When evaluating current events developing around our country, here, we will rely upon only two voluntary limitations or “blockages”. By using these “blockages” while expressing realistic opinions and drawing conclusions, in this discussion, we will maintain a necessary degree of moderation that current Georgian political thought is lacking in addition to a culture of speech-making and of actually getting things done. By adopting these limitations, we will be able to avoid the scandalous and sensational tone of voice that is so characteristic of Georgian politicians and public opinion-makers and that is so frequently being poured by Georgian television into the private or business spaces of every single one of us.
No use for us
One of these limitations would be a conscious rejection of the “we know everything” approach. Thus we will rid ourselves of the harmful and destructive line of thought that separates us from our well-wishers, benefactors, and allies and pushes them to lose the desire to help us with their advice or action. As a result of the self-isolation caused by this “aggrandizing” of our own selves, we are basically facing the threat of gradually becoming a so-called “pariah state”.
Yet the condition of not believing in ourselves has practically the same self-isolating effect, for when we lose trust in our abilities we suppress our own centuries-old national potential, voluntarily distance ourselves from accomplishing the tasks required of statehood, and even abandon the realization of our destiny as a nation-state. Therefore, through our being tied and oppressed, we are gradually becoming incapable. Our inertness and projection of indifference is ridding our well-wishers, benefactors, and allies of the desire to cooperate with us, stripping them of the desire to entertain relations with us. As a result, the country becomes an uninteresting and useless quasi-subject for the rest of the world.
In a word, both extremes pledge us to one future: the country will lack purpose—on one hand due to an excessive (and groundless) ego, and on the other due to a lack of national identity and of the ambition that every country needs. For Georgian society, however, it will not really matter which of these will nullify the country’s nation-state prospects as well as its potential for modernization and competitiveness and ability to embody civilized choices.
More than just Afghanistan
Many different factors—different in both essence and content—have an impact on the formation of a new global system. I have discussed many of them in detail in my previous articles. Also, since these discussions we have witnessed the end of 20 years of war in Afghanistan with the participation of the Western coalition—an event which has forced the world to face a new reality. Based on already accumulated observations, it could be said that both the West and East have been forced to meet the conclusion of this war with similar levels of unpreparedness, and that this has even pushed both poles into the pincers of a “Post-Afghan” war for a long time.
The Afghan drama is very often compared to the conclusive accords of several post-Second World War conflicts. Certain similarities are obviously striking, but there are several differences as well. Also, The Afghan case is distinguished not only by the military and political signs of the Afghan campaign itself, but also by the implications of the end of this campaign for the global system. The unity of these signs and results places such a campaign precisely in its place, whereas the format of our article renders it inevitable to underline its many facets and nuances.
For the very beginning of this discussion, we will emphasize several so-called “static” components which will enable a more dynamic development of the topic.
The fact is that many observers have assessed what we referred to as the “Afghan Drama” as a clear fiasco of Biden’s foreign policy. The Biden administration has indeed also obviously contributed to the development of this process in the way we have all witnessed, but, objectively speaking, what also deserves special mention is the withdrawal of the West from Afghanistan as a joint result of the approach of several U.S. administrations, and this unity is referred to as “ineffective Afghan policies”. When discussing the ineffectiveness and inconsistencies of this policy, we will also add that we do not limit ourselves to inner Afghan processes but also discuss the problem of the world’s principal democracy not being able to align its relations with key regional actors. Moreover, against the mixed background of Afghanistan, the United States and other members of the coalition became trapped in the snare of double standards and became the victims of a hypocritical policy. Those states will have to take their bite out of the Afghan apple in the future, so let us currently focus on our country’s main supporter on the international stage.
Another noteworthy aspect is the U.S. abandoning Afghanistan as their main ally among non-NATO-member states (I have tried in vain to come up with a more delicate wording). Afghanistan has been using this status since 2012, and this has been the single case of the U.S. abandoning their “main ally”. This event was followed by many “far-fetched” evaluations, but as was already mentioned at the beginning of this article, we will try not to lose our moderation when making evaluations, and in those cases when moderate formulas will be difficult to find, we will limit ourselves to asking questions.
