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Consequences of the Diplomatic Recognition of Abkhazia by the Syrian Arab Republic

Michael Lambert

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Abkhazia is a partially recognized state — Russia (2008), Nicaragua (2008), Venezuela (2009), Nauru (2009), Syria (2018) — of 8,660km2 and 240,000 inhabitants located on the shores of the Black Sea. During the Soviet times, the region was one of the most prosperous area in the USSR due to its geographic position in addition to a recognized wine industry, tobacco, oranges, and a hub for Soviet tourism.

Abkhazia has always been of strategic interest to the USSR/Russia and the Ottoman Empire/Turkey because it connects by land — without going through the mountains — the Slavic world to the Middle East, while ensuring control over the Caucasus people living in the area.

The Russian/Abkhaz military facility in Gudauta opened in July 1918 (1st Kursk Soviet Infantry Division) and remains active nowadays under the name of the ‘7th Krasnodar Red Banner Order Kuturoz Red Star Military Base.’ Gudauta is not the only military center, it also has the Sukhum/i airport which has one of the longest airstrips in the world, capable of accommodating space shuttles, currently used by the Abkhaz Air Force (Военно-воздушные силы Абхазии).

From a diplomatic perspective, the Russian Federation has been assisting Abkhazia since the USSR´s breakup with peacekeepers on the ground and further providing 60% of the state budget according to the Abkhaz State Investment Agency. Following the diplomatic recognition of the territory in 2008, the Russian peacekeepers became de jure the Russian Armed Forces in Abkhazia (Russian/Abkhaz perspective), and the Russian illegal occupants in Georgia (Western/Georgian perspective).

The decision to recognize Abkhazia underlines a growing competition between the West and Russia, and a strong diplomatic retaliation to the recognition of Kosovo (2008) by the United-States and (most) EU member states (e.g. Spain refused to recognize Kosovo because of the political tensions in Catalonia). The recognition of Abkhazia has been an opportunity to increase Moscow’s influence in the Black Sea and diminished NATO and EU (Eastern Partnership) smart power in the post-Soviet space.

Russian diplomacy following the recognition of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia is significantly different compared to 1992¬–2008. Before 2008, Moscow was focused on maintaining a buffer zone between Georgia — influenced by the West — and Russia. After 2008, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs began promoting the Montevideo Convention and regionalism in Europe and in the Southern Caucasus.

On the one hand, from the Russian perspective, Abkhazia remains a fundamental part of the Russian military influence power in the Caucasus. However, after 2008 it shows a more complex picture and the development of an active Russian minority-based foreign policy. Unlike Transnistria and South-Ossetia, interested in joining the Russian Federation, Abkhazia is interested in establishing bilateral relationship with Russia based on mutual respect and shared economic and security interests. The Abkhaz leadership is trying to increase the practice of Abkhaz language, preserve the Abkhaz native religion and regional identity, contrary to Transnistria and South-Ossetia interested, as it was said before, in joining the Russian Federation.

On the other, from the Western perspective, the debate on the application of the Montevideo Convention in Abkhazia is not excluded, and Western leaders are aware of the cultural specificity of Abkhazia or to be more specific in Northern Abkhazia (Southern Abkhazia — Gal/i district being mostly populated of Mingrelians with a Georgian passport -). Western states are ready to accept a debate and a referendum on an independent Abkhazia. Nonetheless, Abkhazia must be (re)attached to Georgia before and the Georgians who have been expelled from Abkhazia will vote during the referendum.

In such a context, both the West and Russia are trying to defend their positions and interests using their best assets. The West condemns countries interested in recognizing Abkhazia, while Russia tries to push more countries to recognize the state. Abkhaz leaders are in between, interested in the Russia support, but not open to being recognized by everyone.

For instance, Abkhaz leaders are interested in being recognized by North Korea, but skeptical about it, as it would undermine the country´s image abroad. The North Korean Chamber of Commerce contacted the Abkhaz Prime Minister in December 2017 and an Abkhaz delegation visited Pyongyang in August 2018. In return, a North Korean delegation visited Sukhum/i in November 2018 to discuss further cooperation. According to the Director of International Relations at the Chamber of Commerce of North Korea, construction companies, logistics, food, and textile industry, are interested in working with Abkhazia. North Korean workers could be assigned to the Black Sea country, making North Korea the next country to recognize Abkhazia after Syria (2018).

The Abkhaz Society

Contrary to the picture of isolated country, Abkhazia is in touch with the outside world through its embassy in Moscow, and the Abkhaz diplomatic missions abroad — Tunisia, Venezuela, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, partially recognized states (e.g. South-Ossetia), and western NGOs working in Abkhazia (e.g. the Red Cross).

