Foreign policy of Georgia – if the flow or against the flow (Tengiz Pkhaladze speech)

Posted by globalresearcheng on Aug 18th, 2013 and filed under Workshops. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

First and foremost I would like to thank Ms. Nino as I think that these types of discussions are very fruitful as we are reviewing crucial topics.

I will try to formulate basic theses shortly. In the first place, when talking about strategic option, we have to separate what we want and what we can from each other. These are two different things.
In the first place, the question is: what we want or what we wanted while making this strategic choice. It happened so that when this unrest started in Georgia back then in the ‘90s about the strategic choice that Georgia had to make, I was related to this issue in a certain way as I was working at the State Apparatus. I recall contradiction of opinions, various views that were expressed back then.

I cannot say that we had a variety of choices. One of the versions was that a new political space, CIS had been established, where Russia had had hegemony and our option was to join that space. I can clearly remember the rallies on Rustaveli Avenue even before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, protesting the rumors as if NATO troops were about to enter the country.

The issue of declaring neutrality was also considered. We soon arrived to the conclusion that declaring neutrality was unrealistic, not only based on the historic experience, but also because of the fact that neutrality cannot be unilateral. It should be a big international treaty; however, there were not even theoretical preconditions for it nor back then neither now. There were two geopolitical centers, either to the East or to the West.
I would like to point out one more thing – when the Soviet Union dissolved even the West did not clearly know as to what happened on this territory. They knew that there was a territory with a large number of troops stationed on that territory as well as nuclear arms; there were certain countries, nations already having conflict between one another and several hot points.

Thus the West was not ready for making special decisions and formation of CIS space was on the background of, so to say, silent consent of the West. Actually, Russia had a certain type of carte blanche to establish its own rules of game
Baltic states can be considered as an exception; though in the ‘90s, when the Baltic states started talking about their wish to become members of the NATO the first reaction in Washington was – “are you nuts?” It’s not a rumor. I have this information from the officials of the Baltic foreign bodies. These people proved that they are not nuts and their choice is absolutely realistic. A deal as if the Baltic states were supposed to enter the NATO and we were supposed to remain outside it, did not exist.
Another thing is why we chose exactly this route. First of all, Russia itself played a crucial part as the politics in regard with the Caucasus and approach towards the Caucasus states, was not well established within the Russian specter, having in mind the former Soviet countries. To take a look at the relationship with the countries neighboring Russia you cannot name a country with which Russia does not have serious problems.

It was characteristic not only for the Yeltsin’s Russia but for the Putin’s Russia as well. There are several centreswhere decisions are made, for example: in 1994, Ramaz remembers this visit of Yeltsin to Georgia, when Yeltsin apologized Georgian people for what the Russians did in Abkhazia; however this apology did not affect anything as when Yeltsin departed to Russian the same things continued to happen in Abkhazia. The same thing is happening today, right? On the one hand we are conducting a certain type of dialogue, Abashidze-Karasini but before the meeting within this dialogue format the occupation line is shifted. There are a lot of such examples.

Thus Russia’s policy is characterized by this incoherence, which entailed serious fears in Georgia and I can say that – the fact that Russia did not make any kind of interesting proposal to us largely determined Georgia’s strategic choice.

What was the determiner of this choice. When you are choosing and ideal, you are trying to reach that ideal. For example, if you have a hero either from literature or a movie, you try to become like your hero. The question is very simple: who do we want to be like? What kind of a country do we want to be? The country like Russia was in the ‘90s or the West as it was in our imagination and stereotypes in the movies or in Hollywood. We thought that the West is good and choce it as our ideal. However neither then nor now have we the comprehensive idea on the Western values but generally this is what we have been arguing about – Democracy, Free economy, Private Property and etc.

All the above mentioned values are highly protected in the West and that’s why we made the West our ideal. Besides, it was the the West, not Russia, which provided serious assistance either in terms of food or social security or educational and etc. Credits flew from the West which determined logical linkage.

Now, let’s review the issue of our capacities and abilities. This is a bottleneck situation. If we take a look at our aspirations, I think that the strategic choice was absolutely correct and nothing has changed in this direction in the Russian Federation. I completely agree with Mr. Soso in the part that the essence of the Eurasian Union, Customs Union and even the Organization of Collective Security and etc. shall be thoroughly explored.

For example, everybody knows that issues related to the above-mentioned unions are studied in the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Italy; however neither of the above listed states are planning to join any of these unions. Still this issue needs to be examined and studied.

