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Silk, Spices and Oil -‘Transcaucasian’ Trade Route and Georgia

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

Georgia is a comfortable acting passway for Asian oil and gas to the European industry.  “Transcaucasian” pipelines have increased political sympathies towards the country and contribute to its economic growth.

An idea of “Transcaucasian” and Pontic (the Black Sea) transit of the Asian goods is not a new one. As far back as in the 4th c. B.C. Alexander of Macedon took his Graeco-Macedonian army towards the very heart of Asia. There, particularly in India, the Europeans tasted the spiced meals for the first time, and they decided that their life would be dull without pepper. So, one could buy some spices for, perhaps, a drachm in the valley of Indus, and sell it in Rome, or maybe, in Athens for hundred (Plin. NH. VI. 101). The profit from the trade was very handsome. In all there had been the following routes towards India: 1. maritime route – from the Red Sea ports of Egypt via the Indian Ocean towards Malabar coast. Alexandrian merchants profited from this route mostly. According to Strabo, some one hundred and twenty big Alexandrian ships sailed a year to India bringing back the spices, precious woods and stones (Strabo. II. 118; XVI. 781; XVII. 798). But the Southern coast of Eastern Iran was very wild, without harbors, so one had to load a ship heavily with food and water for a direct sail and only small section was left for the commercial goods. There existed one more sea route from India through the Persian Gulf to the mouth of Tigris and Euphrates; 2. the second route was very expensive. Starting in India, it climbed to the Iranian highlands, crossing the Iranian plateau to Mesopotamia and Syria.

There the spices were placed on the European ships. Iranians and Graeco-Syrians profited from this route; 3. the third route was amazingly cheap, for it was river-route via well inhabited and supplied districts, city of Phasis (Poti, Western Georgia) being a starting point together with a mouth of the river Phasis (Rioni), very comfortable for the large boats. Rioni is prolonged by the rivers Kvirila and Dzirula towards the Likhi mountains. They divide Georgia into two parts: the West (ancient Colchis), and the East (ancient Iberia). The merchants used to climb the mountains, and then board again at the Kura-river boat-station in Eastern Georgia. A voyage down the river towards the Caspian Sea was swift. According to Herodotus, the Caspian Sea could be easily covered in eight days on a large boat (Herod. I. 203). One could find the river Amu-Daria (Oxus) in the past joining the Caspian Sea in its Southeast section. Amu-Daria – Balkh (Bactra) – Indus is the last section of the route. And the Greek merchants were already in the wonderful country of leisure and the spices, in the homeland of Buddha. The Greeks and the Romans, the Byzantine soldiers and merchants were in Georgia for the transit purposes and within the frames of early European integration. From the 2nd c. B.C. the Chinese started to send silk caravans via the Chinese Turkestan. Then the usual “Transcaucasian” and Pontic transit took place. This route was cheap, but very fragile. As soon as Iran recovered from the Hellenic onslaught, it cut the route organizing the Caspian fleet (T. Dundua. North and South /Towards the Question of NATO Enlargement/, pp. 5-6; T. Dundua. Georgia within the European Integration. Tbilisi. 1999, pp. 30-32).

The route is well traced in Graeco-Roman sources. “Aristobulus declares that the Oxus is the largest of the rivers he has seen in Asia, except those in India. And Patrocles, as well as Aristobulus and Eratosthenes, say that it is navigable and that large quantities of Indian wares are brought down on it to the Hyrcanian Sea, and thence on that sea are transported to Albania and brought down on the Cyrus River and through the region that comes next after it to the Euxine” (Strabo. XI. 7. 3). All the authors listed above, including Strabo, use the present tense meaning that “Transcaucasian” transit of the Indian goods (along the rivers Indus – Bactra /Balkh/ – Oxus /Amu-Daria/ – Hyrcanian /Caspian/ Sea – Cyrus /Mtkvari/Kura/ – Phasis /Kvirila and Rioni/ to the city of Phasis /Poti/ in Colchis) worked hard in the 3rd c. B.C., first half of the 2nd c. B.C., and in 19/20 A.D. when Strabo “published” his work.

“Varro says also that during this expedition of Pompejus it was known that it is but seven days journey from India to the Bactrians, Bactra River, which runs into the Oxus; and that the merchandise of India, transported by the Caspian Sea, and so to the river Cyrus, may be brought in not more than five days by land as far as to Phasis in Pontus” (Plin. NH. VI. 52). It is clear enough that Varro speaks about the possibility of “Transcaucasian” transit by 65 B.C., it had been already broken. And Pliny has nothing to add. Again, there is no transit in the 70s of the 1st c. A.D.

The Seleucids gained direct access to the cheap spice market as far back as in the beginning of the 3rd c. B.C. Greeks living in Syria organized a spice supply of Europe via the “Transcaucasian” river-route thus saving much money while transportation of the Indian goods. They started to gain a handsome profit. Then it had to be shared with the allies, Greeks from Bactria. Colchian coins of the 3rd c. B.C. found the Central Asia, Bactrian coins of the 2nd c. B.C. found in Eastern Georgia, and the presence of the Bactrians in Colchis attests to this trade.