The Abkhaz society is a melting pot and the majority of the diaspora currently lives in Turkey — 500,000 people — coming back to the territory with the support of the World Abaza Congress. Abkhazians have a Turkish/Syrian background (diaspora), Greek (Ochamchire) and Estonians (0.2% of the population) ancestors. Moreover, Abkhazians with Mingrelians origins — Georgian speakers — are located in the Gal/i district close to Zugdidi. Italy is the most popular destination to study followed by Russia, while the United Kingdom remains attractive and expensive. Some Abkhazians are also living and working in the West.

Last but not least, there continues to be a growing gap between ‘Soviet’ Abkhazians and the younger generation. Young people are more interested in entrepreneurship, having access to the outside world, and using the internet on a daily basis. The relationship between Georgia and Abkhazia might be unchanged for decades, but the debate or confrontation between Abkhaz and Georgian youngsters is permanent.

Access to the international world will require to reopening the airport in Sukhum/i, providing access to faraway destinations such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Syria. Closed since the breakup of the USSR, the possible reopening is connected to the diplomatic recognition of Abkhazia by Damascus, and international tourism is expected to have unknown consequences on civil society and political life.

Drivers and Consequences Behind the Syrian Arab Republic Diplomatic Recognition

Moscow suggested the Syrian leaders — and the rest of its allies- to recognize Abkhazia in order to provide more legitimacy to Russian diplomacy in the Caucasus. Nevertheless, it would be naive to assume the diplomatic recognition of Abkhazia by Damascus is due to Russian smart power because other states — Belarus, Armenia, China, and North-Korea — have been asked by Moscow to do the same for several years without any success.

The relationship between Abkhazia and Syria — similar to Turkey and Jordan — started in the early 1800s when Abkhaz people had to escape the Caucasus, and since then families of Abkhaz origin (speaking Arabic and Muslims) have been living in Syria for centuries. Following the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levan (ISIL), a part of the Syrian-Abkhaz diaspora decided to come back to Abkhazia, a region open to having more Muslims and ready to provide them with housing. The newcomers — 500 families in total — are slightly different from the ‘native’ Abkhazians and not as attached to the language and paganism as they choose Russian language before Abkhazian at school and maintain Islam.

The return of the Syrian-Abkhaz diaspora to Abkhazia, combined with Russian smart power, influenced Damascus’ political choice to recognize Abkhazia, and end bilateral relations with Georgia. Damascus’ decision has been influenced by the Abkhaz flexibility when it comes to religion. In Abkhazia, Muslims represent (18%), Christians (60%) — mostly Orthodox — and pagans (8%), are living together and accepted in the society, making Abkhazia a non-denominational state with religious tolerance.

Damascus should open an embassy in Sukhum/i, and therefore Abkhazia will do the same in Syria. The opening of the new Syrian Embassy will provide an incentive in the political debate and can be an asset to deliver passports and other administrative documents in Abkhazia. As of today, no military cooperation has been mentioned by any side.

The reopening of the Sukhum/i airport will bring an opportunity to export Abkhaz products to Syria, including military equipment — according to a bilateral agreement -, and more Syrian tourists and refugees might decide to settle and invest in Abkhazia.

The Consequence for the Sukhum/i Airport

Abkhazia is connected to the outside world via the railway to Russia, the marshrutka to South-Ossetia and Eastern Ukraine, and public transportation to the partially recognized border with Georgia.

The project to reopen the airport in Sukhum/i will impact the economy, diplomacy and civil society, as it will offer direct flight connections with Moscow, Damascus, and possibly other destinations such as Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The Abkhazians will have the opportunity to travel, study, and invests in Latin America and the Middle East, while they will be able to export all kind of products and welcome tourists speaking Spanish and Arabic. Moving from a Slavic/Russian-focused society to a multicultural society might have consequences for Abkhaz´s opinion of the rest of the world, and it will likely increase the attractiveness of Spanish and Arabic studies.

From a military and intelligence perspective, the Abkhaz Air Force will have to rethink the strategy regarding security at the Sukhum/i airport because most of the military equipment — Aero L-39 and Mil Mi-8 — are located in the area. Having the fighter jets and helicopters close to the civilian airport could lead to espionage and sabotage attempts, making it easier for foreign intelligence to learn more about the Abkhaz Air Force capabilities.

If the Abkhaz Armed Forces want to move their assets, the only two options will be a relocation to Pskou — a natural aircraft — or a transfer to Bombora airport currently under the command of the Russian Armed Forces. Furthermore, it is difficult to know how the Georgian allies will react to the reopening of the airport, and it might end up with a connection only between Moscow and Sukhum/i due to international pressures from Georgia and the West.

Another question remaining is the possible flight connections with Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, and other parts of Russia. In fine, the reopening of the airport is generating to more questions than answers. It can be both a success and a failure, as the result depends on the marketing strategy of Abkhaz leaders to advertise the country in a competitive environment and the ability to develop new infrastructures suitable for international tourism and not exclusively fulfilling the expectation of the Russian tourists.

