Parliament approved on December 23 with 111 votes to 3 Georgia’s new national security concept, replacing the one adopted in July 2005.
Major changes in the new concept are mainly related to Russia, reflecting, as deputy secretary of National Security Council Batu Kutelia told lawmakers, “the changed realities” as a result of the August, 2008 war.
Kutelia also said on December 23, that unlike the previous concept, the new one was a result of broad discussions with political parties and civil society; he said that feedbacks received from Georgia’s Western partners were also taken into consideration while working on the new concept.
Russian military “occupation of the Georgian territories” and “a risk of a new military aggression” by Russia, as well as “terrorist acts organized by Russia from the occupied territories” are identified among the major threats and challenges Georgia is facing.
The previous concept, which was adopted three years before the August, 2008 war, said there was “little possibility of open military aggression against Georgia,” but the threat of cross-border hostilities from state and non-state actors was deemed “real.”
Initial draft of the new concept, which was first unveiled earlier this year, did not contain a reference to “terrorist acts organized by Russia from the occupied territories”. Late last year Georgia said a Russian military officer based in breakaway Abkhazia was behind series of terrorist acts in Tbilisi in autumn, 2010. This summer the Georgian Interior Ministry said that it had foiled two terrorist attempts with one of them allegedly plotted by a Russian security officer based in Abkhazia and another one by Russian officer stationed in South Ossetia.
The new national security concept says these cases show that “after the occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, the Russian Federation uses these territories for recruiting and training of terrorists with a purpose of carrying out terrorist acts on the territory of Georgia.”
The concept says that Russia’s “main goal” is to turn Georgia into “a failed state”, to derail Georgia from its path of Euro-Atlantic integration and “to forcibly return Georgia back on the Russian orbit.”
“The eventual goal of the military aggression carried out in August, 2008 was not only to occupy Georgia’s territories or/and to achieve international recognition of proxy regimes [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia], but to change Georgia’s foreign policy course or/and to forcibly replace democratically elected government [of Georgia], because independent and democratic Georgia is perceived by Russia’s ruling political elite as a significant threat,” the concept reads.
Absence of international missions, including UN and OSCE, in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia’s continued military build-up in those regions and non-fulfillment of August 12, 2008 ceasefire commitments, combined with Moscow’s refusal to reciprocate Georgia’s unilateral non-use of force pledge creates “a risk of potential new aggression” by Russia, according to concept.
It, however, also adds, that “international support” towards Georgia, as well as presence of EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) on the parts of the country controlled by Tbilisi, “are significant deterrent factors of this risk.”
Georgia’s relations with Russia are also discussed in a separate chapter of the concept on “Major Directions of Georgia’s National Security Policy.” It says that Tbilisi aspires relations with Russia based on “good neighborly and equal principles.”
It, however, also says that “it will not be possible without respect of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and [without] start of de-occupation process.”
“Georgia supports Russian Federation’s transformation into stable democratic country,” the concept reads.
The document mentions relations with North Caucasus in the portion where ties with Russia are discussed and says that establishment of atmosphere of “cooperation and peace in the North Caucasus is of special importance for Georgia.”
“Georgia realizes necessity of deepening and developing relations with people living in the North Caucasus, which will help to increase awareness among the population living there about Georgia’s goals and political course,” the document reads.
Securing country's territorial integrity and further development of democratic institutions are listed among the country's key national interests.
Other Threats, Risks and Challenges
Apart of Russian factor, the document identifies potential spillover of conflicts from neighboring countries as a “threat” Georgia is facing.
In this context the document mentions conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh as “a challenge”.
“Renewal of armed conflict between these states will weaken security of all three South Caucasus countries and increase political influence of the Russian Federation in the entire region,” the concept reads.
In this portion dealing with conflicts in the Caucasus, the document also says that Russia tries to incite negative sentiments among the population of the North Caucasus region.
The document says that “absence of control” over the Abkhaz and South Ossetian portions of the Russian-Georgian state border creates obstacles to efficiently tackle the problem of transnational crime.