Becoming stronger, the Arsacids of Parthia/Iran cut this trade by organizing the Caspian fleet. From that day on only their merchants could have direct access to the spices transported towards Europe. The Seleucids had to do nothing but to pay a huge sum for the goods brought from the left bank of the Euphrates. Romans, already governing Syria, had to do the same.

Thus, Transiranian transit became the most important one, only sometimes being interrupted by the same Romans, humiliating the Parthians and with the help of the Kushans organizing silk and spice supply of Europe via “Transcaucasian” trade route (T. Dundua. Georgia – Early Origin and Antiquity. Appendix /in Georg. with Engl. Summary/. Tbilisi. 2019, pp. 28-40).

When the “Transcaucasian” transit was finally broken, the Byzantines did their best to reach Asia rounding the Caspian Sea in the North, and moving towards the Turks, dwelling already in  Central Asia. But this route – steppe route to the North of the Caspian Sea – failed to be nice because of a very low socio-economic level of the Caucasian mountaineers by that time. When this level became a bit higher, Genoa organized silk and spice supply of Europe via the North Caspian regions and the “Northern Caucasus” to Crimea (Caffa). And the rest of the route was as follows: Sebastopolis (Sokhumi, Georgia) – Trebizond – Galata – Italy. When the Ottomans diminished the Italian trade, Africa was rounded by the Portuguese vessels (T. Dundua. The Making of Europe /Toward History of Globalization/. The Caucasus and Globalization. Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies. Volume 2, Issue 2. Sweden. 2008, p. 41).

From the Middle Ages to Modern Period

In the 7th-10th cc. two major foreign policy developments played an important role in Georgian history. First was the emergence of the Arabs and the spread of Islam and second – formation of a powerful semi-nomadic state by the Khazars to the North of the “Caucasus” in the lower reaches of the Volga River (E. Avdaliani. Georgia and Silk Roads (6th-13th cc.) /in Georg. with Engl. Summary/. Tbilisi. 2019, pp. 65-76; A. K. Bennisen. The Great Caliphs. Yale University. 2009, pp. 141-150).

The wars between the Arabs and the Byzantines as well as a long conflict between the Arabs and the Khazars severely undermined the economic potential of the “South Caucasus”. Famous for various trade routes in Late Antiquity, those corridors almost ceased to operate across the “Caucasus” in the 7th c. However, it was at this time that new trade routes (corridors) slowly began to be formed. From the turn of the 7th-8th centuries, economic activity began to shift from Armenian cities to the Kura-Araxes basin, which led to the growth of Tbilisi and various cities in Arran and Shirvan (E. Avdaliani. Georgia and Silk Roads (6th-13th cc.), pp. 100-102).

Another important factor contributing to the economic growth of the Eastern part of the “South Caucasus” were close economic contacts which from the end of the 8th c. were formed between the Islamic world and the Khazars. The economic development and furthering of trade relations should have also been caused by the Abbasids’ decision to move the capital from Damascus to Baghdad, relatively closer to the “South Caucasus” and the Khazars. 9th c. dirhems were reaching Southern parts of modern Russia and Eastern Europe from the mints of Baghdad and other Mesopotamian cities (T. Noonan. The Economy of the Khazar Khaganate. The World of the Khazars. Leiden. 2007, pp. 207-244).

Under the Abbasid rule Georgian and particularly Armenian cities experienced significant development due to a general economic growth taking place in the “South Caucasus” and the Middle East. It is notable that a long and difficult process of unification of Georgia coincided with the above-mentioned distinct economic growth of Georgian cities and villages. These led to the development of a whole network of regional trade routes along Georgia’s borders, which in turn were linked to much larger, transcontinental trade routes running through Mesopotamia, northern Iran and Byzantium (E. Avdaliani. Georgia and Silk Roads (6th-13th cc.), pp. 100-102).

Appearance of the Seljuks in the second half of the 11th c. only slightly slowed the functioning of trade routes near the Georgian borders. From the 11th-12th cc. we again see the economic growth of the cities of Arran, Shirvan, and Armenia well evident in the Georgian, Persian-Arabic and Armenian written sources (V. Minorsky. Studies in Caucasian History. London. 1953, p. 105).

Thus, like large transcontinental routes, the roads of regional importance too were located outside the Georgian territory, but nevertheless near the borders of the Kingdom of Georgia. This meant that at the time of the unification of Georgia (late 10th c.) the country was again at the periphery of major economic activity in the region.

Since the establishment of the trade routes running through Arran, Shirvan and Armenia took place simultaneously with the formation of a united Georgian monarchy, the Bagrationis (ruling Georgian dynasty) in 11th-13th centuries initiatied an expansionist policy driven by the desire to master the regional trade routes which criss-crossed Dvin, Barda, Ganja, Tbilisi, Ani, Trebizond, Ahlat, Tabriz and many other major cities (E. Avdaliani. Georgia and Silk Roads (6th -13th cc.), pp. 196-197).