The Consequences for the Russian Armed Forces in Gudauta

The ‘7 Krasnodar Red Banner Order Kutuzov Order Red Star Military Base’ is subordinated to the command of the southern military district of the Russian Federation, allowed to be sued by Russian troops according to bilateral agreements between the Republic of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation. On paper, the military facility is supposed to be used both by the Abkhaz Armed Forces and the Russian Armed Forces, while in practice the Russian commandment decides who is allowed to get in to avoid any espionage.

Georgia and the West are suspicious regarding the activities at the Bombora airport and are suspecting a possible connection with Syria and even Eastern Ukraine. The airport is located close to the sea level, making it difficult for radars to detect fighter jets taking off and landing. Additionally, the railway from Russia to Gudauta was modernized in 2015, while the Russian Ministry of Defense mentioned a military exercise involving some S-400 and T-90 in the area.

As of today, the West knows Russian troops have 40 T-72B3 tanks; 120 BTR-82A armored personnel carriers; 18 self-propelled howitzers 2S3 “acacia”; 12 2С12 “Sunny” mortars; 18 reactive systems of volley fire BM-21 “Grad” towed howitzer D-30; it is anti-aircraft rocket complex of air defense with S-300.

Such data comes from open intelligence sources, and the absence of high-quality Russian equipment — Su35, T-14 Armata — shows Moscow is interested in establishing, more than anything else, a balance with the Georgian Armed Forces and their allies in the region. The increasing security around the facility, which confuses Georgian and Western intelligence services, is not to hide any suspicious activities but to prevent any intrusion. Such military facilities, well protected but not necessarily hiding something, are common in Russia and NATO countries (e.g. HWU transmitter in Seine-Port, France).

In addition, Abkhazia is recognized by Syria since 2018, and it allows Russia to legally transfer military equipment from Bombara to any partner. The only difference lies on the fact Abkhazia is not recognized by the West, making it more difficult for foreign intelligence and international observers to record activities in the area and relying on Georgian intelligence sources.

Syria´s diplomatic recognition of Abkhazia is also giving more legitimacy to a possible military supply by the Abkhaz Armed Forces to Syria — which is probably not the case because the Abkhazs themselves are missing capabilities at the moment — while the possibility for Russia to provide some supply to Syria remains a possibility. Nota bene, the Russian Ministry of Defense could also supply Syria directly from home or Armenia.

Conclusions

Diplomatic ties between Abkhazia and Syria will have major macroeconomic consequences and minor consequences from a military point of view. If the Sukhum/i airport is reopened in the upcoming years, it will provide the Abkhaz people with direct access to the Middle East and Latin America, changing the nature of the state currently relying on Russia and making Abkhazia the most international partially recognized state in Europe as well as Kosovo.

The Abkhaz Air Force will have to undergo changes and possibly relocate its resources elsewhere, while the Russian Armed Forces will remain the same to ensure balance in the Caucasus.

From the Western perspective, the activity in Gudauta — new railway (2015), transfer of some T-90, renewing of the fences around the Gudauta facility, etc. — is an attempt by Moscow to provide military supply to Syria and Eastern Ukraine, and to put more pressure on Georgia, which continues to try to get closer to NATO and the European Union.

From the Russian perspective, the growing military activity in Bombora is a response to the increasing diplomatic pressures from NATO and the West on Russia’s allies in the Black Sea (Armenia, Abkhazia and South-Ossetia, Transnistria) and Syria. Sending more Russian forces and equipment in Gudauta is necessary to reassure Eastern Ukraine, Syria and Abkhazia, and it shows Moscow is ready to protect its interests in the event that NATO or Georgia escalate the conflict as it happened when Saakashvili was the President of Georgia.

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D. in History of Europe & International Relations, Sorbonne University - INSEAD Business School, (Geo)political scientist working on Sino-European/Russian relations and soft power in the 21st century

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Eastern Europe

Georgian Way of Combatting the Coronavirus

Emil Avdaliani

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Despite its small size and unstable economy, Georgia was one of the first countries to start taking active measures to counter the spread of the pandemic. This included closing schools and conducting widespread diagnostic tests. As will be argued below, Georgian response to the pandemic was a mixture of East Asian and West European models.

The single most decisive factor why Georgia stands out as a successful example in combatting the pandemic is a swift political action by the central government, which acted as soon as the country’s first case of coronavirus – a Georgian citizen who returned from Iran – was diagnosed, on February 26. The same day an inter-departmental task force was formed to coordinate the fight against coronavirus, made up of representatives of every major government agency, to manage the situation. Banning flights to/from Iran was announced. In the following days, flights to Italy, another hard-hit state, were also suspended.

