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Abkhazia Is Not Crimea but Everything Is Set to Become It

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New suspicions over the status of Abkhazia emerge along with every political move of Russia. While the leadership of South Ossetia has been wholeheartedly obedient to Moscow and expressed its readiness to join the Russian Federation,  Abkhazia insists on retaining formal independence. The de facto foreign minister of Abkhazia declared, “The political status of the Republic of Abkhazia is not subject to revision and is irreversible”. Due to the willingness to be a “loyal ally” but not a part of Russia, Abkhazia never held a referendum on the matter.

The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 has enhanced the geopolitical framework of the debate and after the event, many Abkhaz started to worry that the prospect of being “swallowed” by Russia may come to reality. Following recognition, assimilation steps have been met with ideological resistance. However, with Russia not only maintaining its position through friendly rhetoric but also with military and economic presence – all of the de facto republic’s economy depends on Russian aid –  the resistance may be the question of time. The weak organizational capability of the governing elite even strengthens the leverage of patronage. It is for clinging to the money received in aid that mainly directs internal political processes. Taking Russian influence and leverage into account, Abkhazia, along with South Ossetia, has every characteristic of a Russian protectorate. Growing economic, political, and social linkages reduce the legitimacy of the claim of the Abkhazian government.

This article explores the nature of Abkhazian sovereignty and the prospects of its complete integration with Russia. It puts the spotlight on the possible political shift in the region stemming from the strong dependence and the shift in generation mindset as well as geopolitical interests of the Russian Federation which can become a decisive factor in the future status of Abkhazia.

Breaking Away from Georgia

Following a de facto break away from Georgia, all motives behind the actions of Abkhazia have been about gaining recognition of its independence. In 2008, the recognition was received from Russia but what it means for the Kremlin and what Abkhazia wants it to be has nothing in common. It was more about separating from Georgia rather than freely conduct one’s own affairs.

After dismantling the bipolar structure, intensified ethnic conflicts in Europe fell under the geopolitical alteration zone, leading to their internationalization in nature. Today’s Russia sees post-Cold War state sovereignty as a by-product delivered from the power struggle (Russia and liberal West) in contrast to its representation in international legal documents. The speeches of Russian politicians often indicate that from Russia’s point of view, Ukraine is rather a territory combining a different group of people than a sovereign state.  The rhetoric, following the recognition of Kosovo, illustrated that Putin understood the idea of sovereignty as a mere subject of geopolitical manipulation. Georgian government in the period of pre-war of 2008 voiced the concerns that Russia still did not take Georgia as an independent state. After the recognition of Kosovo, the Kremlin started a proactive policy in order to exploit the idea of sovereignty and link the South Ossetian and Abkhazian case to it. Respectively, the war in 2008 was followed by Russia’s recognition of the independence of the break-away regions.

Getting on Truck with Russia

Since the recognition of independence of Abkhazia, the aid from Moscow amounts to half of the budget. Russia also provides additional funds for aid projects and infrastructure. It spent about 465 million to build and renovate military infrastructure, including the largest military airfield in the South Caucasus and a strategic naval base in the Black Sea.  In addition, Abkhazia uses Russian roubles as its main currency, it has adopted Russian technical and commercial standards, and almost all of its main infrastructure is owned and overseen by Russian companies. Most of the financial aid is in the form of loans that imposes a financial restraint over Abkhazia. Interestingly, in 2009-2011 when money was pouring in, people have been taking out loans from Russian banks but now they cannot repay them.

Financial incentives such as social benefits were introduced for people holding a Russian passport. Nowadays, a large majority of Abkhazians have Russian passports. This process, also known as “Passportisation”, in the long term, will create a perfect opportunity for Russia to invoke self-determination for Russian citizens as in the case of Crimea.

