GFSIS Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies - events. Pence’s Visit to Georgia: Several Lessons and What We Should be Expecting Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior-Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation The visit of the Vice President of the United States of America, Mike Pence, to Georgia has been completed. This, in itself, is a huge success, especially if we take into account two very important conditions: First – the configuration of the visit took us out of the South Caucasus regional context and coupled us with two Eastern European NATO member countries – Estonia and Montenegro. Second – the visit was parallel to NATO’s Noble Partner exercises. Together with these undoubtedly positive events, there are a couple of conditions that need to be analyzed in order for us to use our opportunities better in the future. Pence’s strong statements will not be very productive for Georgia and in fact may be counterproductive if the issue of Georgia will not re-appear on the agenda of bilateral negotiations between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. If this does not happen, Russia will quite rightly assume that the United States does not consider the issue of Georgia to be the first grade priority and will continue its tactics of the creeping occupation more actively. We are not aware of what our Prime Minister told the Vice President during their face-to-face meeting. In principle, there are two options in this regard: First – a clear and non-ambiguous request for the issue of Georgia to become an integral part of the negotiations between the United States and Russia; Second – a hint that Georgia will once again try to solve its problems with Russia through bilateral contacts and it is not necessary to provoke Russia any further. Hopefully, the Prime Minister chose the first option. The employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must remember the concept – Act as an Ally, which has been used by our diplomats in their relations with NATO. They must also remember how well this principle worked and how it managed to strengthen Georgia’s reputation and authority in NATO. We must not have abandoned this principle today either, especially given our main foreign policy priorities, which is joining NATO. If we have in fact abandoned it, then we have failed to pass the test due to the uncoordinated actions during the visit. In terms of the results, it is clear that the Georgian President’s proposal about the appointment of a Special Representative of the US President’s Administration to Georgia will not be implemented. The members of the US delegation, including the Vice President, saw very clearly that there is no common position, to say the least, in the Government of Georgia about this issue. Hence, our American partners will not wish to facilitate additional tensions in the domestic politics of our country through unplanned actions. One of the customs of diplomacy is that different branches of the government must have special communication before such important visits, mainly to synchronize their messages. In the given case, such communication was either not very effective, which is very bad, or it did not take place at all, which is even worse. As a result, the President put forward a proposal, which, as it would appear, was not agreed with the government. If this was the case, it was a serious mistake as even the best of proposals, when voiced in an unfavorable situation and at a wrong time, can become counterproductive. The diplomats are well aware of this. However, the previous mistake was followed by thoughtless and unacceptably worded statements made by the government and the Parliamentary majority MPs. Undermining the President’s statement was also a serious mistake. I believe that the latter assessments/messages are even more harmful as they confirm the level of disconnect between the government branches when dealing with the main strategic ally of our country. This harm could possibly overturn the positive effects obtained from the visit of the Vice President. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister have emerged as victors in this battle. On the other hand, both of their reputations, as well as that of our country in general, have been tarnished by this incident. Three conclusions can be drawn from the given situation: First – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is the key government institution for conducting the foreign policy of our country, especially in terms of the issues of coordination. It is possible that the Prime Minister’s entirely correct decision to elevate the status of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to that of the Vice Prime Minister was dictated by this consideration as well. It is necessary to use this institutional leverage more boldly. It is understandable that for a number of objective and subjective reasons it is not easy to perform this function of coordination, as it sometimes requires unpleasant discussions about difficult matters with the President and the Prime Minister. However, the state interests demand that this be done and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no real alternative in this field. Second – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be commenting on the results of the visit, including the proposals of the President. The diplomats know how to wrap even the most unpleasant messages without using absolutely inappropriate wordings when assessing the actions of the President. This is especially important when comes to Georgia’s relations with its main strategic partner – the United States of America. Third – it would have been good if the appropriate department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had prepared a compilation of major foreign policy messages and terms to be used to convey them. The usage of such a document by the politicians and public servants from different branches of the government would have helped us avoid mistakes. Now let us, for a minute, imagine a summarizing discussion/assessment between President Trump and Vice President Pence about the visits paid to the three Eastern European Countries and let us try to guess what conclusions these two people would draw. The Presidents of three NATO member Baltic States are united in their attitude towards Washington’s policies whilst in Georgia we do not even have an agreement between the President and the Prime Minister about the main messages to be conveyed to the United States. I would hope to be wrong about this; however, it is possible that after this visit the United States will think that they were too fast to place Georgia into a special configuration, together with two Eastern European NATO members. As already pointed out earlier, the geographic-political configuration of Vice President Pence’s visit was, in itself, a great victory for Georgian diplomacy. What can we do to balance the negative background, which has been created? First, we need to form and well-coordinated and convincing position, voicing it in Washington. The fact that this position brings together the opinions of the President of our country, as well as the Prime Minister, must not be under any suspicion. For this purpose, we need to use all the resources at hand, including the former Georgian Ambassadors to the United States of America. Many of them are in Georgia today and I am convinced they would be pleased to have an opportunity of serving their country once again. It is good that the current Ambassador of Georgia to the United States is also a quality professional – in a remarkably short while Mr. Davit Bakradze has already managed to initiate many beneficial proposals and implement projects. We must also remember that the government of the United