The invasion of the Mongols upturned the entire fabric of the 13th c. trade routes crisscrossing the “Caucasus”, which kicked off the gradual loss of control by the Georgians over regional trade. There were periods when Italians and other Europeans traded with the Western Georgian ports in 13th-15th cc., or when the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in the 18th c. tried to revitalize its “North Caucasus” commerce, but overall the country lost the trade transit role it once possessed (The Role of Trade Routes in Georgian History.

This effectively lasted until the late 20th c. when, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of roads, pipelines, railroads and other infrastructure projects began to run from the Caspian to the Black Sea through the Georgian territory. Georgia returned to its positioning between the Black and Caspian seas, between Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

One of such project is the 826-kilometer Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, opened in 2017, which enables the delivery of cargo between China and Europe with a haulage duration of approximately two weeks. Up to eight million tonnes of cargo may be carried on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway by 2025. Moreover, pipelines such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) create a network spanning the Caspian and Black seas with Georgia playing a vital transit role (TANAP)

There is also a Chinese factor. Since 2013, when Beijing announced its almost $1 trillion “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) Georgia has had a chance to become a part of the initiative which plans to connect China with Europe through Russian and Central Asian corridors (China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Flux )

 Georgia now works to position itself as a regional transit destination. A good representation of Georgia’s rising position on the new “Silk Road” is a recurrent event dedicated to the new Silk Road concept held in Tbilisi since 2015. The latest event was held in 2019 when up to 2000 politicians, potential investors from all over the world, visited the Georgian capital (Silk Road Forum.

Thus the period since 1991 Georgia finds itself in a favorable geopolitical situation. The country is now successfully operating as a major transit route for oil and gas heading from the Caspian to Turkey and the Balkans. Moreover, as argued above, the rise of China and attempts to revitalize the ancient silk road gives Georgia a major opportunity to evolve into a regional transit hub with an ambition to reconnect Asia and Europe.

Author’s note: first published in Georgia Today

Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua is the Director of the Institute of Georgian History, Faculty of Humanities, at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University.

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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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Is Azerbaijan a “middle power”?

Dr. Esmira Jafarova

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“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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Eastern Europe

World transformation amid COVID-19: Will Georgia change political-military vector of its development?

Asim Suleymanov

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The world is changing day by day. Today it is obvious to everyone that the world elite has to cope with a considerable number of challenges. The countries of South Caucasus region are also involved in the ongoing global transformations. As time goes by, rational citizens of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are becoming more and more aware of the need to establish an open and honest dialogue between the countries.

Of course, in the near future Armenia and Azerbaijan is unlikely to become allied partners. The potential for enhancing interaction between Azerbaijan and Georgia is much higher, especially when official Baku intends to contribute to the consolidation of the international community.

“We can defeat COVID-19 only by mutual support and joint efforts, avoidance of self-seclusion,” said the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, opening the Non-Aligned Movement Summit (NAM). This Movement unites 120 developing world states on the principles of non-participation in military blocs. It is the second largest international institution after the United Nations.

Georgia is not included in this number and, accordingly, remains aloof from the rapidly developing Non-Aligned Movement. Since the world struggle with COVID-19 pandemic requires the abandonment of all political borders, ideologies, ideas in the interests of universal values. This movement in the near future promises to become one of the most effective platforms for the exchange of views, global solidarity and cooperation. Considering the powerful resource potential of the continents – Asia, Africa, Latin America, – the Non-Aligned Movement gets a historic chance to transform to a prototype of an influential international association.

So, the role of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in the global arena continues to grow, Azerbaijan becomes moderator of inter-regional and interstate relations, projects and initiatives.

Meanwhile, the Georgian government lives in past and hopes to join NATO. Representatives from the Department of Defense and the Defense Forces participate in videoconferences between representatives of the Alliance’s military committee. The NATO command post is under construction in a suburb of Tbilisi. Over 2% of Georgian GDP goes to defense. Whenever the US or NATO seek support, the government readily responds to the call.

For 16 years, the contingent of Georgian troops has been in Afghanistan, the last rotation is made in early February 2020. At the same time 870 troops are serving at the base of Bagram, in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. NATO is expected to continue to reduce the mission in Afghanistan after concluding peace agreements between the US and the Taliban.

Unlike NATO, the key principle of the Non-Aligned Movement is the recognition of the unconditional equality of all countries of the world and the inadmissibility of interference in their internal affairs. Here they know that the global population is able to withstand global threats only by joint efforts and do not want to waste time wasting on “sabre-rattling”.

So far, the Georgian government is not morally ready to admit that this principle is future and it is rapidly becoming the present. The NATO military bloc strategy is becoming obsolete every day. The steps for its development lag behind the changing geopolitical, economic and environmental conditions.

Georgia continues to be dependent on financial assistance from the US and EU countries. Such an international donation as “cheese in a mousetrap”, that is difficult to quit. Unlike the decisive and enterprising President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, the Georgian leadership, unfortunately, is in no hurry to take measures and is only working on an anti-crisis plan. There is also no information on the joint actions of Tbilisi and Baku to overcome the coronacrisis. Borders are closed. Video conferences are not held in this format. And therefore, unfortunately, the story of deep transformation does not yet reach Georgia.

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