Georgian territories are occupied by the Russian Federation. In addition to Russia’s economic leverage against Georgia, mutual relations between the countries have sharpened recently over Russia’s illegal borderization of the occupied Georgian territories (Lomia, 2020). The Russian-baked separatist forces continuously install and erect barbed-wire border posts in one of the occupied regions of Georgia- South Ossetia and detain Georgian people, under the pretext of “illegally crossing the border”. Fundamental rights of the local population are violated daily since the occupants install barbers through people’s houses, gardens and cultivated lands. Whilst, Russia's propaganda machine grows stronger in the post-Soviet space, the Georgian government sees European integration as the only solution to secure its people from the threats coming from Russia.
The European Union is a unique international organization consisting of 28 European countries. The goals of the organization are to promote economic, political, legal and social development for member states. It was created on the basis of the Maastricht Treaty, which entered into force on November 1st 1993 and right from the very beginning, its fundamental objective was to strengthen democratic principles, increase collaboration and inclusion within the European Union and ensure lasting peace and stability in post-war Europe (Charter of Fundamental Right of the European Union, 2000); (lomia T. and Lomia, E., 2020).
The EU played a crucial role in ending the Russian-Georgia war. On 19 August, at a meeting held in response to the request of France, Council members discussed ways to ensure implementation by all the parties of the six-principle ceasefire agreement sponsored by the European Union presidency and agreed on 12 August 2008. On behalf of the EU French President, Nicolas Sarkozy took full responsibility in negotiation between the sides. The six-point ceasefire proposal are is following: (a) the commitment to renounce the use of force; (b) the immediate and definitive cessation of hostilities; (c) free access to humanitarian aid; (d) the withdrawal of Georgian forces to their places of permanent deployment; (e) the withdrawal of Russian forces to their lines of deployment prior to 7 August 2008; and (f) the convening of international discussions on lasting security and stability arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Repertoire of the practice of the Security Council, 2008/2009).
The “Geneva International Discussions” was launched in 2008 with the aim of addressing the consequences of the Russian-Georgian conflict and is under the auspices of the EU, UN (United Nations), OSCE (Organization for security and cooperation in Europe) and USA (the United States of America. In other words, Geneva format is a political dialogue between Georgian and Russian sides (including the de-facto authorities of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi) (Jeppsson, 2015).
The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) started its monitoring activities on Georgian territories on 1 October 2008 and has since been patrolling both day and night, particularly in areas adjacent to the Administrative Boundary Lines with the Russian-backed separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (EUMM, 2019).
The main purpose of the work is to analyze Russia’s growing threats to Georgia and Georgia’s European aspiration following the disintegration of the USSR after which the country regained independence. From the mentioned perspective, the work is divided into two main parts. In the first part, the author studies the main obstacles and difficulties of the foreign policy of Georgia in the following of the break-up of the Soviet Union. In the second part, the origins and fundamental objectives of the EU are highlighted whilst the main focus is on Georgia’s European aspiration (Kikutadze and Tabatadze, 2016: 56).
- Russia’s growing threats to Georgia (Russian-Georgian war and its aftermath)
On August 8 2008, when the world was focused on the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, another breaking news on television has attracted worldwide attention. Russian tanks rolled across the border into the Republic of Georgia following the months of violent instabilities in one of the separatist regions of Georgia-South Ossetia, between the local Georgian and South Ossetian secessionist forces.
The five-day war ended with the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states by Russia and brought innumerable damages to Georgian economy, and hundreds of dead humans; thousands of refugees were forced to leave their homeland. Russian air forces bombed and destroyed Georgian air and naval bases, apartment buildings, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Western media was quick to draw a parallel between the political events of 1968-1938 and Russia’s War in Georgia. More concretely, when Leonid Brezhnev intervened militarily in former Czechoslovakia and Adolf Hitler invaded Sudetenland in 1938. As Highlighted by King (2008), unlike the historic events of 1938 and 1968, in 2008 “older and more typically Russian patters were at work”.
