Feb 24, 2011

Georgia’s New National Security Concept

TBILISI, GEORGIA - Georgian lawmakers launched on February 18 discussion of draft national security concept, which will replace the one adopted in July 2005.

Major changes in the new concept are mainly related to Russia.

Russian military “occupation of parts of Georgian territory” and “a risk of renewed military aggression by Russia” is identified in the draft concept as one of the major threats and challenges Georgia is facing.

The concept, adopted more than five years ago, says that there “is little possibility of open military aggression against Georgia,” but the threat of cross-border hostilities from state and non-state actors is “real.”

The modified draft says that “the Russian Federation’s major aim is to derail Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspiration and to forcibly return Georgia back on the Russian orbit.”

“Hence, the eventual goal of the military aggression carried out in August, 2008 was not to occupy Georgia’s territories or to achieve international recognition of proxy regimes [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia], but to change Georgia’s pro-Western government, because independent and democratic Georgia is perceived by Russia’s ruling political elite as a threat,” the draft reads.

A lawmaker from the Christian-Democratic Movement, Nika Laliashvili, said at the parliamentary committee hearing over the concept on February 18, said there was no need to focus in the concept on “regime change” as a major reason behind the Russian aggression, as it would “overshadow” and “downplay” Russia’s “other evil intentions”, including the one to derail Georgia from its pro-Western course.

Batu Kutelia, Georgia’s former U.S. ambassador who is now deputy secretary of National Security Council, told lawmakers at the hearing that “regime change” in Georgia was Russia’s “declared intention” and it should be reflected in the concept.

Absence of international presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia’s continued military build-up in those regions and non-fulfillment of August 12, 2008 ceasefire commitments creates “a risk of potential new aggression,” according to the draft. It, however, also adds, that “international support expressed towards Georgia is a significant deterrent factor of this risk.”

Georgia’s relations with Russia are also discussed in a separate chapter on “Major Directions of Georgia’s National Security Policy.” It says that Tbilisi aspires relations with Russia based on “good neighborly and equal principles.”

It, however, also says that “it will not be possible without respect of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia.” “Georgia supports Russian Federation’s transformation into stable democratic country,” the draft reads.

The document mentions relations with North Caucasus in the portion where ties with Russia are discussed and says that establishment of “atmosphere of cooperation and peace in the North Caucasus is of special importance for Georgia.”

“Georgia realizes necessity of deepening and developing relations with brotherly people living in the North Caucasus,” the draft reads.

Other Threats

Apart of Russian factor, the document identifies potential spillover of conflicts from neighboring countries among the “serious threats” Georgia is facing.

In this context the document mentions “unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh” and “ethnic and religious conflicts and confrontation in Russian Federation’s North Caucasus region.”

The document also identifies social-economic development as “a serious challenge” for the country’s security. “Inappropriate social and economic development may contribute to social and political tensions and pose threat to the country’s sustainable development, stability and national security,” the draft reads.

The draft also identifies terrorism, cyber-attacks, energy security, ecology, organized transnational crime and demography as challenges for the national security.

Euro-Atlantic Integration

The draft concept has a separate chapter about Georgian citizens’ “firm will” to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures.

It says that “membership into EU and NATO is an important priority of Georgia’s foreign and national security policy.”

The draft concept says that Georgia welcomes EU’s policy of engagement with Russia. “At the same time, this policy will only be fruitful if it is oriented towards strengthening of democracy in Russia and if it contributes to establishment of Russia’s such foreign policy, which is directed towards peaceful co-existence with its neighbors,” the document reads.

South Caucasus

Relations with Georgia’s neighbors in South Caucasus have a separate sub-chapter in the section on “Major Directions of Georgia’s National Security Policy.”

Like the one adopted in 2005, the modified concept also identifies relations with Azerbaijan as “strategic.” Relations with Armenia are described in the draft as “close partnership”. The 2005 document identified relations with Yerevan as “pragmatic cooperation”.

“Georgia is linked with Armenia and Azerbaijan with historically established traditionally good-neighborly relations,” the draft reads. “Georgia considers of huge importance to elaborate joint approach towards future development of the region. Deepening cooperation in the region, creation of common economic space and common market will significantly contribute to region’s stability and welfare.”

Other Partners and Neighbors

According to the draft of national security concept Georgia “is deepening strategic partnership” with the United States, which is reflected in the bilateral strategic partnership charter signed in 2009. It says that the U.S. support in “de-occupation” of the Georgian territories is important for Tbilisi.

On Ukraine the document says that “Georgia aspires to maximally use possibilities of the strategic partnership” with Kiev.

The draft concept describes Turkey as Georgia’s “leading regional partner.” The document says, that deepening of economic ties with Turkey, which is Georgia’s largest trading partner, and “successful implementation of transport and energy projects is of strategic importance for the both countries.”

“Turkey, as a member of NATO and one of the regional leaders, is also an important military partner. Georgia draws huge importance to further development of relations in the sphere of security and defense with Turkey,” the draft reads.

The draft notes separately “active cooperation” with the Baltic States, “huge importance of cooperation” with Eastern and Central European states, as well as with the Scandinavian countries.

It says that Georgia “pays huge attention to the development of close cooperation” with Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, as well as “with other Central Asian countries.”

The draft concept says that Georgia also pays attention to broadening economic relations with China, Middle East countries, Japan, India and Brazil, as well as to continuation of establishment of diplomatic relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries.

According to the draft concept UN should play “a leading role” in resolving conflicts and for that purpose Georgia deems necessary to increase UN’s effectiveness. It also notes importance of OSCE and Council of Europe. The draft concept mentions GUAM – organization made up of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – in the context of Georgia’s relations with Azerbaijan and Ukraine. In the concept adopted in 2005 GUAM was mentioned in the context of cooperation within the Black Sea region.