In the image
Georgian flags in a national celebration [Genadi Yakovlev]
Georgia holds a very important place in the current events, due to its geopolitical location and its political status. Ever since the war in 2008, the two Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, in the region of South Ossetia have been occupied by Russia. On February 24th, 2022, everything changed. Russia invaded Ukraine.
One of the reasons awarded by Vladimir Putin for the invasion was the genocide Ukrainian people were committing against the Russian ethnic people living there. He is seeking the ‘denazification’ of Ukraine, he has said he is protecting the Russian ethnic minority. This leaves Georgia in a very difficult and vulnerable situation. It opens the question to the world of whether Russia is going to launch a full-scale invasion in Georgia to protect its Russian ethnic minority? Furthermore, the invasion of Ukraine has also been interpreted as a message, especially to the Eastern European countries not to join NATO.
The Russo-Georgian war of 2008 has already undermined Georgia’s sovereignty through the occupation of the two provinces. Interestingly, in recent years Russia has granted the majority of the Abkahz and the South Ossetians Russian citizenship. This is a tool of geopolitics that other regimes in Europe used, such as in the Sudetenland in the 1930s. The use of Russian citizenship to create a ‘protected’ population residing in a neighboring state further undermines the country's sovereignty. Among the Russian goals of the 2008 war were bringing down President Saakashvili and replacing him with a more pro-Russian leader in Tbilisi. Furthermore, Moscow sought control of the South Caucasus energy corridor, the East-West corridor. If a pro-Russian regime were to be established in Georgia, it would bring the strategic Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline under Moscow’s control.
However, the list of reasons awarded by Putin do not appear to be wholly convincing, they’re simply excuses. Perhaps the main reason is the wish to recreate a sphere of influence. Putin himself grew up in a time when the USSR was at its peak, especially when Breznev was in power. There’s nothing worse than a wounded pride. And that’s what happened to Russia as a result of the fall of the USSR in 1991. The bear was left wounded and now it seems to be seeking to regain its old influence. As is evident by the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and now the full-scale invasion.
Georgia's attitudes towards the war between Ukraine and Russia are divided. The government is hesitant on how much support should be given. As aforementioned, the fact that Georgia shares its borders with Russia, reinforces the fact that the decision making should be closely monitored. Is the government employing a policy of appeasement towards Moscow, as newspapers claim? Kissinger describes the policy of appeasement as ‘the foreign policy of pacifying and aggravating the country through negotiation in order to prevent war’. This policy was employed by the British and the French
towards Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Unfortunately, this policy proved to be ineffective. Then, why would the Georgian government be enforcing a policy which failed in the past and didn’t prevent a war? Is that the only option available?
On March 18th, the Georgian newspaper Netgazeti published an article which titled the following, ‘The next 10 steps on the road to EU membership - a civil society initiative.’ Georgia applied to the European Union earlier in March 2022 at the EU leader’s Summit in France. The European Commission assessed Georgia ́s application and has proved to be ready to cooperate. The aim is to strengthen Georgia’s democracy, protection of human rights and social benefits and security. The country's entrance in the EU has been heightened by current events. As aforementioned, an interpretation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a message to neighboring countries not to approach NATO and by extension the EU. It is not a coincidence that if a map of Europe is brought up, there is a gap of countries between the Russian Federation and the members of the EU and NATO (Image 2). It seems as if there is a ‘barrier’ or perhaps a remaining Russian sphere of influence. If so, then Georgia's democracy is in danger.
The European Commission’s response to Georgia's wish to join the EU stated that ‘The ongoing war in Ukraine has shown the unconditional importance of the Europeanization process not only in terms of political, legal and social development, but also in terms of the country's security’. What’s meant by ‘Europeanization'? It is generally understood as the domestic impact of, and adaptation to, the European governance in the EU’s member states. It consists in the external projection of internal solutions. In the early 1970s François Duchêne introduced the label a ‘civilian power’ to describe the EU. A ‘civilian power’ as opposed to a ‘military power’. It refers to both means and ends, to the use of civil instruments of governance rather than the use of force, and to civilizing the international system by transforming it into a system of rule-based governance according to its own model.
It comes without saying that the Russian Federation would not be interested in another nearby country to join the EU nor NATO. It would be perceived as a threat. Considering the fact that Stalin was born in Georgia is of great importance. For Stalin it was vital that his homeland was subdued to the Soviets. Nonetheless, the probability that Georgia joins the EU soon is rather complicated. Since the process is very long. It would suppose a large list of requisites and constitutional and political reforms. The presence of institutions stable enough to guarantee a state of democracy and human rights amongst other requisites are necessary. Yet, the window of opportunity remains open, whether Georgia is accepted in the EU or not is yet to be determined.
Hopefully Georgia won’t be invaded, nor will it be left alone against any aggressors seeking to undermine its sovereignty as an independent state.