Another key aspect is whether the need has emerged to revise the status of “major non-NATO allies” of the United States among the non-NATO-member countries in order to define and enrich the meaning of this status? This becomes even more relevant when in Georgia (as in Ukraine) the model of better rapprochement with the United States in terms of self-defense is named as the “major non-NATO alliance”. And another, second aspect: how objectively resilient is this model, and how far does its quality fall behind the other more specific model whereby the United States are bound by bilateral military obligations with their military partners in the defense sphere (e.g. with Japan and South Korea, and partially with the Philippines)?
This question, which has recently been asked more often, gives rise to a deeper topic: Is the Afghan Drama the beginning of the end of the “American System” (Pax Americana), of the main pillar of the post-Second World War order? I think it would be a mistake to share this opinion now, whereas later it would be what is called “a mistake greater than a crime”. When talking about “only a mistake”, I will add in short that the Afghan example presents us with numerous noteworthy lessons, but I would still avoid generalizing this case. Firstly, the line of history following the campaigns of the Second World War is sinusoidal, success giving way to failure and vice versa. Of course, Afghanistan’s given specificity remains unchanged, but we will add that those who are expecting a decline of the main wall of the West will have to remain mired in uncertainty and wait for some time to come. Western civilization is and will continue to be, the main determinant of the future global system (or lack of a system), but under one important condition: although exclusively benefiting from being “the only” one for the past decades, the West will have to share this power with the other poles of civilization. For the attention of those “waiting for the fall of the West”, I would also add that the probability of this occurring is so difficult to calculate and that its complexity is so vast that it requires an equally competent observation of all the socio-economic and civic currents along with careful monitoring of all the political, military and regional aspects. In a word, linking the “fall” of the West to the ending of its 20 years of war in Afghanistan following this irreversible event would be similar to the amateurish impatience of Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Márquez.
As for the “mistake” greater than a crime: in this case, we the Georgians are the addressees of this reasoning, especially since the events that took place in Afghanistan at the end of August were perceived with barely concealed joy by many in Georgia (and let us not start wondering why). This case requires Georgian society to adopt a much more responsible attitude than in the West. It is vital to remember (and to remind our fellow citizens as well) that, in this mixed and upside-down world, the mechanisms of Georgia’s international security mostly remain in the hands of the (understandably neither ideal nor faultless) geopolitical conglomerate. These mechanisms require care, and those who are holding them need our support and solidarity, both in form and in meaning, during periods of crisis.
This theory brings us to a discussion of various dynamics, to which we will dedicate the rest of this article.
Mismatched parallels (?)
The development and conclusion of Afghan processes with the participation of the West immediately give rise to the question of the impregnability of America’s obligations—the leader of the Western alliance—as the ally and partner of other countries. Although we have partially answered this question, I think that it requires more precision and that the example of our country can help us more in terms of practicality.
The lightest formulation of this question would be the following: with what quality and for how long will the United States seek to further Georgia’s national interests in terms of security and defense? (A rougher formulation of this same question would go beyond the analytical genre of this article and would be tactless.)
Let us begin with the fact that Georgia’s cooperation with the United States and the West can be analyzed through essentially different historic and modern prisms, and that its political, social and cultural prerequisites are therefore fundamentally different. In a word, we are consciously part of the unity that we have formally been trying to join for the past few centuries—and actively for the past 30 years. In short, the development of our nation and state goes through that frequency which is defined by pragmatic national interests as well as by the absence of other real alternatives needed to perceive this development. This is also due to the fact that pragmatic interests must be pursued through discussion and action, whereas perceptiveness requires the purposeful mobilization of our national potential.
Nothing can be achieved on its own and nobody will give anything away selflessly.
Besides all the above, we must also consider Georgia’s political, economic, and social formation and social structure, whose unique characteristics render them so radically different from others. This circumstance is also an additional and reasoned answer to the prompt “indictment” of our main strategic partner by some parties.
