PULASKI COMMENTARY: War in Ukraine and new geopolitical reality: View from Tbilisi (Nikoloz Khatiashvili)

PULASKI COMMENTARY: War in Ukraine and new geopolitical reality: View from Tbilisi (Nikoloz Khatiashvili)

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned the global security environment upside down and made all countries think about the effectiveness of the existing security architecture. It is clear, that the process of revising the international order has already begun, and it is not excluded, that in the near future, we will witness the formation of new scientific, theoretical, or practical approaches to international relations and global politics.

Russia, with its invasion of Ukraine, once again confirmed its imperialistic aspirations, which implies the restoration of the Soviet Union in new forms. One of Putin’s nightmares is to see a democratic and liberal Russia, along with the increased influence of the EU and the US across its borders, which means the end to Putin’s regime. Putin cannot adapt to the strong and democratic states on his borders, because he believes that the democratization process may also spill over to Russia from the bordering countries, which will bring catastrophic results for Putin’s regime. What has been going on in Ukraine for almost more than a year now, is not an ordinary war between two states. It is clear, that in a struggle that is taking place on the territory of Ukraine, on one side we have the authoritarian-totalitarian regimes, and on the other side, the liberal-democratic world.

Europe is well aware that without Ukraine, it will be impossible to restrain the Russian ideology, and it will be impossible to restrain Russia from gaining influence on the wider Black Sea region, because Ukraine, together with Georgia, act as strongholds for the West that prevent Russia from gaining hegemony in the whole Black Sea and Caucasus regions.

In the last decades, we have witnessed Russia’s neighboring countries, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, begin a rapid democratization process. Georgia became the first victim of Russia in the early 90s. Then, in 2008, there was a Russian invasion of Georgia, which resulted in the occupation of 20% of Georgian territories. This invasion was intended to change Georgia’s pro-western aspirations and suspend democratic development.

Since 2008, Georgia has been warning its Western partners to adopt a tougher and more rigid stance towards Russia, because if Russia did not receive an appropriate response from the West, then it would be a green light for its next invasion. The West did not take into account this warning, and indeed, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and continues its aggression against Ukraine.

It should be noted that based on past experience, Europe has indeed shown unanimity and unity, and provided significant assistance to Ukraine.

Since the beginning of the war, CEE countries, including Poland, have helped Ukraine by all meansincluding humanitarian, military, as well as diplomatic and political assistance.

In total, Poland received more than 7 million Ukrainian refugees and provided more than $2.3 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine. At the beginning of the war, Warsaw officialy announced 3 main priorities in which it would help Ukraine, and these were saving Ukraine, stopping the expansion of the Kremlin, and supporting Ukraine with tangible diplomatic and military assistance. These priorities soon became Poland’s foreign policy priorities. Other CEE countries joined Warsaw’s initiatives very soon, along with the Western European countries.

Over the years, CEE countries have stood by Ukraine in order to support the implementation of democratic reforms and strengthen institutional development. Quite substantial financial and human resources were invested in this process. It was with the help of these countries that Ukrainian society maintained its resilience and was able to be fully united. The part of information warfare was and still is particularly important. In recent years, CEE countries have been helping Ukraine to effectively fight Russian disinformation and propaganda. With their help, a number of important projects and reforms were implemented in Ukraine. Even during the war, the CEE countries, especially the Baltic States, which have one of the best experiences in these matters, helped Ukraine in the information war. Finally, Ukraine has achieved significant results in this direction and continues to do so successfully.

Most of the CEE countries are well aware of what Ukraine feels like now.  Most of them were members of the Soviet Union and experienced the negative consequences of Russian influence. CEE countries and Ukraine share many common values, threats and goals. Most post-Soviet European countries, as well as Georgia, realize that if Putin will achieve any success in Ukraine, then they may become the Kremlin’s next target. That is why it is important that the CEE countries continue to support Ukraine in strengthening democracy, institutional stability and resilience. Poland, as a leading power in the CEE region, should take the lead in this process. Poland can strengthen its lobby for Ukraine, along with Georgia to support the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Both countries face common threats, such as Russian occupation of territories, Russian disinformation and propaganda, and the Black Sea security.

Georgia’s Response to the War in Ukraine

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Georgia has received approximately 30,000 Ukrainian refugees and granted them all the privileges enjoyed by Georgian citizens who are internally displaced from Georgia’s occupied regions. On the international level, Georgia politically and diplomatically supports all initiatives aimed at protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. In addition, Georgia is among the 38 countries that applied to International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine, resulting in an arrest warrant for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Along with political support, Georgia permanently sends humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Georgian people understand very well, what is happening in Ukraine now. We experienced Russian aggression in 2008, as well as in the early 90s. Both our countries aspire for NATO and EU membership, which is against Russia’s interests. That is why it is important that Georgia and Ukraine act in a coordinated and unanimous manner to overcome common challenges and achieve common goals. In order to achieve all mentioned, it is necessary to work together on these issues:

  • Considering the fact that in both countries Russia actively uses elements of hybrid warfare, including disinformation and propaganda, it will be important to work in this direction, namely, on the one hand, both countries should work on the development of population resilience strategies, and on the other hand, develop such joint projects that will make it possible to deal with disinformation and propaganda, as Russia uses roughly the same methods and messages in both countries. In this regard, it might be beneficial to create an agency or a relevant service for an immediate exchange of information and to elaborate common approaches toward Russian disinformation and fake news.
  • NATO integration is a strategic priority of both countries. That is why, on this path, both countries should act on the principles of mutual support. Without Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO, it will be impossible to strengthen security and stability in the wider Black Sea region.
  • During the last decades, a number of reforms were implemented in Georgia, in order to approach to EU and NATO. According to the EU’s reports and evaluations, Georgia is a frontrunner country among the Association Trio States. Georgia can export the successful reforms implemented in the country to Ukraine and help in those areas in which it has good practices. A number of countries have already imported several reforms from Georgia.
  • In 2019, with the initiative of Georgia, a Parliamentary Assembly was formed between Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, which was a good opportunity to work on issues of common interests on a political level. Unfortunately, the work of this format has been suspended for the moment. It is important to reactivate this format so that the countries strengthen their ties at the legislative level and work more closely towards common strategic goals – joining the European Union and NATO and promoting regional security;
  • Ukraine and Georgia should think about the establishment of new alliances, which will involve major players, who will help Georgia and Ukraine on the one hand to integrate and implement reforms in European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and on the other hand, provide certain security guarantees to these countries. Poland may play an important role in this process.

Conclusion

New geopolitical reality demands new visions and approaches to international security. In this situation, the center of gravity shifts to the Black Sea region, which is of critical importance in terms of European energy security and alternative infrastructure pathways. This situation is against Kremlin’s interests because the reduction of Russian influence on the Black Sea means more energy and infrastructure independence for Europe. Accordingly, Ukraine and Georgia should cooperate as closely as possible on all the above-mentioned aspects and take united steps towards integration into the European Union and NATO. The differentiation of these countries will lead to the breakdown of the entire process and will again and again harm the future security architecture of Europe, therefore it will be very difficult for Ukraine and Georgia to pursue their common goals separately, which is only in the interest of Kremlin. West needs to take bolder and more decisive approach and tangible elements to help these countries, including merit-based and pragmatic decisions like rapid accession of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO and opening negotiation process with the EU for both countries.

Author: Nikoloz Khatiashvili, Warsaw Security Forum Democracy Network Georgia, Research Fellow at GEOCASE think tank

Project supported by the National Endowment for Democracy