States will receive information from its own embassy in Georgia as well. It would be very good if we could manage to maintain the geographic-political configuration used by the US Vice President during his visit in the future visits of the US and European Union high ranking officials as well. Taking the EU integration priority into account the Kyiv – Tbilisi – Chisinau triangle also seems to be an interesting option. The mistakes made by diplomats may not be noticeable on the surface, unlike those of a builder or a doctor; however, the mistakes made in diplomacy can cause irreparable damage not merely to specific persons or groups of people, but to the whole nation and the state. Fri, 4 Aug 2017 0:00:00 GMT Is it Acceptable for Georgia to Declare Neutrality? Author: Amb. Irakli Menagarishvili, the Chairman of the Strategic Research Centre Lately, the issue of Georgia choosing neutrality as a strategic option has once again been brought to the forefront of both the domestic discussion, as well as during the discussions of Georgia’s future among its foreign partners. Certain political forces and politicians are determined for the public to go back to contemplating this already well-discussed issue. Same recommendation can increasingly and clearly be heard from Moscow as well. Moreover, they are threatening with the devastating consequences for the country if such an option is disregarded. Because of all this, we deem it necessary to remind the public of some major facts about neutrality as a form of relations between the sovereign states, and also remind them of some of the arguments, which were the basis of the choice our country has made about this issue. Couple of Words about Neutrality The term neutrality describes the relations between states as well as a legal status of a state, which does not participate in the military actions between other states. A state can declare neutrality in the context of one specific conflict. That said, however, the practice of the international law also recognizes other forms of neutrality as well: Permanent Neutrality – refusal to participate in any future wars; Armed Neutrality – if, when declaring neutrality, a country reserves the right to maintain its armed forces and protect its status of neutrality Legal Neutrality (established through a domestic or international legal act) – examples include Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Moldova; Factual Neutrality (without any formal acts) – examples include Sweden and Finland; In our case, we are discussing the possibility of permanent neutrality as those who wish for Georgia to be neutral demand for us to choose this option specifically. Permanent neutrality means an international status recognized by others, which creates an obligation for the given state to refuse to participate in wars for good. The country only maintains the right to defend itself against external aggression. In addition, the state must also obligate itself not to join any bilateral or multilateral military alliances. The country with permanent neutrality cannot unilaterally refuse to hold this status later. Naturally, a country chooses a status of permanent neutrality in order to protect its independence and sovereignty and boost its security. Usually, such states are either small or medium-sized. As already pointed out above, the declaration of neutrality can be backed up through an international legal act (Switzerland, Austria, Turkmenistan); however, such a formal act might not be created at all and a country may simply become factually neutral. In addition to this, the country will necessarily be subject to all the obligations described above (Sweden and Finland). History remembers numerous cases when the states used the declaration of neutrality for getting the assurances of security. The number of successfully neutral countries, however, is much smaller. Let us try to find the underlying cause of this occurrence. What is the Reality? The international legal basis for permanent neutrality is not firm enough. Neither the operating legal acts nor their existing practice provide reliable guarantees of protecting neutral countries from external aggression. Hence, declaring one as permanently neutral certainly does not mean automatically receiving security assurances. The country seeking permanent neutrality will simply be deluding itself if more powerful countries do not approve of this case of neutrality and do not consider it desirable to their own interests. There are several clear examples of such painful lessons from not-so-distant past: Belgium was an internationally recognized and legally established neutral state from the 19th century. This did not prevent Germany to brutally violate its neutral status during both World Wars and occupy it. Ultimately, Belgium moved away from neutral status and became a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In 1956, after the anti-communist uprising, Hungary attempted to protect itself from external aggression by declaring neutrality. Despite this, however, the Soviet armed forces suppressed the Hungarian attempt to determine its own future in a bloody show of force. In order to boost the country’s security, more specifically to re-instate its territorial integrity and remove foreign armies from its soil, Moldova already tried out the way, which is now being offered to Georgia when in 1994 it officially declared its permanently neutral status in its constitution. Needless to say, this step did not bring the desired consequences. The examples presented above lead us towards two important conclusions: The formulation of the first conclusion I will borrow from Aleksandre Rondeli: "A neutral country cannot be an important object of another country’s policy." The second conclusion dictates that in order for the permanent neutrality project to be successful, the regional context, meaning what the environment around the country in question is like and who its neighbors are, is vital. This is especially true if you are being offered to declare neutrality by a neighboring state. It is not an overstatement when they say that a country’s neutrality is, in fact, a choice of its neighbors and should be upheld by them as well. This is why neutrality is a complete dependence on the neighboring states. You would probably agree that both of the conclusions presented above argue definitively against Georgia’s declaring of permanent neutrality. Some Additional Issues For the success of a permanent neutrality project, it is also necessary for a state to be able to defend itself. The best example for this is Switzerland. This small, mountainous country has a very effective military service, which is based upon the principle of territorial defense and is, according to the assessment of many experts, characterized with a very high combat-readiness. Switzerland’s defense system is one of the important guarantees of its neutral status. If we look at the list of neutral countries, it becomes obvious that the lack of external threats enables them to maintain their neutral status and abstain from joining any defensive alliances. Hence, neutrality is a luxury, requiring the country to be able to defend itself through its own forces alone, which, as of today, is an impossible thing for Georgia to do. In addition, such a decision excludes the possibility of alliances, which means that for Georgia, declaring neutrality would only mean refusing its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. If we look the truth in the eye, it becomes clear that the ultimate objective of our northern neighbor and those of our citizens who support neutrality is to change Georgia’s strategic decision. We have already pointed out that they are no longer hiding this objective. Moreover, Moscow demands this from Both Tbilisi