Although the two contradictory narratives have been created about which side started the war, however, on the other side, it appeared to be certainly clear that 2008 events have been an “impressive” power exhibition of Russia, since by doing so Moscow showed the rest of the world that it still considers Georgia “a sphere of its influence” and it still maintains its role as a great power among the world’s biggest players. Furthermore, Russia’s military intervention in Georgia was Russia’s direct response to the Eastern enlargement of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Georgia’s pro-Western orientation under Mikhail Saakashvili.
At the Munich conference on security policy, held in Germany on February 10th 2007, Russian President, Vladimir Putin strictly criticized the foreign policy of the USA, the idea of unipolarity and NATO’s Eastern expansion: “I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them”-stated Vladimir Putin (President of Russia, 2017).
As a consequence of several diplomatic meetings, during the NATO summit, held in Bucharest, in April 2008, the USA supported giving MAP (Membership Action Plan) to Georgia and Ukraine. The fact gained significant importance in Moscow, even, MAP does not guarantee the country’s acceptance in the Organization (NATO, 1949). Yet, at the summit, Putin publicly showed his criticism of granting NATO Membership Action Plan to Georgia and Ukraine: “The deployment of a powerful military bloc at Russia’s borders, whose members guide their actions by Article 5 of the Washington Agreement, will be perceived by Russia as a direct threat to its national security” (Koiava, et.al.,2017).
According to Asmus (2008), “the Kremlin decided to punish Georgia once the Bucharest NATO meeting resolved to consider offering Georgia (and Ukraine) a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at its next (December) meeting…This had to be stopped”.
Another significant aspect to consider is the construction of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which negatively influenced not only Russian-Georgian but also, USA-Russian relations, Kremlin perceived the pipeline as a direct threat for Moscow which would diminish Russia’s geopolitical hegemony in the South Caucasus. The USA, on the contrary, showed considerable interest in the region in the second half of the twentieth century, during which the vast reserves of oil and gas have been found in the Caspian Sea. Georgia’s geographical location, situated in the middle of Caspian and the Black Sea, made the South Caucasus country significantly attractive to the USA on the road of monopolizing rich Caspian resources.
As argued by Popescu (2011), “The paradox is that, until August 2008, Abkhazia and South Ossetia had been unrecognized but de facto independent states. In August 2008, after the war, they were partially recognized, although, in reality, both regions cannot be considered more independent than they were before. If the separatist war [of the early 1990s] was their ‘war for independence’, the war in August 2008 is the war which put an end their limited yet ‘de facto independence. The winner of the war was Russia and not the separatist movements. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are speedily transforming from ‘virtually independent states’ into territorial entities of the Russian Federation”.
As a result of the war diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia were terminated. Yet, in December 2005 Russia initiated a full-scale economic blockade against Tbilisi by banning Georgian products, including fruits and vegetables to the Russian market (Morrisson, 2019.
Yet in 2005 Russian embargo caused the economic collapse in Georgia since Russia has Georgia’s strongest trade partner and it appeared to be practically impossible for Tbilisi to replace Russian market into the other potential partner in the region. In October same year, Russia suspended railway, postal, aviation and automobile connections with Georgia which was restored only in 2013 following the power change in Georgia. In 2012 the so-called Abashidze-Karasin negotiation format was launched, which has been ongoing for seven years and achieved considerable success on humanitarian, trade and transport issues between two sides.
Recently, the “Gavrilov’s case” sparked furious outrage in Georgia, not only escalated the tension between official Tbilisi and Moscow but it has also demonstrated the weakness of Georgian political elites. While the country has divided into the two opposing sides that are constantly accusing each other in traitorous pro-Russian activities, Georgian TV journalist Giorgi Gabunia publicly insulted Russian President on his live show. Russian State Duma suspended airline flights between Russia and Georgia, Top Russian officials supported the idea of closing a Russian market for Georgia, by banning the imports of Georgian wine and mineral water in Russia, as well as banning the remittances between the two countries. However, Vladimir Putin opposed the economic sanctions against Georgia. “I would not do that out of respect for the Georgian people”-stated the President of Russia (FIRST CHANNEL, 2019).
