First Georgia, then Ukraine: The Eastern front can’t be abandoned

September 22, 2015 • Articles • Views: 947

minister

Text and photo by Agne Dovydaityte

Edited by Darya Malyutina

Saying that history tends to repeat itself is not completely fair when comparing the current situation in Ukraine with the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. Georgia’s struggles should not be considered ‘history’ yet, as the country still faces major threats from its northern neighbour.

Straight after her trip to the Baltics, Georgia’s Minister of Defence Tinatin Khidasheli visited the Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) in London. During her talk, she assured the audience that Georgia had not forgotten Western leaders’ promise to accept it into NATO, and that the country would make sure the West does not forget it either.

Currently, Russian troops are positioned at a distance of only half a kilometre from the critically important east to west highway in Georgia. Tinatin Khidasheli

Currently, Russian troops are positioned at a distance of only half a kilometre from the critically important east to west highway in Georgia, according to Khidasheli.  Russian armed forces moving further towards the highway, the so-called ‘corridor of freedom’, might mean crossing the ‘red line’ for the current strategy of patience that Georgia is adhering to. The Minister of Defence said: ‘losing control of this strategic object would mean limited functioning of the country, or even shutting down Georgia as an independent state.’

For now, Georgia is seen as a ‘model’ for other Eastern Partnership countries. In addition to the progressive developments in the state, Georgia is an active participant of international politics. From committing its troops to the NATO operations in Afghanistan and opening a joint training centre with the NATO to actively preparing for the upcoming Warsaw summit in July 2016, Georgia is aiming to take part in helping shape the agenda, and request for itself NATO’s Membership Action Plan.

At the same time, one of the main concerns that are stopping the Western countries from accepting Georgia into the Alliance is the Russian military occupation of Georgian territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Disregarding this fact might cause NATO to antagonise Russia, potentially leading to a conflict between the two entities. However, West Germany’s acceptance into the Alliance in 1955 while having part of its territory occupied, causes questions about possible double-standards policy.

Georgia does not want to be seen the way Russia depicts it, but rather evaluated on its own merits.

Even though Khidasheli expressed her joy at witnessing a developing Georgia, every achievement is overshadowed by the many concerns, threats and uncertainties surrounding the country. Khidasheli said that, after seven years of Georgia confidently moving towards its goal by contributing to international security and progressive policies, it is time to ask the same from the West. According to the Defence Minister, Georgia does not want to be seen the way Russia depicts it, but rather evaluated on its own merits. The country wants to be part of the talks and part of progressive Western agendas, but won’t leave any ‘elephants in the room’. If the West gets back to business on normal terms with Russia after Ukraine as they did after Georgia, Khidasheli warned, the Kremlin’s next target might be even bigger – potentially threatening the Baltics, which would mean a direct threat to NATO.

With the emerging refugee crisis and problems connected with Syria and ISIS, and Ukraine and Georgia challenging the EU, the Western front is not ‘all quiet’ anymore. The ongoing challenge will be that, as more than one front sets alarm bells ringing, the West cannot expect to fight just one side at a time and not get hit from another.

First ever female defence minister of Georgia Tinatin Khidasheli has a degree in International Law, a Masters in Political Science, and a working history in human rights. She served as secretary for international affairs of the Republican Party of Georgia from 2005 to 2009, and chaired the parliamentary committee on European integration. In May 2015 she was appointed Georgia’s Defence Minister.

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