Now let’s shortly review what the Russian Federation was and is offering. I worked on this topic during the time when I lived in Georgia as well as during my stay in Moscow for quite a long time, until 2008 and I had a very close relationship with the research centres operating there.

There are three basic schools determining these approaches. As for theories, they are quite a lot. But the reason I started talking about these three schools is that their approaches are used in the real policy-making by Russia. Actual politics took its various parts from these three schools and they are being implemented.

Geopolitical school, representative of which is Mr. Dugin, is not widely famous. It talks about a certain type of a Russian island and one of its rising point is that Mr. Dugin considers peter the First as the destroyer of Russia as, according to him, Peter mad Russia divert its course of natural development. He is talking about creating a certain type of an island, an imaginary one. Russia considers its surrounding states, including the Ukraine, Georgia and etc. not as independent states or nations and societies but as territories – which is capable of what.
For example, according to this school the Ukraine is a barn of bread; it is its function; South Caucasus is a bridgehead, Georgia is a key for example, for establishing relations with Turkey. Thus this school considers only geographical territories: it is not interested in the needs of the local society or interests of that particular country and etc. The most interesting thing, that this school states, is that these peripheries (territories) should have relationship only with the Centre, which is Moscow and only after receving permission from the Centre they may have interaction with the World beyond this island. In addition basic idea of this concept is that these peripheries are supposed to be feeding the Centre.

The second school is more related to the so-called “Soft Power” concept, the concept the most vivid representative of which is Mr. PyotrShenderovski. Basic formula of this school is that Russia should have influence on these territories. We encounter centre and peripheries in all three schools. According to the concept of the second school it should implement its power in the elites – referring to political and business elites, to integrate them with the Russina world, not Russia – with them. Formula of this school, related with the “Soft Power,” is “speak as Russians say” equals to “think as Russians think” and to “act as Russians act,” this is where the concept “Russian World” is derived from.

The third school is a cultural paradigm which Mr. Putin refers to when talking about the system of common values, space of common values and in such case we have to make use of migrational flows for some purposes. For example, people from Tajikistan are good at construction, plus they construct at low price; Armenians are good at trade; Georgians are good at medicine, music and dancing… we need to divide people this way. The most important determinative in this case is that we should not allow taking hold of any sector by representatives of any nation, or monopolise the sector as it becomes hazardous for the centre.

To sum up, all the three schools have the approach according to which the centre wants to take more than deliver and cares less about giving opportunity of development to these states. From it start the fields of exclusive influence as functioning of the thecentre without the fields of exclusive influence is impossible. It is not my personal opinion; there are a lot of researches about the topic that Russia constantly needs something new as it is institutionally undeveloped country.

If we take, for example the surveys by the World Bank, we will see that gas extraction by “GasProm” on the territory of Russia is decreasing; however “GasProm” assets increase at the expense of gas extraction on other territories. it is because that gas mine is characterized by getting old as a living organism after some time. Getting old implies that gas becomes full of impurities. Purifying from these impurities require new technologies. The company prefers using new territories, other mines to purchasing new technologies due to the current situation in Russia.
It can be explaind by the fact that investments are made for the long-time prospective, with the goal to have gain returns from it within. let’s say, 10 years but when you are not guaranteed whether you will stay on the same position for 10 years, then making a long-term investment is irrational; thus this company prefares to work in Turkmenistan, Kazakhistan and so on than to develop and improve its own.

In a nutshell,  relationship with Russia is a vast topic and the ongoing processes within Russia should be explores, as Mr. Soso noted it. However, these approaches determined that when you are not offered anything and you still accept it – I don’t know whether it is because of Holly Wood, you have it in your sub-conscious and you are striving to achieve the Western standards. Plus, you receive a serious financial aid from the West. If we look back at those relationships that we had with NATO, European Union, the first treaties that we signed, aids that we received in the beginning we may conclude that it was the opportunity for use for building a state. Another issue, to go back to where I started from, is what are our capacities for it.

This is the point where problems start. The number one problem, in my opinion is, that Georgian society gives too much confidence to friendship. However we forget that friendship needs to be bilateral. There is no unilateral friendship. A true friend shall come and help me whenever I am in need. In most cases we understand ”help” as a friend coming and doing whatever one shall be doing himself. This is the approach that the West will never understand and always tells us: – I cannot do whatever you are supposed to be doing. I can give you advice, give you money, render, for example, methodical assistance, train specialists for you and etc.
Another problem that we are facing is in the educational field. In this particular case I am not referring only to knowledge of some particular subjects. I imply general civil education and perception of the general situation existing in the country. When we are talking about civil society, can we define it? Does the civil society itself understand the essence of civil society? Currently we have the reality when one particular political power, I don’t want to name it, proclaims that accession to NATO is a request from the society; then another political power states that they do not want to be accepted at NATO as it is the request of the society.