Right after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, two sides signed the agreement linking Abkhazia to the Russian Federation in the main areas of defense, border controls, customs, social issues, and public order. Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership with Russia obliges Abkhazia to coordinate foreign policy with the former and unite with Russian armed forces. This step was criticized as “de facto annexation”. After coming to power in 2014, Russia-backed de facto president Raul Khajimba has been actively demanding a closer bond with the Russian Federation.  It is why after the protests over rigged polls in 2020, Khajimba’s resignation has been positively taken by Tbilisi. He was succeeded by Aslan Bzhania, who expressed the willingness for dialogue and establishment of a bilateral channel with the Georgian side. Still, the toneless response of the Georgian government and the public views in Abkhazia showed again that no changes are to be expected any time soon. It has been Kremlin curators who contributed to removing Khajimba from the post, and Bzhania, the former employee of Federal Security Service in the Russian Federation, has the least to do with being the non-Russian political actor.

While Georgian leadership is constantly afraid of making the mistake of totally losing the break-away regions by taking an actual step ahead, it only contributes to the status quo that is already the lost game. The extensive linkage does not automatically derive from foreign economic aid and soft power. When defining leverage, the organizational power of leadership is an important variable. When naming Abkhazia as a protectorate of Russia, the weak organizational power and limited administrative capabilities are also taken into account. On the forefront of bilateral agreements and declaration of independence, there is a strong one-sided dependence. Moreover, the recognition of Abkhazia by the Russian Federation has only enhanced the isolation and pushed it into the hands of Moscow. It matters little to the Kremlin who wins elections. There is no real force willing to counter Russian influence and even if there is any, the lack of outside support would undermine all its capabilities. As well said, “there is no opposition or coalition in Abkhazia; there are only politicians waiting for their turn”.

Abkhazia has no serious social links or civil society ties with other countries, especially with Western states. Another noteworthy trade partner remained Turkey, which accounts for the second-largest source of import due to the high number of Abkhazian diaspora there. But Russia’s intention rests on limiting any other actor which intervenes in its zone of interest. It proved to be true in 2016 when Abkhazia was pressured to impose sanctions on Turkey and give a major blow to one’s own economy while Abkhazia’s impact on Turkey’s economy had always been close to zero. Abkhazia later justified its actions under Article 4 of the Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership with Russia that makes it align its foreign policy with Russia. The political risks and unpredictable environment reduced all the incentives for Turkish citizens to conduct business in Abkhazia and left alternative potential investors out. Apart from this, Russia reimposed the visa requirements for Turkish citizens that created problems for the diaspora, which tries to maintain ties with Abkhazia. They were made to travel from Turkey to Abkhazia through the airport in Sochi, which is part of Russia. These events clearly show that Russia stays unwilling to compromise creating other options for the region.

The lasting socio-political and economic crises, as well as lack of organizational order, questions the formally retained sovereignty of Abkhazia.  The ruling of the de facto parliament that Abkhazia will not consider unification with Georgia, neither with Russia nor will it hold the referendum on the matter, may be subject to revision when the past will not be enough to justify future decisions.

A Third Party

Although today Abkhazians are decisively against joining Russia, the view of the future generation leaders with a Russian mindset, who are educated in Russia and think in Russian finds solid ground. The majority of the older generation who remembers the war and justifies all the sacrifices by its independence will be substituted by a new cohort of young people. There have been active discussions about the third party which will replace the current leading figures on the political playground. The most prominent in this respect is Inal Ardzinba, currently chairman of the Inter-Religious Public Council for Youth Affairs, existing under the Patriarch of Russia Kirill and the former head of the department in the president’s administration. He is also famous for lobbying Donbass and Luhansk separatists and is considered to commit crimes against the state of Ukraine such as the shift of the border and undermining the constitutional order. Inal Ardzinba seems to be preparing for an ambitious political future that is well known to and supported by Putin’s closest circle such as Vladislav Surkov, the closest adviser and one referred to as an ideologist of Putinism. The frequent show up in media where he voices thoughts on emerging future Abkhazian political leaders serve this cause. Ardzinba announced the creation of the new party representing and empowering youth politicians around.

