Audit of foreign policy. Ukraine and Georgia - friends, but not allies

Author : Daria Gaidai

Source :

Partnership with Ukraine is a component of broader Georgian strategy to change its positioning in the world, strengthen its integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and not only this.
21:11, 10 October 2016

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Everyone who arrives in Georgia at the airport sees the inscription "Georgia - an associate member of the EU."

Focusing on Europe is not something new in Georgian politics. The idea that Georgia is part of Europe, part of the Christian world has always been an important element of the Georgian identity.

For Georgia path to Europe lies through restoration and consolidation of its Black Sea identity that is strengthening cooperation with the Black Sea countries, including Ukraine.

Thus, the partnership with Ukraine is a component of a broader Georgian strategy to change its positioning in the world, strengthen its integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. But not only this.

Because of the potential difference, the absence of a common border and other factors, the partnership between Ukraine and Georgia has always been more politically, rather than economically motivated.

Countries spurred each other by geopolitical considerations, mutual desire to counter Russian influence and to achieve closer cooperation with European countries.

Georgia remembers that help, which gave Ukraine during the war in Abkhazia, as well as support during the five-day war with Russia in 2008. But we should not underestimate the value factor, because the closest approach between Georgia and Ukraine fell exactly on time after the democratic revolution of 2003 in Georgia and 2004 in Ukraine, which created some sense of ideological kinship of countries.

As pointed out in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, during all violations of the territorial integrity of Georgian Ukrainian diplomacy reacted instantly as if it is the territory of Ukraine.

Similarly Georgia condemns Russian aggression against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, consistently supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country and is the coauthor of resolutions and declarations of the Ukrainian issue within the UN, OSCE and other international organizations.

Georgian parliament accepted three resolutions in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The policy of caution

However, after the victory of the coalition "Georgian Dream" in the parliamentary elections of 2012, Tbilisi policy in the region has become more restrained and conciliatory.

The new Georgian leadership has abandoned the confrontational rhetoric toward Russia, focusing primarily on economic issues. As a political force leader Bidzina Ivanishvili repeatedly said, Georgia should not be a source of conflict between the West and Russia.

The new course could not fail to affect Ukraine. The aggression of Russia against Ukraine has put before the Georgian government extremely difficult task: on the one hand, Tbilisi considered it necessary to show their support for Ukraine, and on the other - did not want to jeopardize only recently recovered economic ties with Russia.

As a result, the Georgian government takes a cautious stance on Kyiv in order not to irritate Moscow.

However, the Russian-Georgian normalization that occurred after 2012, has significant limitations.

But now too much attention to these issues, according to Tbilisi, only harms the interests of Georgia. This position is "non-resistance", as critics of "Georgian dream" call it, contrasts sharply with the previous period, when Tbilisi sharply react to any provocative actions of the separatist regimes or Russia.

The main argument against "strategic patience" is that this policy has not brought any improvements, and the situation around the occupied territories remains still tense.

Hiding problems

Ukraine is losing its importance for Georgia, however, Georgia is slowly disappearing from the agenda of Ukraine, which directs all its attention and efforts on the European direction.

However, from the Ukrainian side the situation is not better: the lack of strategic vision combined with a lack of operational planning and coordination to achieve common goals and overcome common threats. It is significant the fact that for over a year in Georgia there’s no Ukrainian ambassador.

Today, Georgia's main foreign partners are: the United States, the European Union and Turkey. Turkey is a political and economic counterweight to Russia in the region, being not only a major source of investment for Georgia, but also a partner in the security field.

The last two years both the Georgian and Ukrainian officials are trying to hide the problems in bilateral relations, stressing the mutual respect, understanding and friendship. However unofficially Georgian politicians and commentators, unlike diplomats acknowledge that the current state of relations between Ukraine and Georgia is poor.

Even in the post-revolutionary period the strategic partnership between the two countries has not been developed into a sustainable cooperation at the institutional level. Mostly, this is due to the fact that Ukrainian politicians, who led the country after the Revolution of dignity, had close friendly connections with Saakashvili and members of his government.

Crushing defeat of the United National Movement in the 2012 elections was a real surprise for both the Ukrainian political and expert circles, especially given the success of the Georgian reforms.

A certain distrust to the new Georgian leadership only intensified after the Revolution of dignity, when Georgia took a cautious and waiting position in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

At the same time, Georgian leaders also reacted with suspicion to the Ukrainian leadership, which did not hide their sympathy for their political opponents.

On certain atmosphere of mistrust in bilateral relations, Georgian observers spoke after the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili repeatedly postponed his visit to Ukraine and then canceled it altogether. Among the reasons for his "canceling of arrival" they informally called unwillingness to "accidentally" meet in Kyiv with persons who are wanted in Georgia.

From the Georgian side we can repeatedly hear that Saakashvili "usurped the Ukrainian agenda." After his retirement from the presidency against former president were initiated criminal investigations and Georgian Prosecutor demands his extradition.

The common waiting room to EU and NATO

However, the common interests of both countries remain common. Ukraine and Georgia are going together because of the desire to become members of the EU and NATO: for years Kyiv and Tbilisi went together to a common goal and, in their own way implemented reforms.

However, in recent years the "package" approach to the Georgian-Ukrainian integration with the EU and NATO has increasingly less support among the Georgian experts and officials, as currently Tbilisi is much ahead of Kyiv regarding the reforms.

The fact that this "lag" can provoke conflicts between partners, showed the situation with granting Ukraine and Georgia visa-free regime with the EU. The desire of Ukrainian representatives to synchronize the process of making a decision on Georgia and Ukraine simultaneously angered the Foreign Ministry of Georgia. Unlike Ukraine, Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic integration has shown greater consistency and determination.

In 2008, at the NATO summit in Bucharest Ukraine and Georgia jointly announced their desire to become members of NATO. After 8 years at the NATO Summit in Warsaw Ukraine is only establishing effective cooperation with NATO, while Georgia is thinking about how to convert a significant progress in the membership.

Another difference – the public support for NATO membership.

Although the level of support for Euro-Atlantic integration in Ukraine significantly increased, it still fluctuates within 50%, while the Georgian integration into NATO support 77% of citizens.

However, if the "package approach" in relations with NATO and the EU currently no longer meets the interests of Tbilisi or Kyiv, the mutual coordination and exchange of experience in this way may significantly strengthen both countries.

The Georgian side has repeatedly stated the need for coordination between the three countries which have signed an Association Agreement with the EU and have common security challenges.


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Related: Elections in Georgia attended by almost 35% of voters. - CEC

Related: Elections in Georgia: Saakashvili’s return and Putin’s revenge


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