and Kyiv. We should also remember that the foreign policies of the Russian Federation and its predecessor, Soviet Union, heavily featured and still feature the practice of the so-called forced neutrality. It was through the demands of the Soviet Union that Austria was forced to adopt neutral status. The issue of neutrality was a condition for the removal of the Soviet occupation forces from Austria and it was adopted through an agreement signed with the Soviet Union itself. There are some sources claiming that Stalin’s condition for agreeing to the unification of Germany was that the country should declare permanent neutrality. Hence, the Russian Federation is simply upholding the established tradition. Finally, let us quote an Austrian scholar, G. Storz, who, when discussing the permanent neutrality for small states, points out the so-called proximity paradox associated with this issue. "The proximity paradox manifests itself in a fact that was pointed out by Machiavelli himself – friends ask for alliances, whilst your enemies ask for your neutrality. This means that neutrality of a country is potentially more favorable for a hostile power, than for a friendly power or block." We would probably be wise to share this point of view. In Place of Conclusion Neutrality is not entirely foreign for Georgian foreign policy. Indeed, Georgia has a successful experience of using the policy of neutrality. This was the position Georgia took during the military confrontation between two of its closest neighbors. This was undoubtedly the only correct choice to make in that situation. It helped us to prevent the spillover of the conflict to the territory of our country and created a basis for a type of a balance in the region after the stabilization of the situation. Neutrality is an interesting instrument of international relations, which will hopefully be used by Georgia numerous times in the future as well. However, it will use it after serious discussions and in the interests of our country, not due to the dictates of an aggressively disposed neighbor. This is a neighbor, which first occupied a part of our country’s territory and is now trying to fully subvert Georgia to its influence. Wed, 2 Aug 2017 0:00:00 GMT Roundtable Discussion of Russian and Georgian Experts On July 27, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized a confidence-building meeting between Russian and Georgian experts and a roundtable discussion in the framework of the project "Georgian and Russian Experts Searching Ways for Normalisation". At the confidence-building meeting the project participants discussed the wide range of topics - Georgia’s progress on implementation of the Association Agreement, "Creeping Occupation" across the administrative border line with South Ossetia, Georgia’s NATO and European aspirations, conflict in Ukraine, Political and Economic situation in Russia and number of issues of regional and global importance having impact on Georgia-Russia relations. The roundtable "Georgia and Russia: Status of Relations, Problems and Perspective" organized in the scope of the abovementioned project gathered more than 25 Georgian and Russian experts and civil servants. The welcome address was delivered by Amb. Zurab Abashidze, the Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia for Relations with Russia, Ia Tikanadze, the Country Director of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Kakha Gogolashvili, the Director of the EU Studies Center at the Rondeli Foundation. The sessions of the roundtable covered various aspects related Georgia and Russia: political relations, regional and global foreign policy dimensions as well as conflicts and regional stability. The project aims to raise confidence between Georgian and Russian experts, identify ways for further normalization of Russia-Georgia relations through experts' contributions as well as to assist the existing formats of consultations between the parties to receive the new momentum. The project is implemented by the Rondeli Foundation in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). Thu, 27 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT Winners of the Competition "My World" The Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) in the framework of the project Youth Journal - My World conducted the 4th quiz for the students of the public schools of Tserovani, Zugdidi, Zoti and Khulo. The students with the best results received various prizes, such as personal computers and scholarships for the English Language Buckswood Summer School. The Rondeli Foundation has been publishing the journal My World and implementing activities for its promotion among the youth of Georgia since 2013 through the financial support from the US Embassy in Georgia. Wed, 26 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT Georgia’s European Perspective in the Context of EU’s Future Evolution Author: Kakha Gogolashvili, the Director of the EU Studies Center at the Rondeli Foundation The European Union is the best integrated and the most successful union of countries in the world. Only European countries can join the Union and from about twenty European countries, which have not yet become the member of the European Union, almost a half have a desire to join it as soon as possible. These countries include: The Associated countries from Western Balkans (Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo) The Associated countries of Eastern Europe (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). The motivations of the countries not seeking integration into the European Union at the given stage are quite different from one another. These include: Countries which have greater wealth than the European Union’s average (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland); Mini states, which cannot technically become full members of the European Union due to the extremely small size of their populations (Vatican, Monaco, Andorra and San-Marino); Countries which are under the Russian influence and have practically lost their ability to act independently on the foreign policy arena (Armenia and Belarus); Countries whose governments are quite scared by the criteria determined for the membership of the European Union (Azerbaijan). Today, the process of European integration has practically covered the whole sub-continent. The European Union itself is the nucleus of this process; however, around the nucleus and in the format of close partnership to varying degrees, almost all European countries are approximating and integrating with the EU structures. What are these formats? European Economic Area (EEA), which is a sort of an extension of the European internal market. Part of its members, which are not simultaneously members of the European Union, include Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland, benefitting from all four freedoms of the European Union’s single market and integrated into most EU policies. Switzerland can also be added to this group (despite the fact that it does not participate in the aforementioned agreement/format), as it has achieved very similar mode of relations with the European Union through numerous agreements of its own. All of these four countries are the members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It is not unlikely that the United Kingdom will join this association after leaving the European Union. Customs Union, which, apart from the European Union member states, also includes Turkey and three mini states of Monaco, San Marino and Andorra. Stabilization and Association Process, which has been designed by the European Union for the Western Balkan countries. This is the European Union’s program, which provides for the eventual signing of the Association and Stabilization Agreements with all Western