Violation of fundamental rights of persons forcibly displaced from the occupied territories is described as “a significant challenge”, saying that securing their return in safety and dignity, as well as restoration of their property rights represents one of the priorities of the Georgian state.
The document also identifies sustainable economic development, terrorism, cyber security, energy security, ecology, organized transnational crime, demography, integration of ethnic minorities in the country’s political, economic and social life through boosting knowledge of the Georgian language and preservation of monuments of historic and cultural heritage among the challenges for the national security.
While hailing the document, lawmakers from the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) have long been calling for including in the concept a wording to “stress on the role” of the Georgian Orthodox Church in terms of the Georgian identity and preservation of the Georgian historic and cultural heritage; no such wording will be included in the document.
The concept has a separate chapter about Georgia’ integration into NATO and the European Union, saying that this is country’s “one of the major” foreign policy and national security priorities.
The concept says that the August war has failed to undermine Georgia’s NATO aspiration and the country has achieved “a huge progress” on this path since 2004.
It also says that “gradual integration” into the EU is Georgia’s “one of the most important directions”.
The document also says that Georgia welcomes EU’s policy of engagement with Russia, but also notes that “such policy will only be fruitful” if such policy contributes to Russia having a foreign policy based on respect of neighbors’ sovereignty. The concept also stresses on the importance of the EU to effectively influence on Russia to fully comply with its commitments undertaken under the EU-mediated August, 2008 ceasefire agreement.
Relations with Georgia’s neighbors in South Caucasus have a separate sub-chapter in the section on “Major Directions of Georgia’s National Security Policy.”
Like the previous one, the new concept also identifies relations with Azerbaijan as “strategic.”
Relations with Armenia are described in the new concept as “close partnership”.
“Georgia is linked with Armenia and Azerbaijan with historically established traditionally good-neighborly relations,” the concept reads. “Georgia deems it of huge importance to elaborate joint approaches towards future development of the region. Deepening cooperation in the region, development of common economic space and common market will significantly contribute to region’s stability and welfare.”
Strategic Partnership with U.S.
According to the document Georgia “is deepening strategic partnership” with the United States, which is reflected in the bilateral strategic partnership charter signed in 2009.
It notes importance of the U.S. support in “de-occupation” of the Georgian territories, as well as of the U.S. assistance to the development of democratic institutions in Georgia.
“Georgia’s defense capabilities have significantly increased through the U.S. assistance programs,” the concept reads. “Georgia is interested in further deepening of cooperation in this field.”
Other Partners and Neighbors
On Ukraine the document says that “Georgia aspires to maximally use possibilities of the strategic partnership” with Kiev.
The concept describes Turkey as Georgia’s “leading regional partner.” The document says, that deepening of economic ties with Turkey, which is Georgia’s largest trading partner, and “successful implementation of transport and energy projects is of strategic importance for the both countries.”
“Turkey, as a member of NATO and one of the regional leaders, is also an important military partner. Georgia pays a huge importance to further development of relations in the sphere of security and defense with Turkey,” the concept reads.
The concept notes separately “active cooperation” with the Baltic States, “huge importance of cooperation” with Eastern and Central European states, as well as with the Scandinavian countries.
According to the document cooperation with Moldova and Belarus is of “huge importance” and welcomes these countries’ participation in the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative.
It says that Georgia “pays huge attention to the development of close cooperation” with Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, especially in the field of economy, transpiration and energy.
The concept says that Georgia also pays “huge attention to broadening political dialogue and economic cooperation” with China, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Persian Gulf states, Canada, India, Brazil, Australia. The document notes importance of continuation of establishment of diplomatic relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries.
According to the concept UN should play “a leading role” in resolving conflicts and for that purpose Georgia deems necessary to increase UN’s effectiveness. It also notes importance of OSCE and Council of Europe. The concept mentions GUAM – organization made up of Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova – in the context of Georgia’s relations with Azerbaijan and Ukraine. In the concept adopted in 2005 GUAM was mentioned in the context of cooperation within the Black Sea region.