The Kremlin proved many times that it stays vigilantly on the watch to seize opportunities to engineer support of specific groups for its foreign policy goals. Obviously, it does not waste time to exploit its advantages in Abkhazia. It supports a new generation of politicians in Abkhazia who have the least to do with Georgia and, unlike the older generation of the Abkhazian political elite, are much more enthusiastic about integration in Russia. While Georgia has the image of an aggressor, Russia is seen as a friend and security guarantor. The above-mentioned development of processes could definitely build more barriers with Georgia, which is already left outside the processes.

As in the case of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia actively uses soft power tools in Abkhazia as well as in South Ossetia. If in the former instances tools apply to the concept of Russkiy Mir to promote language and culture with ethnic Russians, in Abkhazia it is the geopolitical premises that make ideal ground for securitizing the political identity. Abstract ideas relating to nationalism and cultural characteristics remain highly volatile to be integrated into political discourse. And usually, Russia promotes traditional Russian culture and values as well as counters Western liberal influence through the Orthodox Church. It seems no accident that Inal Ardzinba works in the Youth Affairs Council which functions under the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. For informal or formal incorporation, the Kremlin has a perfect candidate backed by the majority of Abkhazian youth to serve Russia’s cause.

Crossing Another Red Line

Even though the de facto government of South Ossetia has expressed the willingness for succession to the Russian Federation, the latter has been unreluctant to accept the call. The leadership always preferred uniting “two Ossetias” over the claim of the state sovereignty. After Crimea, it is the most likely region to be annexed. So, why Russia does not cross another red line to unveil its power and hegemony over the region?

When information about annexation is spread, it is difficult to draw a line between individual statements and the strategic communication at the behest of the Kremlin. There are many factors unknown for us, particularly, when one needs to deal with Russia’s disinformation campaigns.  What we know is that considering the current circumstances,  the annexation of South Ossetia does not seem to have as many advantages for Russia to outbalance the possibility of maneuvering with Georgia. With the status quo, the Kremlin already poses effective leverage to have an extensive influence over the country.  For now, neither South Ossetia nor Abkhazia may be on the agenda to be a target of Russia’s expansionist ambitions but all it matters for Russia is securing its spheres by all necessary means.

When talking about possible annexation, Russia’s geopolitical interests should be well analyzed. The location of Abkhazia at the Black Sea creates opportunities for connections with the outside world.  And although today Abkhazia is heavily dependent on Russian assistance, it has many other potentials to become a strategic point in the region. For Russia, the Black Sea has always been seen as “near abroad”, which has been instrumental for its projections as a great power. In response to the so-called Color Revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, Russia’s foreign policy became more assertive to secure its presence around the Black Sea. The most important event to reestablish its military presence has been the annexation of Crimea, making it a Russian “platform for power projection”. The event directed attention away from Abkhazia since Russia has already established a strategic military base in the sea. Yet, there is no guarantee when it will be up to cross one more red line to reimpose its dominance in the region. It will be largely defined by the willingness and readiness of the West and political forthcomings in the bordering countries like Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova as well as Turkey.  In case Russia senses any possible encroachment on Abkhazia, there seems no way Moscow will allow to take a risk and let the status of Abkhazia play a positive role in developing the ties with external powers. Apart from the mentioned, regional energy dynamics can make the Black Sea a global arena of competition leading to assertive steps from the Russian side. If annexation will not be the logical end after the disappointment and exhaustion in Abkhazian society, then Russia’s decisive step can finalize the process overnight.

Conclusions

The means adopted by the Russian Federation leads to the legitimate doubt that they might be part of its strategy to annexation. For now, it does not provide many benefits to finalize the process but if the trend continues, whether to formalize the dependence as annexation or not will just be up to  Russia’s own will. The increasing gap between Georgia and Abkhazia does not leave many choices for Abkhazia. Unlike the post-Soviet countries, break-away Abkhazia remains isolated from the world and more exposed to Russian influence. Until what stand will it be possible to maintain vigilance towards the threat to self-identity and independence derives from multiple factors. However, the integration of Abkhazia into the Russian Federation is impending and all the factors work in favor of it. This trend does not seem to be disrupted until there is an unpredictable change falling under the wider geopolitical umbrella.