All ministries drafted an action plan against the coronavirus. As the number of cases rose, schools and other educational institutions across the country were closed. Lockdown measures such as night time curfew and the suspension of public transport services (bus and metro) followed. On March 20th Georgia halted all passenger air traffic, including banning all non-resident foreign citizens from entering the country. Closure of restaurants, bars and shops apart from grocery stores, banks, petrol stations, pharmacies and post offices followed. Vehicles transporting essential goods were allowed to operate.

Moreover, inbound passengers were checked for high temperatures and were asked to provide exact information and contact details necessary in case they started experiencing symptoms at home. Those were essential measures as they allowed the government to track potential patients right from the state borders and airports. The government also set up a website with all the necessary information which reflected international scientific opinion and World Health Organization recommendations.

Though the above measures are standard in preventing a wide spread of any epidemic or infection, the swiftness of those actions was a decisive factor for success. Two additional instruments at the disposal of the Georgian government played a further stabilizing role. First is the role of the Richard Lugar Public Health Research Centre, part of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The laboratory has allowed Georgia to get test results in a very short time and trace the roots of the virus. The research center was constructed with funds from the US government and is a subject of widespread disinformation campaign emanating from Russia as to the laboratory’s role.

In Between the Asian and European Methods

Many features of the Georgian government’s handling of the pandemic are similar to the East Asian coronavirus management style. East Asian countries contained the spread of the virus below the vulnerable threshold by relying on preparedness, technology, and transparency. Evidence from Asia (Taiwan, Singapore and others) suggests an effective means to ensure the compliance of citizens to follow restrictive measures was to use modern AI technologies. Surely, Georgia lags well behind many Asian states in terms of technological advancements, but the country’s correct mobilization of available medical resources as well as an aggressive contact tracing strategy prevented the state from falling into the pandemic-related chaos similar to what has taken place in most European states.

Similar to some Asian states, Georgia also did not follow all the WHO guidelines. Quite often the WHO gave controversial recommendations such as not to limit international traffic or assumptions about face masks not being effective. Georgian scientists also changed one crucial WHO guideline by removing high fever from the list of suspicious symptoms. This allowed them to detect many more infection cases compared to strictly following the WHO guidelines.

There is also Georgia’s mindset in play. As in many Asian states, the country is used to crises, whether civil wars and the Russian invasion in 2008 or a difficult economic situation. These made it easier for the Georgian population to withstand limits on movement and endure a near total shutdown of economy with the ensuing economic hardship.

Surprisingly, draconian measures introduced by the Georgian authorities were in place much earlier than in most in of European states. The timing was crucial and since the European states did not introduce restrictive measures early enough, congestion of the healthcare system followed with thousands of patients entering the system daily in western Europe alone.

Take for example the Netherlands, which introduced almost no restrictive measures at the time when the spread of the pandemic became evident. Only flights from Wuhan (epicenter of the pandemic) were stopped. As a result, countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, far exceeding Georgia’s economic and medical potential, experienced thousands of deaths.

As in west European states, the Georgian authorities faced a challenge of putting the state on a complete lockdown and concerns as to how compliant citizens would be. The Georgian authorities decided to balance the individual responsibility every citizen shares with stricter central enforcement mechanisms – an effective mixture of European and East Asian models. Moderate use of surveillance technology plus transparent, comprehensive testing, quick quarantining and isolation of suspected cases, made the difference.

Even in its own region, the South Caucasus, which is characterized by near identical level of economic development, Georgia stands out as a good example of pandemic crisis management. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Iran all have much higher number cases of infections and fatalities. The reasons for those differences should be found not so much in the size of economies of those states, but rather in the timing of restrictive measures and how far they were effectively implemented.

Georgia’s success story proves, as many analysts argued, that smaller states (with small population) could be less vulnerable to the pandemic. But it also shows that the timing of introduction of restrictive measures is more important and that relatively poor states could perform in a much effective way than larger, developed economies. Many argued that no concrete way of combatting the pandemic exists and that each state should adjust to its specific economic and medical needs as well as geography and other factors. However, as the Georgian case demonstrated, an effective application of East Asia and West European models serves as a good starting point for preventing the pandemic from hitting large population groups in the state. So far, this strategy proves to be effective as the government in Tbilisi has started to lift economic restrictions and the number of infections has not grown.

Author’s note: first published in Caucasus Watch

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Eastern Europe

Geopolitics of Dual Citizenship: Case of Georgia

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Authors: Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani

Dual citizenship emerges as a geopolitical concept. Small states seeking political and military security could attain guarantees through the spread of dual citizenship. Below are examples from Roman history with a separate case made for modern Georgia.

 Dual citizenship seems to be a way small European nations should feel safe within a framework of the European integration, whereas a responsibility for a personal security lays upon an allied country too. A research of historical background must be involved thoroughly, Georgia being an object for this case. If a foreign citizenship was a traditional honorary degree passed from the European principal domains towards the provinces, the countries being tied up formally, it should not be abandoned at all, and put under a scrupulous legislative elaboration.