Among the threats, risks and challenges facing Georgia, the most problematic issue is the Russian occupation of Georgian territories and the creeping annexation. The 2008 August War and the occupation of South Ossetia have significantly worsened the security environment of Georgia. With this Kremlin sent a message to the West that it still wants to establish control over Georgia (Modebadze & Kozgambayeva, 2018).
While 20% of Georgian territories are occupied by Russian Federation Russian-baked separatist forces continuously install and erect barbed-wire border posts in South Ossetia and detain Georgian people, under the pretext of “illegally crossing the border”. Fundamental rights of the local population are violated since the occupants install barbers through people’s houses, gardens and cultivated lands. Thus, the Russian government is expanding the so-called “borders” of the de facto republic of South Ossetia at the expanse of Georgian territories.
In addition to Kremlin’s “creeping annexation” of Georgian territories, Russia's propaganda machine grows stronger in the post-Soviet space. Along with hard power Russia has also been using soft power, to keep control of its former Soviet republics.
According to a study entitled 'Disinformation Resilience in Central and Eastern Europe' by the DRI - Disinformation Resilience Index’, currently, Georgia continues to face strong Russian propaganda. As highlighted in the study, it is an effective tool for Russia, since two countries share the same religious beliefs (Dewaest, 2019).
More than that, the Russian language is the most widely spoken foreign language in Georgia, especially in the old generation. Another aspect that also encourages Kremlin’s propaganda machine, is the nostalgia the elderly have towards the society of the past. Moscow takes advantage of this and promotes a sense of nihilism about European integration in Georgia.
- The Role of the EU as a Unique Supranational Organization and Georgia’s European Aspirations
In the first half of the 20th century, the European continent was the theatre of conflicts, which brought millions of dead humans and lots of destruction. For all of the centuries, Europe had a lot of bloody wars, only France and Germany for the period 1870 to 1945 fought three times. European leaders came to the conclusion that only economic and political integration can secure peace between their countries. The vision of a new Europe, which would overcome antagonistic nationalism, finally emerged from the resistance movements, which had resisted totalitarianism during the Second World War (History of the European Union).
On September 19, 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered his famous speech at the University of Zurich and voiced the idea of creating “a United States of Europe”. As he stated: “There is a remedy which ... would in a few years make all Europe ... free and ... happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe” (European Commission, 2019).
One of the most important steps towards European integration was the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community. The author of the idea was Jean Monet, who believed that the Coal and Steel Industry of Germany and France should be under the supervision of one supranational authority, which would control the production of these resources, and therefore no country would use them for waging war. The purpose of the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community was to prevent new wars and conflicts between France and Germany. In 1951, based on the Treaty of Paris, which was signed by six European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), the European Coal and Steel Community was founded (Modebadze 2015).
The next stage of the European integration process was the establishment of the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. The European Economic Community was created on 1st of January 1958, after the Treaty of Rome entered into force. After the establishment of the European Economic Community, the common market and united economic space was created, tariffs and customs duties were abolished, which facilitated the deepening of economic, commercial and trade relations between the European countries. 1992 is a turning point and a significant moment in the history of the European Union. In 1992, 13 states of the European Economic Community signed a Treaty of Maastricht which entered into force on 1st of November 1993. After signing the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union was formally established (Modebadze, 2019).
Today, the European Union is a unique international organization consisting of 28 European countries, which promote economic, political, legal and social development for member states. Right for the very beginning, its fundamental objective was to strengthen democratic principles, increase collaboration and inclusion within the European Union and ensure lasting peace and stability in post-war Europe (Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 2000).
The EU and Georgia enjoy an excellent relationship since the second half of the 1990s after which Brussels recognized Georgia as an independent state and started a mutual partnership with Tbilisi. In the framework of cooperation and assistance program initiated by the EU, the organization supports a prosperous, independent and strong Georgia. With the mentioned aim, the EU policy in Georgia covers the following areas of key significance: a strong economy, strong governance, strong connectivity and strong society and hugely contributes to the development of the democratic principles in Georgia by technically and financially supporting the post-Soviet country.
