Dr. Khatuna Burkadze – Amidst Russia’s military buildup along Ukraine’s border, the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership has to be amended to counter Russian aggression


Interpressnews discussed the results of the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Riga, Biden-Putin online meeting and Russia’s dangerous actions with Prof. Dr. Khatuna Burkadze, Director of American and Euro-Atlantic Studies at Geocase, an alumna of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the Harvard Program on Negotiations.

- On November 30 - December 1, 2021, the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs was held in Riga. The Foreign Ministers of Georgia and Ukraine were invited to the Ministerial. In the face of Russian aggression, how does the Alliance support Georgia and Ukraine?

- Participation of the Foreign Ministers of Georgia and Ukraine in the Ministerial clearly illustrated that both states are valuable allies for NATO. We face a common threat coming from the Russian Federation. The original purpose of the North Atlantic Alliance was to prevent Soviet aggression. Regardless of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation seeks to restore so-called “zones of influence”. The Russian aggressive actions infringe the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine every single day.

“NATO's support for Ukraine's and Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty remains unwavering. Any future Russian aggression would come at a high price, and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia”, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the Ministerial.

The Allies reiterated the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Georgia and Ukraine will become member states of the Alliance. The NATO membership will provide real security guarantees for Georgia and Ukraine. Before becoming member states of the North Atlantic Alliance, NATO will continue to support both states by political and practical means.

- In the context of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic perspective, you mentioned in previous interviews that Georgia needs to obtain a new function. Could you explain what kind of function you mean?

- Georgia’s strategic location indicates that we are a bridge between the West and East. We should use it to create new opportunities and become a more valuable actor for the international community. In this regard, despite challenges, it is time to develop a grand strategy. To obtain a new function, we need to define priorities for the development of Georgia's infrastructure, transport, logistics, energy, education and financial systems. Also, in the digital era, it is essential to establish appropriate conditions for transnational corporations focusing on digital technologies and offer them to open their representative offices in Georgia. Overall, this process will facilitate the implementation of large-scale projects to become a real regional hub.

- What kind of measures should we take to achieve Euro-Atlantic goals?

- We should develop result-oriented common agenda with all critical spheres. Also, the implementation of democratic reforms will promote the finalization of the establishment of political institutions based on democratic values and principles. At the same time, Georgia’s conceptual documents - strategies should be focused on achieving tangible results in the security, economic, education and other fields. In this process, Georgia needs the strong support of allies, partners. The Alliance assists Georgia as an aspirant country to meet political, economic and military criteria of the NATO membership.

- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, “Those who repeat Bucharest's theses and say that third countries have no right to express their position on NATO enlargement - these people are playing with fire”. How should the West respond to Russia’s hostile behavior?

- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has underlined “Russia has no veto. Russia has no say. And Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence, trying to control their neighbors”. The NATO doors are open to Georgia and Ukraine. The Alliance has reiterated the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit. The West is committed to the rules-based international order. It is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all states. The Western leaders underscored that no third party could influence the sovereign choice of other countries. Georgia and Ukraine define their foreign policy priorities independently.

In this regard, On December 15, 2021, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili discussed political and practical cooperation as well as the security situation in the region at the NATO Headquarters. The Secretary-General underlined that Georgia is one of NATO’s closest partners.

Infringements of fundamental rules by authoritarian regimes undermine the modern international system. Russia’s aggressive actions represent a threat to Euro-Atlantic security. Because of such actions key values and principles are at risk. The West will use political and economic instruments to deter Russia’s hostile behavior. Also, the Westen countries will reinforce their security capabilities. They will continue to assist partners including Georgia and Ukraine as aspirant countries of NATO to strengthen their defense capacities.

- On December 7, 2021, due to Russia’s military escalation with Ukraine President Biden held the online meeting with President Putin. How do you evaluate the results of this meeting?

- The U.S. President Joseph Biden made clear that the U.S. and its allies would respond with strong economic and other measures if Russia further invades Ukraine. Also, additional defensive materiel will be delivered to Ukraine. President Biden reiterated his unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He stressed that the United States and its allies and partners are committed to the principle of “no decisions or discussions about Ukraine without Ukraine.” President Biden called for de-escalation and a return to diplomacy.

After a video call with President Putin, President Biden spoke with President Zelensky. He emphasized the readiness of the United States to engage in support of confidence-building measures to advance the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Also, President Biden had conversations with the Bucharest Nine group of eastern flank NATO Allies to underline the United States’ commitment to Transatlantic security and sacred commitment to the Alliance’s Article 5. At the same time, he spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the UK to debrief them on the call and to consult on the way forward. The West is prepared to do things that did not do in 2014. The Western Allies continue close consultations and coordination to develop a package of measures for deterrence of Russia’s dangerous military intervention.

We should be prepared for all the contingencies. Also, we live in the time of the COVID-19 crisis. Historically, the global crises stimulated to increase tensions among actors of the international community. In the face of Russian aggression, we should enhance our strategic ties with the U.S. and establish new instruments for strengthening security capabilities at a high political level. The creation of such a framework can be considered in the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership. Furthermore, on November 10, 2021, the U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership was signed by U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. This Charter replaced the U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, signed in Washington in 2008. The new Charter underlines the necessity of countering Russian aggression. It intends to continue a range of substantive measures to prevent external direct and hybrid aggression against Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for such aggression and violations of international law. According to the Charter, the United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to counter armed aggression, economic and energy disruptions, and malicious cyber activity by Russia. Overall, the enhancement of cooperation with the Western allies especially in the field of defense and security is crucial for overcoming threats coming from the Russian Federation.


Koba Bendeliani