 “Serapita, daughter of Zevakh the lesser pitiax (duke), and wife of Iodmangan, son of Publicios Agrippa the pitiax, victorious epitropos (commander-in-chief and the only minister) of the Great King of the Iberians Xepharnug, died young, aged 21, and she was extremely beautiful” (Г. В. Церетели. Армазская билингва. Двуязычная надпись, найденная при археологических раскопках в Мцхета-Армази. Тбилиси. 1941, pp. 23-24).

This Greek text was carvedon tombstone from Mtskheta (East Georgia), the Iberian capital. It is prolonged by the Aramaic version (Г. В. Церетели. Армазская билингва. Двуязычная надпись, най­денная при археологических раскопках в Мцхета-Армази, pp. 22-23). Epitropos corresponds to the Aramaic trbṣ, which occurs to be used also towards Agrippa, now trbṣ of the king Pharsmanes (Г. В. Церетели. Армазская билингва. Двуязычная надпись, най­денная при археологических раскопках в Мцхета-Армази, p. 32). Agrippa seems to be a very big man, and because of his Roman nomen Publicius – also a Roman citizen.

In the old times civitas sine suffragio gave to Rome a direct control of her allies’ troops without destroying local (i.e. Italian) res publica. “Latin Rights” were regarded as something intermediary between peregrine status and Roman citizenship. Inside his own community the Latin was subject of the local laws, and a free man. The allies fought on the Roman side, but her own army consisted of the Roman and the Latin forces. The rests are simply socii (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship. Oxford. At the Cla­redon Press. 1939. Second Edition. Oxford. 1973, pp. 46, 73, 96, 98, 109).

From the 2nd c. B.C. Rome was beginning to govern Italy. Magistrates who had supreme power over the Latin military forces, were also the civil heads of the Roman state. The local authorities performed the demands of the central government (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, p. 105).

After SocialWar it was as communities and not as individuals that the Italian allies were incorporated in the Roman commonwealth, they became self-governing municipias. Each new citizen had a double existence, but these two lives were bound together by the most intimate of bonds. New municipias are the old tribes (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, pp. 150, 153).

Then the enfranchisement of Gallis Cisalpins followed. From 42 B.C. onwards in Roman usage Italia came to mean the whole territory of the peninsula from the straits of Messina to the Alpine foothills (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, p. 159).

Under Caesar and Augustus comes the first large-scale extension of the Roman citizenship in the provincial areas. This extension is based upon the firm foundation of a genuine Italian immigration. Besidethis stands the extensive grants of Ius Latii in the more Romanized areas of Spain and Gaul. The method is as follows – inserting a preparatory period of Latin status before the elevation of purely foreign communities to the full citizenship. The condition of a grant of Latin rights appears to have been the possession of a certain degree of Latin culture (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, pp. 225, 233).

But then Caracalla gave the franchise to all free inhabitants of the Empire (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, pp. 280, 287).

As to personal grants, Domitii, or Fabii, or Pompeii in the Western provinces are thought to drive their citizenship from grants made to their forebearers by Domitius Ahenobarbus, Fabius Maximus, or Pompeius Magnus, the generals (A. N. Shervin-White. The Roman Citizenship, p. 295).

Beyond the Roman rule, Caesar was the first to make a king Roman citizen (D. Braund. Rome and the Friendly King. A Character of the Client Kingship. Beckenham, Kent, Fyshwick, Australia. 1984, p. 45). This practice was maintained. For Britain tria nomina was as follows – Ti. Claudius Cogidubus, with Claudius or Nero being the benefactors; for Thrace – C. Iulius Rhometalcus, it is probable that he inherited his citizenship from a predecessor upon whom Caesar or Augustus had conferred it; for Pontus – M. Antonius Polemo, Antonius being a benefactor; for Judea – M. or C. Iulius Agrippa (D. Braund. Rome and the Friendly King. A Character of the Client Kingship, pp. 39, 41-42, 44).

Iberian case of Publicius Agrippa is very interesting. He was Pharsmanesminister and commander-in-chief. And Pharsmanes dealt with Hadrian. Roman general C. Quinctius Certus Publicius Marcellus is thought to be a benefactor, legatus divi Hadriani provinciarum Syriae et Germaniae superioris (Prosopographia Imperii Romani Saec. I. II. III. Pars VI. Consilio et Avctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Berolinensis et Brandenburgensis. Iteratis Curvis ediderunt Leiva Petersen, Klaus Wachtel. Adivvantibus M. Heil, K. P. Johne, L. Vidman. Berolini. Novi Eborau. MCMXCVIII, pp. 433-434, №№1038, 1042).