Also, what must absolutely be underlined are those individual nuances whose voicing is considered to be “unfashionable” and to confront the already established (and sometimes sated with useless cliches) dominant narrative. Without a complete image and analysis of the complex current international landscape, not only will theoretical opinion decay but the process of creating political processes will also suffer, potentially causing irreparable damage to our national interests. I therefore believe that discussing several acute or unpleasant problems is a measure not only of conscious attitudes towards the working process but also towards the country’s deeds.
(The lack of?) Western unity in the region
Thoughts and discussions of this topic have recently been quite frequent, whereas its source is linked to the transformation of the influence of Western politics globally as well as to the rearrangement of the accents of declared U.S. foreign policy priorities. There is a lot to talk about on the subject of this topic, certain aspects of which we have previously touched upon and which we will have to mention more than once in the future. Currently, when discussing this problem, we will once again focus upon Georgia and our region.
I will start with the main political line of the White House’s foreign policy—which is essentially a continuation of the Obama-Trump policies, whose main declared priority is domestic problems. By now, these policies have been reflected in more than one specific legislative project or initiative, some of which have even been carried out. It would be sufficient to merely mention that, in guiding strategic foreign policy documents, the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy is defined by the welfare of the average American—something we have often discussed. In doing so, the current administration is seeking to respond to the two main current global trends: intervention dictated by obvious American interests beyond the country’s borders (and being selective in this regard) and economic nationalism. All this is of course nothing new, and there are many more examples among other countries, but this trend is very significant in the case of a global actor of such stature—one perceived to have been the main pillar of the international system that is now considered past, and as one of the main pillars of the new emergent system.
As a logical continuation of all the above, I will quote an extract from Biden’s speech on the end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan: “American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.” Equally noteworthy is his statement that the mission of the United States was “ensuring [American] security” and not “[Afghan] nation-building” or “creating a centralized democracy” on Afghan soil.
These two theses are vitally important for planning Georgian politics and for the development of the Georgian nation and state, and their possible results must be rationally evaluated by both the country’s politicians and society.
Alongside American developments, ongoing events in the Euro-Atlantic military and political community also require our constant observation. For example: does the shifting of U.S. geopolitical priorities towards the Indo-Pacific region threaten a loosening of Washington’s attention on European matters? This development might be accompanied by a possible decrease of resources for the promotion of U.S. interests in Europe, but the most important aspect of this is the risk that, as a result of American interests being “unfastened” from Europe, cracks will appear in the U.S. pursuit of its Euro-Atlantic interests (or that already existing cracks will widen). It would obviously be very naïve of the United States to shun European affairs, but the most thought-provoking aspect is that Washington’s so-called “red lines” with regard to Russia and other “front-line” countries (and notably Georgia and Ukraine) remain relatively vague and insufficient. We must also consider that this dearth of clear Western geopolitical lines with regard to these countries is directly proportional to the growing intervention in its neighbours’ sovereign interests by their common aggressor. Moreover, instead of a realistic evaluation of the situation, certain Western states remain incapable of evolving beyond their Yeltsin-era perceptions of Russia; and initiatives such as, for example, the French-German proposition to renew a dialogue with Russia in a “27+1” format are a direct indication of this problem. I will be courageous and add that, even against the background of such indications as these, weakening the voice of the United States in the overall European agenda (as well as shifting sole or unequal responsibility to the countries of Europe) might harm long-term Euro-Atlantic interests as well as Georgia’s future prospects.