Balkan countries (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo), establishing the free trade area between the European Union and these countries and creating a European perspective for them, including by granting the status of potential candidates. Croatia has been the member of the European Union already since 2013 whilst Montenegro is also very close to becoming a full member. The Eastern Partnership is a part of the European Neighborhood Policy, which opens the opportunities of close cooperation and approximation for six Eastern European (Post-Soviet) countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus). The multilateral dimension of this format uses the multilateral cooperation platforms between the six beneficiary countries and the European Union, which include thematic platforms, flagship initiatives and panels. The main element of the bilateral dimension of this format is the Association Agreement, which has been signed by three target countries thus far. It should be pointed out, that the remaining three countries that have not signed the Association Agreement are still deepening their relations with the European Union and signing new agreements with it. All of the facts discussed above make it clear that the European integration process is unfolding through some sort of concentrated circles and Georgia, together with other Eastern European countries, is situated on the outer (peripheral) circle, since these countries do not yet have a perspective of becoming the members of the European Union. All European states except Russia are either closely connected with the European Union structures or are approximating to it through legal or institutional means, transport and energy infrastructure networks, human contacts or participating into the common policies and so on. Only one state, Russia, does not express any desire of approximating with the European Union. It tries to create a gravitation around itself, which would balance the European integration process and is partly successful in this through various tough or soft methods, including the use of force and the threat of using force. Despite this, we can easily see that the attractiveness of the European Union is far bigger than that of Russia and the European integration process is moving forward. Ninety six EP members adressed EU leaders to support European perspective of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, May 20, 2015 It is clear that the enlargement of the European Union, which is currently moving rather slowly and weakly, represents the main element of European integration. Without enlargement, the European Union will not be able to include the whole sub-continent (excluding Russia) into its system of values and will also fail to fully expand its legal-institutional systems. The full stability and security of the European and NATO member states will also be much harder to maintain, especially given the extremely weakened role of the OSCE in these matters. In the future, the countries seeking membership of the European Union will have more ambitions to become full members. Fostering and developing these ambitions is a precondition for the fast and effective reform processes in these countries. A proper response from the European Union in order to protect the countries with European aspirations from Russian irredentism is also necessary, since the latter demands the "return" of the Post-Soviet area and does not recognize the sovereign rights of a number of countries to link their futures to those alliances and structures, which they prefer to be associated with. Despite the fact that the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) provides for (in Article 49) a right to submit application for membership, integrating into the European Union is very hard given the current conditions and takes a lot of time. Candidates, aspirants or potential candidate/aspirant countries may be ready to take on certain obligations from the European Union or fully participate in certain policies (for example: defense, energy, environment protection and others); however, in order for them to become full members of the European Union, they are also obligated to be ready to implement the norms of the European Union from both legal as well as institutional standpoints. On the other hand, the member states of the European Union are also obligated to fully participate in all policies and decisions (with small exceptions) and, in a number of cases, they are not able to do so comprehensively. European integration and increasingly close linkage of the countries around the EU nucleus is a sustainable trend. Parallel to this, the conditions for becoming a member state are becoming more and more difficult to meet and even the states, which are already members, find it hard to remain in the European Union and uphold all the obligations that they have. Given this situation and in order for the European integration process not to be hindered, the countries aspiring to full membership must be given the opportunity to join certain parts of the European Union policies upon their readiness, taking obligations connected to these policies only, also receiving the status of membership at the same time. In order to do this, the institutional setting of the European Union must be reformed completely. There are several, already existing, models that could be established in the future: Multi-Speed Europe – different countries will have the right to choose different speeds of integration. The list of countries with the highest quality of integration will consist of the Eurozone member states, followed by the countries, which are not Eurozone members but are in fact full members of the European Union. The third group will include the states, which are not members of the European Union but have a desire to get involved in various common policies, with the right of participating in the decision-making process. Concentrated Circles – has partly been included in the latest agreements of the European Union, as a result of which some countries participate in the extended cooperation format in the fields of defense and security, with deepened relations in these fields. The Lisbon Treaty (2009) provides for such a cooperation for a minimum of nine countries, if they so desire. Article 42 (6) of the Treaty provides for the structural cooperation in the field of defense, where a number of member states (eight countries) can make decisions through qualified majority and act without the participation of other countries. It should also be pointed out that not all the members of the European Union participate in the Eurozone or the agreement on Schengen Area, which exhibits the features of the differentiated integration. In the future, it is possible that such countries, which participate in all policies of the Union, will become the members of the "small circle." The members of another, wider circle, will maintain more sovereignty, including in the fields of defense and security as well as those of monetary and migration policies. The countries in the peripheral circle or those who joined recently could only have the right to participate in the single market. Both of the approaches discussed above still lack theoretical processing and hence have a multitude of modifications. The academia also refers to these phenomena as changing geometry Europe or differentiated integration. Georgia’s integration in the European Union in the future can be achieved in a way very different from the current enlargement process. More specifically, functional integration, which is being undertaken with the aim of deepening sectoral cooperation, could develop into a gradual and full integration into various policies of the European Union. This will then turn into a soft institutional integration, which will enable the country to participate in the European Union institutions, only to be present during the decision-making processes about the policies it will be fully integrated into. Tue, 25 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT Brexit Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been re-launched: What will be their Influence on Georgia? Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior Fellow of the Rondeli Foundation The decision of the population of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has significantly changed the political configuration of Europe. The negotiations between the delegations of the United Kingdom and the European Union were re-launched on 17 July 2017 in order to determine the conditions of the UK’s exit from the European Union. As the stated positions of the parties suggest, the negotiations will be both long and difficult. The parties will have to reach agreement about highly painful issues. As it has been suggested, the negotiations ought to be over by March 2019. Hence, Europe will be facing a new reality by spring 2019. What this reality will be like, we do not know. In general, we can allow ourselves to make the following assessment: either both sides will exit the process becoming stronger, or they will both be weaker as a result. The situation, in which only one side will be successful at the expense of the other, is practically impossible. It is more likely that the negotiations will end with near zero results. This is the least likely and the least desirable outcome both for the parties of the negotiations, as well as for Georgia. It is also quite concerning that, the attitude of "no deal is better than bad deal" has been expressed by both delegations in the run-up to the negotiations process. The result will depend upon the ability and readiness of the negotiating teams to reach compromise. It must be pointed out that due to objective reasons, the European Union delegation is facing a more difficult task since the results of the negotiations are closely observed and mandated by 27 EU member states. We should also not forget that the results of these negotiations must be subject to a complete consensus among the Union members. Georgia cannot influence this process. Nevertheless, we are interested in the negotiations resulting in a successful resolution and the consequent strengthening of both the European Union as well as the United Kingdom, as a result of successful compromises. The ability of the European Union to overcome this very severe challenge (the first, and hopefully the last member state leaving the European Union) is of an existential importance to us, given the main foreign policy priority of Georgia of becoming a full member of the European Union. Principled positions of the United Kingdom are also very important for Georgia, since the UK is our loyal political supporter on the international arena, including as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. UK is also an important investment and trade partner for our country. External Trade between Georgia and the United Kingdom (2012-2017, USD Million) 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 / 6 Months Exports 20.9 29.7 24.7 21.5 15.2 3.9 Imports 115.3 90.8 94.8 91.4 143.6 36.3 Turnover 136.2 120.5 119.5 111.9 158.8 40.2 The United Kingdom is also one of the top investors in Georgia. According to the data of the first quarter of 2017, the UK occupied the third position in terms of investments in Georgia with USD 80 million, following Azerbaijan (USD 97 million) and Turkey (USD 82 million). As for the economic cooperation perspectives between Georgia and the United Kingdom, the best possible option would be for the UK to maintain full integration into the single market of the European Union in a way, that would ensure the unimpeded functioning of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the European Union on the territory of the UK, even after the country had formally left the Union. All this is possible but certainly not guaranteed. The 27 member states of the European Union will delegate their mandate on free trade negotiations with the United Kingdom only in October 2017. It will depend upon the process of current negotiations about a number of other issues and their results. The examples to this include the rights of the European Union citizens in the United Kingdom, regime on the border between the Republic of Ireland (EU member state) and Northern Ireland (UK), agreement about the coverage of the financial obligations of the United Kingdom towards the European Union and so on. It should be taken into account that according to the assessment of the European Union, the United Kingdom must pay about EUR 60 billion (USD 70 billion). According to the data of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the GDP of the United Kingdom amounted to USD 2,629,188 million in 2016. Hence, the sum named by the European Union and to be paid by the UK constitutes a solid 2.67% of the 2016 GDP of the country. It is hence no surprise that, as of today, the United Kingdom does not recognize this kind of debt, at least in the given amount. It is not difficult to understand that reaching agreement about this issue will require a lot of resources from the negotiating parties. The mandate to be given by the 27 member states of the European Union for the free trade negotiations with the United Kingdom is largely dependent on the resolution of the abovementioned issue of payments. As already pointed out, the issue is a financial one and hence especially requires a full consensus between the member states of the Union. In order for us not to be dependent on the results of these negotiations and avoid any legal ambiguities connected with Georgia’s bilateral relations with the United Kingdom, it is necessary to take action. The situation formed in the process of negotiating Brexit influences Georgian interests directly. In order to avoid the risk of legal vacuum, consultations about free trade, as well as the legal basis for bilateral agreements with the United Kingdom must start immediately, if they have not begun already. The easiest path for the both sides to take would be to recognize the succession of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, on the one part, and Georgia, on the other part. The 23 August 1978 Vienna Convention on Succession of States in Respect of Treaties, includes all necessary international law mechanisms for this to be undertaken. The fact that neither the UK nor Georgia are the participants of this Convention will be of no hindrance in the case of the existence of political will, whilst the agreement itself can be put into power very easily – by exchanging the diplomatic notes. Thu, 20 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT How to Stop the “Creeping Occupation” Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior Fellow of the Rondeli Foundation Never has foreign policy been so important for ensuring the security of the Georgian state, as it is today and never have not only politicians, diplomats and experts, but the general population of the country as well, realized the importance of it. Georgian diplomats have often confronted cynically disposed opponents, as well as their offensive attitudes and attempts to belittlement. The code of diplomatic work used to leave such unpleasant cases behind the curtain where it belonged. Today, the whole nation is insulted by the actions of the Russian Federation, despite the fact that Georgia has been trying to build partnership with its Northern neighbor for almost five years since October 2012. A simple analysis of the situation at hand brings us to several conclusions. First, the new Georgian foreign policy is valuable to Russia only