References

Tamar Tkemaladze is a senior student of International Relations at the Free University of Tbilisi. She has been engaged in research on anti-corruption, the rule of law, and election monitoring at Transparency International Georgia. Currently, Tamar works in UNDP Georgia. Her previous publications covered the AA/DCFTA of the EU with Georgia.

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Eastern Europe

Crisis in Armenia Provides Fertile Ground for Russian Meddling

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The immediate cause came on February 25, when Onik Gasparyan, Chief of General Staff of the Armenian Army, and other senior commanders released a statement calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to step down. Pashinyan responded by firing Gasparyan.

Yet the real cause of the uproar is Armenia’s defeat in the Second Karabakh War last year, which has triggered a deeply troubled and long-drawn-out period of soul-searching and consequent instability.

Delving into the details over what are the real reasons and who is to blame may anyway be futile in the cloudy political world of all three South Caucasus states (including Georgia and its current woes). While many Armenians believe that the protests are more about internal democratic processes, there is an undeniable geopolitical context too. Perhaps what matters most is the international ramifications of the conflict, especially as the early phases of the Russian-brokered November 2020 ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan are now being implemented.

The political crisis in Armenia does not affect the implementation of the agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on February 26. Other statements by the Russian leadership indicated that the Kremlin, which closely follows the internal development of its Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) ally and the fellow member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), is nevertheless remaining aloof for now.

Over the past year, Russia has confronted multiple crises along its border with some finesse, successfully managing near-simultaneous crises in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia-Azerbaijan.

In each case, the Kremlin has sought to extract geo-economic benefits. Take the current Armenian crisis. The opposition has some support, but not as much as the current leadership. Leaders from both sides have connections with senior Russian leaders, albeit the Kremlin was far more comfortable with the pre-Pashinyan Armenian political elite. They understood what Russia likes in the near-abroad – cautious leaders mindful of Russian sensitivities and unwilling to play the reformist and Western cards that Pahinyan has used since coming to power in 2018.

And yet however much illiberal Russia feels uncomfortable with the reformist Pashinyan government, it needs for now because his signature is on the November ceasefire agreement. With the early stages of the deal being implemented, Russia is keeping its eyes on the prize — most importantly, the agreement to reopen Soviet-era railways which potentially will reconnect Russia to Armenia via Azerbaijani territory. Chaos in Armenia can only jeopardize this key aim.

Russia also understands that Pashinyan is becoming increasingly dependent as time goes by and that it can exploit this vulnerability. Equally obviously, the opposition could prevail, and that would ultimately benefit Russia too.

In the long run, Russia has caught Armenia in a cycle. To stay in power, the government would need extensive Russian economic, diplomatic, and perhaps even military support. But any new government formed by the current opposition would likely demand even more weaponry from Russia to prepare for the next confrontation, however hypothetic, with Azerbaijan. In both cases, the price for more arms would likely be deeper integration of Armenia within the EEU. And whatever remained of Armenia’s policy efforts towards the West, already under grave pressure since the Karabakh defeat, would die.

Potentially, there is a yet-greater reward for Russia – persuading Azerbaijan to allow the Russian peacekeeping mission to remain on its soil beyond the end of 2025. In which case, an openly revanchist Armenian government formed by an opposition determined to build a battle-ready military capable of offensive operations would be a useful tool for the Kremlin to justify the continued presence of its units in Karabakh.