Hadrian sent his best generals against the Jews of Bar-Kokhba. Two inscriptions found in Ancyra in Galatia attest a senatorial legate of the legio IV Scythica in Syria, acting at the same time as the governor of Syria. He is Publicius Marcellus, who left his province because of the Jewish rebellion. Publicius Marcellus and part of the Syrian army participated in the war in Judaea. Another inscription from Aquileia informs that C. Quinctius Certus Publicius Marcellus was not only the consul, augur and legatus divi Hadriani provinciae Syriae et Germaniae superioris, but also that he received triumphal rewards, or ornamenta triumphalia. (W. Eck. The Bar Kokhba Revolt. The Roman Point of View. The Journal of Roman Studies. v. LXXXIX. 1999. Leeds, pp. 83, 85).

The revolt was dangerous, and a transfer of the legions from the different places to Judaea – an emergency measure. This state of emergency is reflected also in a striking measure: a transfer of the soldiers from classis Misenensis to the legio X Fretensis in Judaea. Since the possession of Roman citizenship was a prerequisite for enrolment in the legions (but not for service in other units of the Roman army, such as the two Italian fleets, the classis Ravennas and classis Misenensis), this meant that these marines were given civitas Romana on joining X Legion. The sources attest even conscription to fill the gaps not only in the legions serving in Judaea, which lost many soldiers, but also in other legions from where the units of the experienced soldiers were taken to strengthen garrisons of Judaea. Great losses were also incurred by the auxiliary forces in Judaea (W. Eck. The Bar Kokhba Revolt. The Roman Point of View, pp. 79-80). They were also to be filled up.

What conclusions are we to draw from all this?

Some of the Iberian units rushed towards South to help Romans with Agrippa from the Iberian royal clan in a command. And he was given civitas Romana, Marcellus being a benefactor.

Thus, citizenship of Publicius Agrippa, Iberian commander-in-chief, derived from a grant of C. Publicius Marcellus, Hadrian’s governor of Syria. Moreover, Agrippa was not the only Georgian to be a Roman citizen.

A silver cup of the 2nd-3rd cc. records a name of the Iberian king Flavius Dades.  Apparently a Roman citizen, he inherited his citizenship from a predecessor upon whom either Vespasian or Domitian had conferred it (Очерки Истории Грузии. т. I, p. 415; David Braund. Rome and the Friendly King. A Character of the Client Kingship, p. 43). Roman names like Aurelius are still vital in the 4th c. (Очерки Истории Грузии. т. I., p. 19).

Much of the Romans’ long hegemony was spent in carrying through the major reform programs which were to set the pattern for most aspects of life in Europe for centuries to come. The Romans had a reputation for integration. Indeed, they installed Roman citizenship over the kings dwelling at the frontiers, especially the Eastern one. In the twilightof her greatness, showing every sign of disintegration, losing Gaul, Spain and Britain, the Empire still used this system, which proved to be comfortable while military campaigns in the East continued. So, the Georgian kings, sometimes possessing Roman citizenship, were,in effect, guarding the European borders (T. Dundua. Georgia within the European Integration. Tbilisi. 2016, pp. 74-81).

Dual Citizenship as a Tool for National Security

Historically, most countries tried to discourage dual citizenship by requiring newcomers to renounce their country of origin citizenship in order to naturalize, and origin countries took away citizenship if emigrants became naturalized citizens of other states. Nowadays possessing citizenship in more than one country has become common.

There is a number of benefits dual citizens can receive: social service systems, voting and ability to run for office in either country. It also involves financial benefits as holders of dual citizenship are usually also allowed to work in either country.Having a citizen’s passport eliminates the need for long-stay visas and questioning about the purpose of your trip.Another benefit of dual citizenship is the ability to own property in either country as some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only.

Beyond that dual citizenship also has clear geopolitical ramifications. In this way smaller states can be defended by a bigger state. Georgia, since the break up of the Soviet Union, has been pursuing a pro-Western policy. This includes NATO and EU membership efforts. However, this policy brought troubles as Georgia experienced separatist wars in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region helped by the Kremlin and an outright Russian military invasion in 2008. NATO/EU membership pursuit is thus damaged for the moment and Georgia is vulnerable militarily and security-wise.

One of the possibilities for Georgia to correct this geopolitical dilemma would have been a dual citizenship for Georgians. As in the Roman times when the Empire was dominant and the bestowal of citizenship was not only a sign of friendship, but also a political connection (vow of protection), so could, for example, the extension of the US citizenship onto Georgia provides the latter with some more concrete security umbrella. Israel is a good case to discuss as the country has, by some estimates some up to 1 million citizens holding US citizenship.