to the extent that it is no longer facing any problems in the international relations because of Georgia. The meeting between the United States and Russian Presidents in Hamburg was a clear example of this. A multitude of issues was discussed during the two-and-a-half hour meeting, including Russian involvement in the 2016 US elections, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS and North Korea. Neither Russian, nor the US sources and no journalists in any publications, talked about Georgia as an issue on the agenda or a point of discussion during the negotiations. The fact that we are no longer among the key issues of the international order is quite clear. What is worse is that such a trend will ultimately propel our diplomacy to the periphery, with all the consequences associated with this position. Second, the Russian government is testing the patience of the Georgian state through its policy of creeping occupation. It would appear that our government’s patience in this regard is much more flexible than the people’s, which creates an additional threat to Georgia’s stability. A question arises, whether one of the main objectives of the Kremlin’s creeping occupation policy is to undermine the stability of the Georgian state and consequently, that of the incumbent government as well. Third, as the initiative and reigns move to the Russian hands, we serve as secondary players. This is very unfavorable positioning. The art of diplomacy is in, on the one hand expanding your room for maneuver, also limiting the room for maneuver of the opponent on the other. In this regard, we certainly cannot boast to be very successful. Russia is no longer being pressured on the international arena because of Georgia – its room for maneuver consequently expanding. We are left one-on-one with Russia – our room for maneuver diminished. Convincing the Russians in something in a bilateral format as well as getting some results from it is much more difficult. We should also keep in mind that Russia does not particularly bother with actually upholding the agreements – examples for this being abundant in the history of our bilateral relations. Let us attempt to imagine a situation from the realm of fantasy: Russia has stopped military action in the Eastern Ukraine, returned Crimea back to Ukraine, as well as agreeing its positions with the United States and the European Union about Syria and North Korea. Sanctions on Russia are being lifted, it returns to the G8 and becomes and fully respected member of the international community. All this happens despite the occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. Such a perspective does not exactly inspire enthusiasm. Why did President Trump not pose the issue of Georgia in his conversation with the Russian colleague? Either the President did not consider it to be important enough or there was no appropriate, argumentative request voiced by the Georgian side at the highest possible level. The latter is rather difficult to imagine. Hence, the existing situation has two explanations: either the focus of the issue put by the Georgian side was not where it was supposed to be, or our arguments did not seem very convincing to our American partners. We must prepare the Prime Minister better for such meetings, especially given the fact that a lot of resources are spent on this. This is a great luxury for Georgia in the existing economic situation and must therefore be used at its fullest. As a result, Russia now feels much more comfortable on the occupied Georgian territories and boldly continues its provocations, primarily by the means of the creeping occupation policy. We will have a chance of correcting our mistakes at the end of July and beginning of August, during the visit of the Vice President of the United States of America to Georgia. The configuration of the Vice President’s regional visit (Estonia, Montenegro and Georgia) is very promising and can already be considered as a diplomatic victory, taking us out of the context of the South Caucasus region and approximating us with Europe. It is well understood that the statements supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia will be uttered during the visit – all this is very important in itself. That said it is no less important for the Vice President to specifically condemn the creeping occupation policy and, what is of utmost importance, underline that the issue of Georgia will remain on the agenda of the US-Russian negotiations. It would be good if the Georgian journalists asked a question about this during the Vice President’s press conference. It is necessary in foreign policy to declare your goals. It is better if your goals are further supported by vision and the system of principles and values. Such universally recognized principles of diplomacy include coherence, sustainability, heredity, which, upon implementation, make the foreign policy of a country more valuable and reliable for friends, and harder to cope with for the enemies. We can pose a serious competition to Russians in the field of diplomacy. We certainly cannot challenge them in terms of military and economic potential. As for diplomacy, a serious experience has been pooled since the declaration of independence, the system being filled with young people, who are well educated and free of the Soviet doctrine. However, what is more important, our position is further reinforced by the combined support of the norms and principles of international law, the international community and historical truth. Georgia is not waging war in the Krasnodar Oblast of Russia – it is defending its indigenous territories. In addition to this, we can boldly use our military potential on the territories controlled by us – this is both our right as well as our obligation, especially towards those of our citizens who live near the occupation line. We have the potential and we must act freely and boldly. Without resistance, Russia will surely continue the provocative strategy of creeping occupation. We have been witnessing this for almost nine years. It warrants a separate remark that, in the diplomatic practice, demarcation cannot be done without delimitation first, if, of course, brute force is not being used. There are several examples of this in history – such as the construction of the Berlin Wall by the Soviet Union in a couple of hours. Our active diplomacy must be complemented with bold actions near the actual occupation line. The very minimum objective for us must be to contain Russia at the de-facto occupation line as it stands today. It would be much better if this were done together with the international community, for example by effectively using the potential of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM); however, until we can achieve this, we must immediately do it through our own forces. What must be done immediately and without any hesitation is to demonstrate the abilities of our state near the occupation line. The essential components of this would be placing the permanent security outposts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (and not those of the Ministry of Defense of Georgia, as these are still de-jure our territories) and installing the video-surveillance systems equipped with night vision. Special effort must be focused on especially dangerous territories, such as the vicinity of the main motorway. Parallel to this, we must create a virtual map depicting the creeping occupation, with as much detail as possible and reinforced with the legally registered testimonies of the local population. Based upon these materials, we must become more active through the usage of both bilateral as well as multilateral diplomatic formats. We must also form a fund for stopping the creeping occupation. The businesses supported a