One of the most significant events in EU-Georgian relations has been Georgia’s visa-liberalization with the EU. It was a mutual agreement between the sides, signed on March 28th 2016, after which Georgia was granted visa-free travel in the Schengen area. "Georgia has done a great job and achieved much. Today is a historic day for all of us and especially for Georgian people who from now on will be able to travel freely into the Schengen area. It is an important step to build an even closer EU-Georgia relationship"-stated the president of the European Council Donald Tusk in recognition of Georgia’s visa liberalization (Delegation of the EU to Georgia, 2017).
The Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia entered into force on July 1st, 2016 and aims to „deepen political and economic relations between the EU and Georgia, also through the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). By removing customs tariffs and quotas and by comprehensively approximating trade-related laws and regulations to the standards of the European Union, the Agreement offers Georgia a framework for boosting trade and economic growth. This will facilitate Georgia's progressive integration with the EU single market“ (Ministry of Foreign Affair of Georgia, 2016).
The most importantly, the EU remains firmly committed to its policy of supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders as well as engagement with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in support of longer-term conflict resolution. Immediately in the wake of the August 2008 hostilities, the EU deployed the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to Georgia, which has been patrolling areas adjacent to the Administrative Boundary Lines with Abkhazia and South Ossetia day and night. This has reduced tensions and potential risks of escalation and contributed to stability throughout Georgia and in the surrounding region. Currently, EUMM has around 200 monitors working on the ground, and a 24/7 hotline, allowing the parties to the conflict to communicate on security-related issues to defuse tensions. The EU also welcomes Georgia’s support on EU security issues (Facts and figures about EU-Georgian relations).
Thus, the EU fully supports Georgia’s independence, respects its sovereignty and territorial integrity and calls on Russia to reverse its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. For this reason, the “Geneva International Discussions” was launched in the immediate afterward of the Russian-Georgian war in October 2008, with the aim of addressing the consequences of the Russian-Georgian conflict and is under the auspices of the EU, UN, OSCE and USA.
Russia’s foreign policy towards Georgia has passed through several increasingly unhappy phases following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, until today (2019). The mentioned period coincided with the terms of the four different governments in Georgia. The account shows that, paradoxically enough, despite all the possible strategies that have been taken by Tbilisi over a peaceful coexistence with its Northern neighbour, mutual confrontation and growing tension in Russian-Georgian relations have many times resulted in a number of direct and indirect conflicts in the two separatist regions of Georgia, which in turn, directly interferes with territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of the country.
Russia’s war in Georgia in 2008, marked another deterioration of Russian-Georgian relations, whilst the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states by Russia, in the immediate afterward of the war, has once again demonstrated not only deep crises but also a total failure of a possible future partnership between Tbilisi and Moscow.
Currently, 20% of Georgian territories are occupied by the Russian Federation. Russia’s “creeping annexation” and borderization policy in Georgia are major challenges and difficulties that Georgian statehood is facing today. Russian-baked separatist forces continuously install and erect barbed-wire border posts in Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) and detain Georgian people, under the pretext of illegally crossing the border whilst fundamental rights of hundreds of local population are vigorously violated, daily.
In Georgia, Russia actively manipulates with the following major instruments of hybrid warfare: “creeping occupation” and de-facto regimes; using soft power through propaganda and information war; economic expansion and covert operations.
It should definitely be emphasized that “creeping annexation” is not only an act of illegal occupation of Georgian territories, furthermore, Russia on the one hand aims at weakening Georgia’s economy and on the other hand tries to increase the dependence of Georgian export on the Russian market (clear illustration of the mentioned is Russia’s economic leverage on Georgia following the events which took place in Tbilisi over “Gavrilov’s case” in June 2019), interfering its Euro-Atlantic integration and diminishing the status of Georgia on an international stage by showing the rest of the world that the country is unable to independently carry out its political course without the support of Moscow.
Furthermore, Russian political strategy has undergone significant transformation in recent years by strengthening a soft power in the post-Soviet space which in turn is shaped with Kremlin’s powerful propaganda. Since the methods and tools used by the Russian media are becoming more refined and sophisticated in the twenty-first century, compared to propaganda used by the Soviet Union, it is one of the effective mechanisms of Kremlin to worldwide promote pro-Russian and anti-Western rhetoric.