The countries use the dual citizenship for their geopolitical interests. Take Russia which has been encouraging since the 1990s the distribution of Russian passports to separatist regions along its borders. As a result, the majority living in Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region, Ukraine’s Donbas, or in Transnistria are Russian citizens which put them under Moscow’s protection. To counter this, a dual US-Georgian citizenship for Georgians could work. This would have to involve direct security obligations from the US side: enlarging security and military cooperation with Georgian government etc. This will not be easy as the security obligations through the dual citizenship strategy for Georgia would potentially put the US in direct collision course with the Russians.

Nevertheless, the dual citizenship is an emerging concept in the world politics, which can be used by larger states to protect smaller ones which are vulnerable militarily. As the case of the Roman Empire showed, the concept was present in Ancient period, covering the territory of Georgia. As argued above, it can be re-used in modern times too to provide security to Georgia.

Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today

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Eastern Europe

Is Azerbaijan a “middle power”?

Dr. Esmira Jafarova

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on

“Middle powers” have been on the forefront of many international initiatives that demand coordination of resources and promotion of values. Traditionally, middle powers are named so because they are neither great, nor small. Scholars in the field, however, see “middle powers” beyond their mere geographic meaning and rightly so portray their importance not only in terms of their physical criteria. In an attempt to classify, some scholars like Marijke Breuning divide states into great/superpowers, middle powers, regional powers and small powers, with “middle powers” defined as the “states that can wield a measure of influence, albeit not through the projection of military might”.

It is stated that “middle powers” are usually affluent states that employ their resources to foster peace and lessen global economic inequality” and are norm entrepreneurs that “advocate for the adoption of certain international standards and work diplomatically to persuade the representatives of other states to also adopt these norms”.Carsten Holbrad in his identical work defined “middle powers” as “… moderating and pacifying influences in the society of states, reducing tension and limiting conflict among the great powers; or as principal supporters of international organizations, evincing a particularly high sense of responsibility.

Such countries play a role in the area of international development cooperation and the decision-makers of such countries advocate for more developmental aid and sustainable development. As examples to such states are said to be Canada, the member of the G8 and who has self-proclaimed itself as a middle power, to portray its role in international environment; Norway, who for instance facilitated negotiations between the representatives of Israel and Palestine in the run up to Oslo Accords in 1993. Netherlands and Sweden also claim to as norm entrepreneurs, for the work they do that fall into this category, especially in the field of mediation and good offices, and environmental issues. There is no consensus on the eligibility criteria, however, and often advanced countries of the world with purposeful activism on international affairs make their names to the list.

Another interesting element in this categorization is the distinction that some authors drive between the concepts of “middle power” and small states. It is underscored that the latter is not so easily defined, covers diverse group of states and is not solely confined to geographic size,as it is a “relative concept”. In this context, small states are described “as those that have a rather limited capacity to exert influence on other states” and rarely resort to force in international relations.

In this work I would like to argue that despite its relatively small geographic size, Azerbaijan, a country in the South Caucasus, is also assertively making its name as a “middle power”.  The country has come a long way to become a regional leader with all the energy and infrastructure projects that it is implementing together with its international partners, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines and Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) megaproject, expected to be completed in 2020.

However, those projects are not merely profit-oriented, they also aim to contribute to energy security and stability of wider neighborhood and regions, including in Europe. Security means stability. Stability and profits facilitate sustainable development. However, merely energy and infrastructure projects aside, Azerbaijan’s rising international profile in the recent years and its role as norm entrepreneur should be closely examined as the country, I would like to argue, has earned the title of “middle power” by virtue of its initiatives and emphasis on certain values that unite societies, alongside serving as a bridge between often competing geopolitical spaces.

The country has long made the promotion of tolerance and multiculturalism as one of its central slogans in international affairs and there is a specifically established International Center on Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan that implements initiatives and state’s vision in this area. Azerbaijan declared 2016 as the year of multiculturalism. It is multiethnic and multi-confessional state where national minorities and freedom of religious belief is respected. Tolerance is therefore idiosyncratic to Azerbaijani society.

On another note, Azerbaijan’s emphasis on multilateralism is no less important. Its belief in the power of international institutions and increasing weight in international affairs has elevated it to the non-permanent member status of the UN Security Council in 2012-2013. One of the hallmark initiatives promoted by Azerbaijan was the conduct of the high-level open debate on “Strengthening partnership synergy between the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)”, during its second-term presidency over the Council in October 2013, which was the first ever high-level debate in the Council on this very topic. 

Besides, Azerbaijan’s faith in multilateralism is also manifested in the very recent initiatives it took to bring together countries of diverse as well as similar faith, identities and interests. In fact, it was also Azerbaijan, who initiated the creation of what now became the driving force behind the international efforts to stabilize the global oil market, – the OPEC+.  As a matter of fact, the establishment of the united format of OPEC and non-OPEC countries amid the fluctuating oil prices in order to tackle the challenges in the global oil market stems from the idea by President Ilham Aliyev, which he proposed during World Economic Forum held in Davos, in January, 2016. He said that “it would be nice if the main OPEC and non-OPEC countries could come together and agree with each other”. Azerbaijan’s appeal to the concerned oil producing countries found a widespread support among the relevant oil producing states, and so it happened. The OPEC+ format has since been acting on the forefront of all the developments associated with the global oil market. Azerbaijan’s emphasis on international cooperation, and importance it attaches to the role of international organizations paid well in this case for the common objectives of the oil-producing states as well as attaining a balance in the global oil market.