Author’s note: first published in cepa.org

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Eastern Europe

Caspian: Status, Challenges, Prospects

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An Analysis into the Legal Classification, Security and Environmental Concerns, Geopolitics and Energy Flow Impact of the Caspian Plateau

How has the world’s largest inland body of (salty) water escaped the economic and political notice for so long? And it is for a resource-rich area of a unique locality that connects Europe and Asia in more than just geography. Simply, the Caspian Basin is an underrated and underexplored topic with scarce literature on its geomorphology, mineral deposits and marine biota, its legal disputes, pipeline diplomacy,environmental concerns and overall geopolitical and geo-economic interplays.

As the former Minister of the Canadian government and Secretary General of the OECD – Honorable Donald J Johnston – states in the foreword, Caspian – Status, Challenges, Prospects“is a fitting title for a book that masterfully gives an objective, comprehensive overview of the region. The authors have compiled an analysis of Caspian’s legal classification, security and environmental concerns, geopolitical scenarios, and energy flow impacts as they affect the world’s largest continental landmass – Eurasia.”

From comprehensive but content intensive insights on Caspian littoral states Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Russiaand Turkmenistan, to external actors like Turkey, EU, China and the United States, readers are presented how separate actors and factors interact in this unique theater. The book elaborates on the legal classification of the Caspian plateau including the recent ‘Convention on Legal Status of the Caspian,’ to the numerous territorial and environmental security concerns.

Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic and his co-authors present Caspian as the most recent, fresh and novel way, in one stop-shop offering broad analysis on the Caspian region. It is a single volume book for which extensive information is exceptionally rare to find elsewhere. Following the read, authors are confident that a new expanse of scholarly conversation and actions of practitioners will unfold, not only focused on Caspian’s unique geography, but its overall socio-economic, politico-security and environmental scene.

Welcoming the book, following words of endorsements have been said:

The Caspian basin and adjacent Central Asian region (all being OSCE member states, apart from Iran) have, since the early Middle ages, acted as a crossroads between different civilizations and geopolitical spaces. In an increasingly interconnected world, growing geopolitical competition, economic interdependence and the emergence of new global challenges, particularly those related to water, energy and the climate emergency, have highlighted the relevance of this region, making it of increasing interest to researchers and academics. This book presents a thorough analytical compendium of historical factors, political dynamics, economic trends, legal frameworks and geopolitical interests which underpin, but also affect, the stability and development of this complex, diverse and strategically significant region.

Amb. Lamberto Zanier,Secretary-General, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2011-2017)  OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (2017-2020)

A thoughtful, comprehensive and balanced analysis of the complex interplay between geopolitics and geo-economics in Central Eurasia, and pivotal energy plateau – that of Caspian. We finally have an all-in reader that was otherwise chronically missing in international literature, which will hopefully reverse the trend of underreporting on such a prime world’s spot.   

Hence, this is a must-read book for those wondering about the future of one of the most dynamic and most promising regions of the world and what it could entail for both reginal and external players. 
Andrey Kortunov Director General, Russian International Affairs Council

Although of pivotal geopolitical and geo-economic importance, Caspian energy plateau represents one of the most underreported subjects in the western literature. Interdisciplinary research on the topic is simply missing.  

Therefore, this book of professor Bajrektarevic and his team – unbiased, multidisciplinary, accurate and timely – is a much-needed and long-awaited reader: A must read for scholars and practitioners, be it from Eurasia or beyond.

It is truly a remarkable piece of work!  

Authors were able to tackle a challenging subject with a passion, knowledge and precision, and turn it into a compelling, comprehensive yet concise read which I highly recommend.   

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Kazakhstan Erzhan Kazykhanov, Ambassador Embassy of Kazakhstan, Washington dc, USA 

ARTNeT secretariat is pleased to see how our initial invitation to Prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic to present at the ARTNeT Seminar Series in 2015 evolved. The talk was initially published as a working paper for ARTNeT (AWP 149). Now Prof. Bajrektarevic, in collaboration with another two co-authors, offers a comprehensive study on a nexus of legal, security, and environmental issues all emanating from and linked to energy cooperation (or lack thereof) in the subregion. This volume’s value extends beyond the education of readers on the Caspian Basin’s legal status (e.g., is it a sea or a lake?). It is just as relevant for those who want a more in-depth understanding of an interplay of economic, security, and political interest of players in the region and outside. With the global institutions increasingly less capable of dealing with rising geopolitics and geo-economic tensions, more clarity – even if only about some aspects of those problematic issues – should be appreciated. This volume offers such clarity.   