very important program of Check in Georgia. It is highly likely that the support to this new fund will be much more active, including on the part of the ordinary citizens. The finances of the fund must be used in two main directions – supporting our citizens living near the occupation line and co-financing the actions taken by the state near the line. Among other issues, the creation of such a fund will facilitate the unification of our society in tackling the most dangerous of the challenges facing Georgia. It is time for us to start acting. Russia has managed to create a logic of developments favorable to its interests. We will not tolerate this. The alternative would be the status-quo, which means the lack of action and will further encourage the creeping occupation policy of the Russian Federation and deteriorate an already difficult situation. The Russian reaction will provide us with the grounds for further analysis and planning of our actions. Tue, 18 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT Panel Discussion "The Middle East - Current Challenges" On July 11, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized a panel discussion "Middle East – Current Challenges". The event was moderated by Irakli Menagarishvili, the Chairman of the Center for Strategic Studies, the speakers included Davit Batashvili, the specialist on International Relations and Giorgi Sanikidze, the Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Ilia State University. The speakers discussed the key players in the Middle East, the roles, policies and influences of Iran, Turkey, Russia, U.S. and the Gulf States as well as how these policies are interlinked. The speakers also talked about the developments in Syria and the fight against ISIS. They also discussed several possible scenarios of the developments in the Middle East region and the risks associated with each of them. The representatives of expert community, governmental and non-governmental organizations attended the event. The presentations were followed by an engaging discussion between the audience and the speakers. Wed, 12 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT Visit of the Delegation of Shanghai Institutes of International Studies On July 9-11, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted the delegation of Shanghai Institutes of International Studies (SIIS). In the framework of the official visit to Georgia, the members of the delegation met with David Zalkaliani, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Ketevan Vashakidze, the Head of Transport and Logistics Development Policy Department, Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia as well as with the representatives of non-governmental organizations: Georgia's Reforms Associates (GRASS) and Atlantic Council of Georgia. During the visit, the Rondeli Foundation organized the roundtable discussion "Economic Belt of the Silk Road: New Perspectives for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation" with participation of Georgian experts. The event was opened by Ekaterine Metreveli, the President of the Rondeli Foundation. The presentation was delivered by Yang Jian, the Vice-President of SIIS. The discussion was moderated by Prof. Vladimer Papava, the Director of the Center for Applied Economic Studies at the Rondeli Foundation. The speakers emphasized the advantages of Economic Belt of the Silk Road mainly in the aspect of ensuring the security and economic development in the South Caucasus region on global and local levels. The speakers also discussed the future prospects of the development of cooperation between China and Georgia in the areas of economy, education and science. At the end of the meeting a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations was signed by Eka Metreveli (President, Rondeli Foundation) and Chen Dongxiao (President, SIIS). The visit of the SIIS delegation to Georgia was organized by the Rondeli Foundation. Tue, 11 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT Kremlin’s Policy in the Occupied Regions of Georgia Moves to a New Stage Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst Lately, a more active engagement in a variety of fields in Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" from the Russian side can easily be observed. More specifically, the Kremlin has ensured the victory of a desirable candidate in the non-legitimate elections held in de-facto "South Ossetia". The development of military cooperation is ongoing with considerable pace, if with certain problems. The most noteworthy, however, is Kremlin’s policy regarding its staff, touching upon the civil servants and diplomats in connection with the occupied regions of Georgia. During the past two months, Marat Kulakhmetov was appointed on the position of the "Ambassador" of the Russian Federation in the de-facto republic of "South Ossetia," whilst the Russian President’s Administration has welcomed Inal Ardzinba, who is regarded as one of the most promising young politicians in Russia. According to Kremlin’s assumption, the new appointees will ensure a high level of integration of the Georgian occupied territories into Russia. "Election" Control Kremlin’s role became apparent in the 9 April 2017 Presidential Elections held in de-facto "South Ossetia." The main producer of local politics in the pre-election, as well as in the post-election period was Vladislav Surkov, who has served as the Russian President’s Assistant in Social-Economic Interactions with Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" since 20 September 2013. Mr. Surkov’s role became clear already during the pre-election period when the selection of the Presidential candidates was underway. The former de-facto President, Eduard Kokoiti was also planning to participate in the elections; however, he was unable to register as a candidate due to the fact that he had not been living in Tskhinvali regularly for the past five years. On 4 March 2017 Kokoiti accused Surkov of inspiring the decision made by the election administration about the refusal of his registration. Mr. Kokoiti called Surkov a swindler, who, according to his assessment, acted "like South Ossetia belonged to him." Kokoiti accused Surkov, President’s Advisor Aleksei Pilatov and the Head of the Division for Social-Economic Cooperation with CIS Countries and the Republics of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", Oleg Govorun, of conspiring against him. Despite the fact that all three Presidential candidates were distinguished by their loyalty to Russia, Surkov’s sympathies towards the Chairman of the de-facto Parliament, Anatoly Bibilov, were clear. After the finalization of the elections and before the inauguration, Surkov personally met with the victorious Anatoly Bibilov and called his victory "predictable" and "convincing." Shortly after Anatoly Bibilov’s election for the positon of the President, on 8-9 June 2017, Surkov visited Tskhinvali once again. During his meeting with the de facto leaders of "South Ossetia" Surkov underscored that "the integration must be deep and comprehensive." During the meeting, Surkov also expressed his disappointment with the current level of integration. Increasing Military Influence For the past three months, Russia has been active in the occupied regions of Georgia in the military field as well. On 26 June 2017, during his meeting with the de-facto President of "South Ossetia," the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, Igor Zubov, stated, that "the creation of the information-coordination center in Tskhinvali is already a determined issue." The agreement on the creation of this center was signed on 4 July 2016. According to the Deputy Minister, funds have already been allocated for the establishment of the center and only