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Georgia's Foreign Policy Impasse

Is Consensus Crumbling?

BY GEORGE KHELASHVILI,Tbilisi State University

PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 187

Abstract

A broad, pro-Western consensus over foreign policy goals has existed in Georgia since the late 1990s, but it is not certain whether this will be sustained in the future. The consensus was based on a few widely shared assumptions, including Georgia’s geostrategic importance in the post-Soviet region, the indispensability of the so-called pro-Western course, and an irreconcilably dualistic nature of world politics played out as a geopolitical great game between Russia and the West.

The aftermath of the war of August 2008 put these assumptions under serious question. Georgia, a self-perceived regional pivot, came under direct Russian military attack, but neither the United States nor Western European states bothered to strain their relations with Russia, let alone come to Georgia’s military aid. Western states have not been effective in ensuring the “de-occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Georgia still deems to be inalienable part of its territory. Quite the opposite, the United States engaged Russia in an apparently positive-sum game of “reset.” All Georgia received from this post-war international situation was U.S. and European financial aid, which felt more like “guilt money” than a serious postwar reconstruction aid package. Georgia did not receive strategic backing from the West except for qualified sympathy and occasional rhetorical support.

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Georgia's Choices:

Charting a Future in Uncertain Times

BY THOMAS de WAAL

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Abstract

Georgia is entering a period of transition, with parliamentary and presidential elections due in 2012‒2013, after which a new constitution will take effect. The current government has made good progress in building a functioning state that delivers services to citizens, but Georgia’s economic picture is increasingly uncertain.

The governing elite, led by President Mikheil Saakashvili, has no serious domestic political opposition but faces the challenge of how to re-invent itself. It suffers from an accountability gap and risks turning Georgia into a one-party state.

After years of governing in an informal and improvisational way, the Georgian government needs to build institutions and choose a long-term development model. Three ideas pull Georgia in different directions. One is a conservative traditional conception of “old Georgia,” which commands respect but offers little as an economic or political model. A second idea, envisaging Georgia as another “Singapore” open to worldwide investment, has many supporters, especially from the still influential libertarian group who believe that Georgia needs maximum deregulation. But foreign investment is currently falling in Georgia and this model would not solve deep problems such as rural poverty and high unemployment.

The European Union (EU) offers a third path, with a prospective Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area that would offer privileged access to the EU single market in return for institutional reform. This path would require the governing elite to surrender both political and economic power. The EU has sold the idea poorly and will need to offer more foreign technical assistance to ease the regulatory burden it will impose. But it offers Georgia the best hope of long-term development and a European anchor.

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Georgian Perceptions of the North Caucasus and 

of U.S.-Russia Relations

BY GEORGE KHELASHVILI,Tbilisi State University

PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 148

Abstract

Georgian-Russian relations have been frozen since the August 2008 war. This “freeze” resembles the situation of other “frozen” conflicts that have existed in the Caucasus since the 1990s. Indeed, the Georgian-Russian conflict has little chance for settlement in the foreseeable future, while containing vast potential for a renewed violent outbreak. What keeps the situation from thawing? Are there any signs that the underlying differences of the two countries’ positions are easing? The main argument of this paper is that neither the Georgian nor Russian government has changed its position in the conflict or its underlying assumptions about regional politics—this situation sets the “frozen” conflict on an unavoidable collision course over the next few years. The apparent stabilization of Georgian-Russian tensions is predicated on the recent U.S.-Russian rapprochement rather than on any significant change in Georgian-Russian relations. Underlying causes as well as perceptions of the conflict remain unchanged and are fraught with the danger of a resumption in hostilities in the case of a cooling down of U.S.-Russian relations. Renewed Georgian-Russian hostilities would at best postpone any meaningful discussion about the new European architecture.

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Post-Revolutionary Georgia on the Edge? 

BY Prof. S. NEIL MACFARLANE, University of Oxford

Briefing Paper, Chatham House

March 2011

Summery Points

  • From the Rose Revolution in 2003 to the war with Russia and financial crisis of 2008, Georgia achieved impressive macroeconomic results. Government reforms reduced petty corruption and criminal violence markedly. Rapid progress was made in the delivery of public goods. The investment climate improved.
  • President Mikheil Saakashvili has weathered the fallout of the war with Russia. Weak opposition and substantial Western aid have enabled the government to stabilize the economy and consolidate its political position.
  • However, positive headline macroeconomic results may not be sustainable and mask persistent concerns regarding poor performance in combating poverty, unemployment and increasing inequality.
  • Human rights continue to be a problem. The government cuts corners on democracy and the rule of law. Media freedoms remain constrained. Civil and parliamentary oversight of governmental decisions is limited, and the judicial system is subject to political interference.
  • The abuse of state power and enduring poverty and inequality risk alienating the population and increasing social tension. There is therefore reason to question the sustainability of Georgia's economic model and the stability of the post-war political situation.
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Normative Conflict – Territorial Integrity

and National Self-Determination

BY Prof. S. NEIL MACFARLANE, University of Oxford

From series of public lectures delivered at Center for Social Sciences

December 14, 2010

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UN and Global Security 

BY Prof. S. NEIL MACFARLANE, University of Oxford

From series of public lectures delivered at Center for Social Sciences

November 9, 2010

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Frozen Transitions and Unfrozen Conflicts,

Or What Went Wrong in Georgia?

BY DAVID APHRASIDZE AND DAVID SIROKY, PhDs

Yale Journal of International Relations, Volume 5, Issue 2 - Spring/Summer 2010: Spotlight on Security

Abstract

This article analyzes the dynamics of development, democracy and conflict in Georgia, focusing on variation in state capacity, political institutions and varieties of nationalism. Whereas Georgia's ethnic nationalism substituted for political institutions in the 1990s, the state's enhanced administrative capacities after 2003 inhibited it from returning to ethnic nationalism while still leaving it vulnerable to revolutionary nationalism, which led Georgia down a dangerous path to violent conflict. Unlike the first transition, which resulted in regime change, the current government survives by drawing on the state's improved capacities. Our analysis illustrates the enduring relevance of Huntington's discussion of political order in changing societies and points to the increased likelihood of instability in the absence of entrenched institutional mechanisms.

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