The evaluation of Russia’s foreign policy towards Georgia in the economic context

For more than twenty-eight years, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russian-Georgian relations have been a substantial ground for mutual confrontation, sharp dispute, and a lack of trust. Continuous tensions and disagreements have adversely affected efforts to achieve a proper balance in bilateral relations between the neighboring countries and resulted in a number of direct and indirect confrontations.

Whilst the Russian president seeks to restore Russia’s great power status, regain its past glory and control strategically important regions of the former Soviet space, Georgia, from the very first day of independence, tries to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity, develop modern state institutions, strengthen democratic values and integrate into the Euro-Atlantic structures.

The essay aims to assess Moscow’s current foreign policy strategy towards Georgia
following the “Rose Revolution” and argues that Russia’s military intervention in Georgia, in August 2008, was a clear illustration of classical realism used by a great power in the twentyfirst century.

The evaluation of the process clearly demonstrates that the Kremlin continuously
employs political and economic leverage on Georgia to achieve its policy goals in the region. Russia actively uses complex tools and methods to spread anti-Western and pro-Russian rhetoric across wider society, and undermines Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Moscow, directly and indirectly, influences Georgian political actors, church, and media and occupies 20% of Georgian territories. Furthermore, Russian-baked separatists erect barbed wire fences along the administrative border of the occupied regions and detain Georgian people. Paradoxically enough, Russia’s foreign policy towards Georgia has never been straightforward. Following the disintegration of the USSR, every new attempt of Georgia to improve the relationship with its Northern neighbor failed due to Russia’s imperial approach towards Tbilisi, which simply demonstrates its “divide and conquer” strategy in the former Soviet space.

The paper argued that Russia’s military intervention in Georgia (August 2008) was a
clear illustration of classical realism, that is, the hard power exhibition of Moscow. It was a direct message to Washington that Russia still maintains its role as a great power among the world’s dominant political actors and still applies “the rule of the jungle” to defend its “national interests”.

From another standpoint, following the war, Russian-Georgian relations remained rather strained, filled with mutual suspicion and a lack of trust. Yet, before the war, Russian embargo on Georgian products in 2006 adversely affected the Georgian economy since after Turkey, Russia has been and remains the second-largest importer of Georgian products near abroad. Russian embargo, on the other side, triggered strong debates among the economic experts in Georgia that the Russian market would no more be a solid foothold for Georgian business in the long run. However, it appeared to be practically impossible for Georgia to replace the Russian market by a potential alternative in the region, due to several reasons, such as: high demands for
Georgian products (especially wine and mineral water) in Russia; historical proximity and long-established trade ties between the two countries; and shared culture and religious beliefs that are still deeply embedded in the perception of many Russian and Georgian people, particularly the old generation who have lived and grown up in the Soviet Union.

Furthermore, Russian foreign policy strategy has undergone significant transformation in recent years by strengthening a soft power in Georgia which, in turn, is shaped with Kremlin’s powerful propaganda. Since the methods and tools used by the Russian media are becoming more and more refined and sophisticated in the twenty-first century compared to propaganda used by the Soviet Union, it is one of the effective mechanisms for Kremlin to widely spread disinformation and promote pro-Russian and anti-Western rhetoric.

In Georgia, Russia actively manipulates with the following major instruments of hybrid
warfare: “Creeping occupation” and de-facto regimes; soft power through propaganda;
information war; and covert operations.

Thus, Moscow frequently employs a combination of hard power and soft power to
achieve its political ends in the South Caucasus and uses economic pressure as a “punishment”of Georgian people for their “misbehavior”. As long as Russia’s creeping annexation of Georgian territories and its political and economic pressure on Georgia continue, it is highly unlikely Kremlin to change the course towards Tbilisi in the foreseeable future. It should definitely be emphasized that “creeping annexation” is not only an act of illegal occupation of Georgian territories, Russia, on the one hand, aims at weakening Georgia’s economy, and on the other hand, tries to increase the dependence of Georgian export on the Russian market. Furthermore, Russia interferes with Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and diminishes the status of the country on an international stage by showing the rest of the world that Georgia is unable to independently carry out its political course without the support of Moscow.

Under the current tense political relations between Russia and Georgia, it becomes
certainly clear that the more Georgia increases its ties with the US, the NATO, and the EU, the more unpredictable Russia’s reactions could be in the region, in response. For instance, with this scenario, Russia is expected to strengthen pro-Russian forces in Georgia, create political instability in the country and undermine its democratic development, or with another scenario, Moscow is expected to again impose economic sanctions on Georgia. Tbilisi should better prepare for that.

In light of Russia’s current foreign policy towards Georgia, there is no reason to believe
that there will be positive changes in Russian-Georgian relations in the near future. It is difficult to foresee a positive dynamic for the peaceful resolution of the Georgian conflicts as well. From the mentioned perspective, Georgia should further strengthen its ties and increase strategic partnerships with the West and Europe to stand firm against the threats coming from Russia. In the economic context, the Georgian government should first and foremost take all the possible measures to reduce the economic dependence on Russia and furthermore, work to diversify Georgian exports abroad. Currently, Georgia has a free trade agreement with the EU and China which, in this regard, represents a huge success for the country.

ავტორის შესახებ

მე, თამარ აქუბარდია, დავიბადე 2004 წლის 25 დეკემბერს, თბილისში. ამჟამად ვცხოვრობ წალენჯიხის რაიონის სოფელ ჭალეში და ვსწავლობ ამავე სოფლის #1 საჯარო სკოლის მეათე კლასში. ესესთვის თემა ,,განათლების, კულტურის და სპორტის პოლიტიკა”  ავარჩიე, მაგრამ მხოლოდ განათლებას და სისტემაში არსებულ პრობლემებს შევეხე. მე მოსწავლე ვარ, ამიტომ გადავწყვიტე,  რომ კარგი იქნებოდა ეს საკითხი მოსწავლის რაკურსით გამეშუქებინა.მომავალი პროფესია არჩეული მაქვს, ძალიან დიდი ხანია. სავარაუდოდ, არქიტექტურას ავირჩევ, რადგან ეს პროფესია ბევრ საკითხს აერთიანებს. რაც შეეხება კონკურსს, სოციალურ ქსელში განთავსებულ განცხადებას გავეცანი და სურვილი გამიჩნდა,  რომ მონაწილეობა მიმეღო.