Its above initiatives testify to the fact that Azerbaijan has acted as a “middle power”, norm entrepreneur that both “advocated for the adoption of certain international standards and work diplomatically to persuade the representatives of other states to also adopt these norms”, as well as worked towards “… moderating and pacifying influences in the society of states,…; or as principal supporters of international organizations, showcasing a particularly high sense of responsibility.

Moreover, the country has acquired a valuable chance to assert itself as a “middle power” and norm entrepreneur also through the chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – the second largest entity after the UN with 120 members – for the period of 2019-2022, as well as of the Turkic Council, GUAM and TRACECA in 2020. The 7th Summit of the Turkic-Speaking States and the 18th Summit of the NAM under Azerbaijani chairmanship were held in October, 2019, while the 2nd Summit of World Religious Leaders was held in Baku in November, 2019. Possession of the central role in these organizations and once again focusing on the issues of religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue gave Azerbaijan another opportunity to act as a norm entrepreneur and as a “middle power” that once again stand for multiculturalism, tolerance, inter-faith dialogue, multilateralism and global partnership by making its voice heard through such versatile institutions.  

Azerbaijan’s initiatives with Turkic Council and NAM also continued in the COVID-19 induced realities. The online special meetings of the two organizations were convened in April and May, 2020, respectively, that focused specifically on the global efforts to deal with the consequences of pandemics and sought to unite with more specific actions in order to alleviate the negative effects of the COVID-19 on the member states of the two organizations. Focus on unity, multilateralism, international cooperation and commitment to common objectives was the crux of those meetings. It was repeatedly underscored that it is only through the effective multilateralism and consistent adherence to the common values that unite all affected states, will they be able to overcome these challenges. Azerbaijan also acted as a norm entrepreneur and “middle power” because it repeatedly stood for sustainable development, having allocated about 10 million US dollars to the World Health Organization (WHO) to support its efforts in the midst of the COVID-19, especially with the idea to help needy population in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Moreover, as noted above, the large-scale energy projects that Azerbaijan implements together with its international partners contribute to the energy security and sustainable development of its immediate neighborhood, as well as larger European continent.

Another distinctive feature of the “middle power” as defined in Holbrad’s above work is “…reducing tension and limiting conflict among the great powers…”. Azerbaijan has hosted meetings between Russia and its western partners several times in a row. The first such a meeting took place in April, 2018 between Valery Gerasimov, the head of Russia’s General Staff, and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Curtis Scaparrotti, who met in Azerbaijan to discuss the situation in Syria, while the second one happened in December of the same year.

This practice continued in 2019 as well with a meeting between the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Army General Valery Gerasimov and NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General Tod Wolters that took place in July in Baku, where the parties discussed issues on “European and global security, ways to prevent incidents between Russia and NATO and the prospects for resuming dialogue between military experts”. They also discussed topics related to the fight against terrorism and maritime piracy, alongside also focusing on situations in Afghanistan and Syria. In November, 2019, a meeting was held in Baku between Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov with Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach. In February, 2020, another meeting of Valery Gerasimov and NATO’s Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe Tod Wolters took place in Baku.

The choice of Baku for such meetings between Russia and NATO officials is not coincidental as Baku is increasingly proving itself as a geographic venue capable of accommodating diverse and often competing interests between different geopolitical spaces, thus once again hewing to the very definitions attested above to the concept of the “middle power”.

In conclusion, there might be different outlooks in the scholarly literature as to what actually constitutes “middle power”. The ones that are chosen for this work have given some description of the concept, sufficient to be utilized as analytical frameworks. In an attempt to argue whether Azerbaijan fits into the very concept of the “middle power”, the work highlighted many initiatives and policies implemented by the country during the recent years, that have encapsulated on the values of cooperation, multilateralism, multiculturalism, inter-faith dialogue, sustainable development and a bridge for dialogue.

Objectively, our world would have been a better place had all the above values and initiatives been instilled into the very fabric of our societies and foreign policy choices. Widespread acceptance of these values and norms could in fact bring in more dialogue, understanding and peace to the anarchic nature of international system. Norm entrepreneurs – “middle powers” are therefore valuable for the premium they place on those or other types of value systems that build, unite, improve and consolidate our collective home. Seems like Azerbaijan is on the right track, and its ambition to qualify for norm entrepreneur and “middle power” should be taken at face value.

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