technical issues need to be settled. Russia also signed a similar agreement with Sokhumi on 18 May 2017, causing a serious discontent among the political groups and the general population of Abkhazia. Due to the resistance from Sokhumi, the center established there will have lesser authority as compared to the one soon to be established in Tskhinvali. New Appointment ("Doberman") in President’s Administration In terms of the control of domestic political processes and the implementation of the military agreements, Kremlin has been meeting with some resistance from Abkhazia, which is in contrast with the situation in Tskhinvali. An important appointment decision made in the President’s Administration can be considered to be a step aimed at resolving the existing problems. More specifically, on 26 June 2017, according to the directive of the Head of the President’s Administration, Inal Ardzinba, who is an ethnic Abkhaz and a close acquaintance of Surkov’s, was appointed as head of department in the Division for Social-Economic Cooperation with CIS Countries and the Republics of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia." The Division ensures the implementation of Kremlin’s policies in the occupied regions of Georgia. Inal Ardzinba was born in Sokhumi in 1990. His father, Batu Ardzinba took part in the war in Abkhazia in 1992-1993 and received Leon Order for it. Currently, Batu Ardzinba is a famous Abkhazian businessperson and a Director of Moda-Tex company. Inal Ardzinba is a relative of the first de-facto President of Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba. After completing school in Sokhumi, he studied at the Faculty of International Economics and World Politics at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow from 2007 to 2012. During his study period, he published a book, titled National Economy of Abkhazia, discussing innovative approaches to the economic development of Abkhazia up to 2020. De-facto President of Abkhazia in 2011-2014, Aleksander Ankvab, is one of reviewers of the book. After graduating from the university in 2012, Ardzinba occupied the position of President’s Assistant in Relations with Government Structures at the largest Russian insurance company, Rosgosstrakh. In 2012, Inal Ardzinba headed the Russian delegation at the G8 Youth Summit held in Washington DC, held parallel to the actual G8 Summit. During the Summit Ardzinba also lobbied in favor of the issues of recognition of the de-facto republics of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia." He also headed the Russian delegation on G20 Youth Summit in Saint Petersburg in 2013 and the G8 Youth Summit in London. At the Summit in Saint Petersburg, he presented the final declaration to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin himself. In 2014, he topped the ratings of Young Leaders of Eurasian Economic Union Member States, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In 2014, Inal Ardzinba’s career at the Russian President’s Administration begins. For a certain period, he served as a consultant at the Division for Social-Economic Cooperation with CIS Countries and the Republics of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia," moving up to become First Deputy to Vladislav Surkov. He was in charge of Kremlin’s relations with the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ardzinba also personally headed the public support committee for the citizens living in South-Eastern Ukraine. During his work with Surkov, Ardzinba was tasked with overseeing the projects aiming to destabilize the regions of Ukraine. In Ukraine, he is accused of especially severe crimes, namely, the attempt of reviewing the state borders of Ukraine and disrupting the constitutional order of the country. Ukraine has announced international search for Ardzinba. In 2015, he even ended up in the list of enemies of Ukraine, together with Surkov. In December 2015, Ardzinba was accused of destabilizing the situation in Southern Ukraine whilst in March 2016, the former President of Georgia and then Governor of Odessa Oblast in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili, accused Ardzinba of implementing the so-called Bessarabia Project (the project envisages the creation of the Bessarabian People’s Republic in Odessa Oblast). Inal Ardzinba is one of the most promising young politicians in Russian politics, who, despite his young age, is already involved in implementing Russia’s policies towards Ukraine and Georgia. Ardzinba’s ethnic origins and his personal acquaintance with powerful Russian politicians, Vladimir Putin and Vladislav Surkov, ensure considerable support towards his actions, especially with regard to Abkhazia. It is interesting to notice that due to a strict style of work he is nicknamed Doberman. New Russian "Ambassadors" The activeness of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation towards the occupied regions of Georgia manifested itself through the new appointments and infrastructural strengthening of Russian diplomacy. On 18-19 April 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, paid an official visit to Sokhumi where he opened the new Russian Embassy building. According to the existing information, the Minister was also supposed to present the new "Ambassador" to the local political elite; however, as of today, Semyon Grigoriev remains on the position of the "Ambassador" and has been occupying the position of the first "Ambassador" of Russia to Abkhazia since 25 October 2008. Grigoriev is a diplomat who knows quite a lot about Georgia. In 2003-2006, he was Deputy Director of the Fourth CIS Member States Department and was in charge of Russia-Georgia relations. Since 2008, after the war between Georgia and Russia, he came back to the position of Deputy Director of the Fourth CIS Member States Department and was now in charge of the issues concerning Abkhazia and "South Ossetia." According to current information, he is set to be appointed as the "Ambassador" of Russia to Azerbaijan. There was an important appointment in South Ossetia as well – on 23 May 2017, the first "Ambassador" of Russia to the occupied region of "South Ossetia" (in 2008-2017), Elbrus Kargiev was, after his retirement, replaced by a very well-known person in Georgia, Marat Kulakhmetov. Kulakhmetov started his work as the "Ambassador" on 3 July 2017, after handing in his credentials to the de-facto President of "South Ossetia." General-Major of the Russian Armed Forces, Marat Kulakhmetov, was the Commander of the joint peacekeeping forces in Tskhinvali from October 2004. Since August 2009 until his appointment as "Ambassador", Kulakhmetov served as an adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in the military-political issues in South Caucasus and Transnistria and Russian military affairs in Central Asia. Kulakhmetov’s appointment, since he is very familiar with the domestic politics of Tskhinvali, will undoubtedly facilitate the integration process of "South Ossetia" with the Russian Federation. Conclusion The steps taken by the Russian Federation in the occupied regions of Georgia for the past three months indicate that the Kremlin intends to expand its influence on the domestic politics of the de-facto republics and hasten their integration into Russian political, military and economic space. In terms of the integration of the occupied regions, the appointments of Marat Kulakhmetov and Inal Ardzinba are undoubtedly important. Appointing two distinguished personalities in the region who are very familiar with the intricacies of local politics, indicates to the beginning of a new stage in Kremlin’s policy, which is designed to ensure the desirable pace of integration of the occupied regions of Georgia into the Russian Federation. Wed, 5 Jul 2017 0:00:00 GMT