Considering the fact that during the Soviet era Georgia has strongly been attached to Russia; historical proximity shared culture and religious beliefs are still deeply embedded in the perception of many Georgian people, particularly the old generation, who have lived and grew up in the Soviet Union. The mentioned makes it more productive for the Russian propaganda machine to work effectively on people’s sentiments.
On the contrary, Georgia seeks to become a member of the European family and distance itself from Moscow. The EU fully supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and welcomes its European aspirations. However, Russia perceives the EU as a strategic rival in the region and interferes with the mentioned process, which partly is due to Russia’s imperialist ambitions in the post-Soviet space.
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პოლიტიკის მეცნიერების დოქტორანტი
კავკასიის საერთაშორისო უნივერსიტეტი
სსრკ-ის დაშლამ და ცივი ომის დასრულებამ ფუნდამენტური ცვლილებები გამოიწვია მსოფლიო პოლიტიკურ სისტემაში. ყველაზე გარდამტეხი ეპოქა იწყება 1980-იანი წლების ბოლოდან, როდესაც მთელ რიგ საბჭოურ ქვეყნებში ანტიკომუნისტები მოდიან ხელისუფლებაში დემოკრატიული გარდაქმნების დიდი სურვილით. მოგვიანებით, სსრკ-ის დაშლის შედეგად მასში შემავალმა სახელმწიფოებმა დამოუკიდებლობა მოიპოვეს. არც საქართველო აღმოჩნდა გამონაკლისი. 1991 წლის 9 აპრილს ქვეყანამ დამოუკიდებლობა გამოაცხადა და დამოუკიდებობის პირველივე დღიდან განსაზღვრა მისი საგარეო პოლიტიკური კურსი: ევროპულ და ევროატლანტიკურ სტრუქტურებში ინტეგრაცია. ამასთანავე, ევროკავშირისა და ნატოს „საბჭოთა გავლენის სფეროში“ გაფართოების მცდელობის პარალელურად რუსეთმა გაზარდა თავისი პოლიტიკური და ეკონომიკური ბერკეტები ყოფილ საბჭოთა სივრცეში, „რბილი ძალის“ გამოყენებით. ეს ემსახურება ერთი მხრივ სამხრეთ კავკასიის რეგიონში რუსეთის გავლენის აღდგენასა და შენარჩუნებას, ხოლო მეორე მხრივ, აღნიშნული აღიქმება როგორც აშშ-რუსეთის ურთიერთობებში კიდევ ერთი მნიშვნელოვანი გამოწვევა, რომელიც ქვეყნებს შორის პოლიტიკურ-ენერგეტიკულ დაპირისპირებაში გამოიხატა. რუსეთიდან მომავალი მზარდი საფრთხეების პირობებში, ევროპულ და ევროატლანტიკურ სტრუქტურებში ინტეგრაცია საქართველოს საგარეო პოლიტიკის ერთ-ერთ უმთავრეს პრიორიტეტად განიხილება, თუმცა, მოსკოვი ხელს უშლის ზემოაღნიშნულ პროცესს და საქართველოს ტერიტორიულ მთლიანობას, თავისი გრძელვადიანი მიზნების მისაღწევად სამხრეთ კავკასიის რეგიონში.
საკვანძო სიტყვები: საქართველო, რუსეთის ფედერაცია, ოკუპაცია, ევროკავშირი, კონფლიქტები.
Conference paper, International Black Sea University (IBSU). HALC, the 4th international scientific conference in history, art, literature, and culture.
 Sergey Gavrilov, a member of the Communist Party of Russian Duma visited Georgia to participate in interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. Sergey Gavrilov addressed occupied the Georgian Parliamentary speaker’s chair and delivered a speech in which he praised enthusiastically the brotherhood of Georgian and Russian people under the same religious-Orthodox Christianity. His speech sparkled mass protests in front of the Parliament of Georgia resulted in resignation of the parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze.
The New Economist N3, (2020), Vol 15, Issue 2
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