But all this should not lead us to believe that Tbilisi should officially oppose dialogue between its Western partners and the Kremlin. Of course, it should not. Problems in relations can only be overcome by finding a common language between parties—yet, at the same time, we should never hesitate to point out that, for such a dialogue to be efficacious, at least two conditions must be met. The first of these is the prosecution of a clear and effective Western policy towards Georgia (and Ukraine and presumably Moldova as well), three countries that are currently suffering from the “geopolitical ambiguity“ of Europe’s half-measures; and the second is freeing them from the (unintentional) evaluation by certain Western countries or political circles of Georgian and regional issues through the Russian informational and geopolitical prism (e.g. it is time to refer to the conflicts on Georgian territory as “geopolitical” and not “ethnic”). If this is not done, especially given current conditions, the final unification of our interests with those of the West in the region will be even further delayed. At the same time, both Georgia and the West should be aware of the very specific and time-conscious criteria that can turn our civilized unity into a formal alliance. We should also all keep in mind that the current geopolitical narrative is a battle whose main essence is to rid ourselves of the influence of ideological “isms” (or to gain influence over them), and in this battle, the decisive factors are force, courage and ability—and not groundless rhetoric and endless appeals to senseless values.
In a word, observing current global dynamics, my critical conclusion would be the following: we must first of all bear the responsibility for our own country on our own shoulders, and as a counterweight to effective help and support from others, we should revive hope in ourselves and believe in our own potential.
Into a new reality in a new way
Given the fact that the global order is being rearranged in such a way that the process gives rise to more questions than answers and that emerging challenges prevent us from properly assessing this rearrangement, Georgia’s task is both easy and complex. Formulating this task is the easy part: the country must maintain herself as an interesting space for the investment of political, economic, and human resources, with the aim of ensuring her safety and development and avoiding the risk of Tbilisi remaining a merely peripheral recipient of such resources. However vague this formulation may seem to some, I believe that, given current regional and global changes, the greatest meaning and value lies in enjoying the flexibility to adjust our decisions in the pursuit of our interests. The goals of improving our security and developing our economy should match those geopolitical or political configurations or variants (within the framework of our main civilized choices) that will serve the modernization and success of the Georgian state for the sake of its citizens’ welfare. A country being self-sufficient, resilient, and responsible is not only in the interest of its own citizens but also in that of its international partners. As for the complexity, this is mostly linked to the difficulty of making concrete decisions on the path to achieving these main goals—i.e. dealing with the so-called “details”. We obviously all have our own ideas of what these “details” are, and Georgia’s information space is sated and clouded by these different perceptions—some of which are grounded in reality, and some not. In order to avoid further clouding, I shall therefore spare the reader my version of this “detailization”; and it would, in any case, have been pretentious to compile a comprehensive list in this article. Equally noteworthy is the fact that, since various projects of the 1990s (when the country’s transport potential was increased; the “Train & Equip” program was carried out; the country’s strategic foreign course was established) and with the continuation of a range of initiatives (the signature of an association agreement with the EU and a strategic charter with the U.S.; the “Associated Trio” project was carried out; the NATO-Georgia “substantial package” was adopted; etc.), I would mention as urgent priorities several steps such as: more integration into the “Crimea platform” in order to build additional layers of information and propaganda concerning Georgia’s occupied territories; deepening cooperation within the framework of the “Associated Trio” by turning the so-called “Four Freedoms” of the EU (free movement of goods, capital, services and people) into the Trio’s defining principles (and soon inserting a security component); discussing various possible bilateral frameworks for defense cooperation as well as the activation of the Black Sea factor, based upon which consultations with partners on political and security algorithms (e.g. the earlier mentioned Black Sea Declaration Platform) could be launched.
Therefore, if we are to gain a competitive space for our country in tomorrow’s international system, there are already a number of “details” that are being (or that need to be) considered. However, one very often has the feeling that the manner in which current events are being handled is either somewhat belated or lacking in quality (or both). That said, I believe that this feeling is perhaps quite normal when one has the ambition to achieve more (or something more grandiose). And yet, this feeling of unease becomes one of alarm if precious time is being lost and valuable possibilities are being wasted.
One of the most important aspects, and one which should give us all hope, is the realization that losses and benefits are shared in this process of promoting our country. This fact should of course not come as a surprise, since despite various events, attitudes towards each other, the diversity of our ambitions and tastes, and existing differences—every single one of us, whose identity is linked to the Georgian state, should always consider both today and tomorrow. These thoughts should unite us and encourage us to develop a common language and identify the most promising path to follow towards our common future; this is what we must do if we are to turn idealistic perceptions into realistic actions.