Third political may appear who would declare that their position is neutrality as it is the request of the society and it seems that every political power has its own supporting society, each of them is fulfilling their request and we are living in parallel worlds where we do not understand each other. This is the basic problem. Look at our politicians.Forexample, let’s take their meeting with voters. Every political power has its supporters. This is our basic problem…

Mr. SosoTsintsadze: A politician has its own team with high qualification.

Mr. TengizPkhaladze: That’s why we need to take reality when we are living in an imaginary parallel world, where everybody speaks on behalf of  the name of people. When we are talking about a strategic choice, the problem is not what strategic choice we made, the problem is how much we used this strategic choice. Was it possible to do more through the opportunities we had by means of relationship with NATO or EU and etc? It is the most important issue. I think we need to look back to our past actions and find out where we made a mistake.

Now, let’s discuss the most important problem for us, a traditional question – how can we have be accepted at NATO and at the same time, maintain good neighbourly relationships with Russia, resolve conflicts and etc. I would like to review several examples: For a small country, it is important to pursue its ideals and strive for creating a state that the country considers ideal.

The rest, however depends on the fact that the developments in the world at some point opens a so-called “window of opportunities.” For example, Mrs. Nino must remember 1999 when a “window of very important opportunities” was open for Georgia, referring to OSCE Summit in Istanbul. I think Georgia has not achieved such diplomatic success yet, as we managed and resolved some important issues back then.

We managed and reached an agreement on strategic energo-projects and the most important – on which a lot of people then skeptically said that it would never happen – Russia signed a document on withdrawal of troops from Georgia. I understand that it was Yeltsin’s Russia, it was the period when default had newly happened and etc. but suchcataclizms regularly take place across the world. During the Putin’s Russia, we finalized these negotiations. A wave of NATO’s enlargement took place during Putin’s Russia when Baltic states were accepted to NATO. It was the period when neither of the states, Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia, had negotiations with Russia on border issues. It was only in 2007 when Latvia managed and signed an agreement with Russia on border issue. Lithuania had the same problem.

A friend of mine who is a Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, was telling me that when in 2002, during his period as a Minister of Defense of Lithuania, Russian military forces were withdrawn from the territory of Baltic states, there were a lot of mined territories. There were some other contentional issues as well related to property. My friend was telling me that Mr. Sergey Ivanov did not arrive in Lithuania for discussing these issues. But a decision in 2002 on the accession of Baltic states to NATO, in 2004 Mr. Ivanov called himself to my friend and told him: -“You are becoming members of NATO and let’s close this issue.” However difference in this case is that this issue can be resolved in a manner beneficial for us, while on the other hand, it actions for resolving this issue can be reckless.

If Baltic states managed to explain to Russia that their Western orientation does not threaten Russia, why cannot we explain it? In this case a lot of things are dependent on diplomacy, reasonability and other factors. But the most important is that we shall not miss a moment of the above mentioned “window of opportunities” and if at that very point the country is not ready to make a right decision and choos a right direction, then it has to wait for the next change as a small country does not have an opportunity to create and establish geopolitical reality.

And the last, conclusive issue: the most important issue for a state like Georgia, foreign and internaly policy, building of the state and all the rest depends on education. I am charmed with what the Estonians did. I remember, when in the second half of the ‘90s Estonians focused on the field of education. A lot of other states, including its neighbouring ones, ridiculed it, saying: It is better to start developing other things than institutes. However, Estonians proved that raising the intellectual elite able of creating sciencecapable products.

We do not have natural resources that we can live on, meaning oil, gas and etc. We do not have the territory where we can start large-scale industry. We are in a reality, where we have conflict zones and are in a volatile field. There is a saying: when yourrivel is stronger than you, the scope of your actions should pass the borders of its imagination. I also agree with the opinion that was mentioned here that a small country has the least right of making a mistake. I agree with the opinion that China might not be interested what is going on somewhere but we have the reality, when China knows the developments in Georgia very well while Georgia does not have knowledge of the situation in China. Thank you.

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