Mia Mikic, Director UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) ARTNeT coordinator

It is my honor to reflect on this work on Caspian. Comprehensive and content rich, this book of professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic and his co-authors brings up comprehensively all the useful information on Caspian, with the geographical and historical background and cultural, economic as well as security aspects related to it.

Authors’ novel and unbiased approach shall certainly help decision makers in their bettered understanding of the region that has centuries-long history of peace and cordial neighbourly relations. Long needed and timely coming, I warmly recommend this reader to those who want to know, but more importantly to all those who want to understand, this pivotal region of the world.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh Former Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran to United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva & Vienna

The book by Professor Bajrektarevic and his co-authors embodies a wide-ranging overview of the intertwined interests pursued by the young democracies of the Caspian basin, battling with inherited land and water disputes, and their interplay with regional and global powers. Apparently, supporting political independence of the formers and promoting their integration into the latter’s markets requires adequate analyses, timely outreach policies and consistent engagement. In this sense the publication serves as one of the scarce handbooks to understand diverse interests of stakeholders, dynamically changing security architecture of the region and emerging opportunities of cooperation around the Caspian Sea.

Ambassador GalibIsrafilov Permanent Representative to the UN Vienna and to the OSCE Embassy of Azerbaijan to Austria

Caspian: Status, Challenges, Prospects

An Analysis into the Legal Classification, Security and Environmental Concerns, Geopolitics and Energy Flow Impact of the Caspian Plateau

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Eastern Europe

As Georgians Fight Each Other, Russia Gleefully Looks On

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Earlier today, the leader of Georgia’s major opposition party – United National Movement (UNM) – was detained at his party headquarters by government security forces, the most recent escalation in a drawn-out political crisis. This could well be the beginning of a new troubled period in the country’s internal dynamics, with repercussions for the country’s foreign policy.

The optics favor the opposition. Images of armed and armored police storming UNM’s headquarters was damaging to the ruling party, Georgian Dream (GD). Western diplomats expressed grave concern over the events and their repercussions. Protests have been called, and will likely be covered closely in Western media.

What comes next, however, is not clear.

Much will depend on what long-term vision for the country the opposition can articulate in the aftermath of the most recent events. It was not that long ago that UNM was declining as a political force in Georgian politics. There is a real opportunity here. But the burden is on the opposition to make a play for the loyalty of voters beyond its circle of already-convinced supporters.

Appealing to ordinary Georgian voters is ultimately the key to resolving the crisis. Beyond the intra-party clashes about the legitimacy of the most recent elections, there is a growing chasm between political elites and the challenges faced by people in their daily lives. And tackling these challenges successfully will not be easy.

Both the ruling party and the opposition have been facing declining support from the public at large. Long-term economic problems, which have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, have not been credibly addressed by either side. Instead of solutions, both sides have engaged in political theatrics. For many voters, the current crisis is more about a struggle for political power, rather than about democracy and the economic development of the country. No wonder that most people consider their social and economic human rights to have been violated for decades no matter which party is in power. These attitudes help explain high abstention rates during the most recent election. Despite remarkable successes in the early years after the Rose Revolution, Georgia has lacked a long-term policy for reimagining its fragile economy since its independence and the disastrous conflicts of the 1990s.

None of this, however, should minimize the threats to Georgian struggling democracy. Today’s arrests reinforce a longstanding trend in Georgian politics: the belief that the ruling party always stands above the law. This was the case with Eduard Shevardnadze, Mikheil Saakashvili, and is now the case with the current government. For less politically engaged citizens, plus ça change: Georgian political elites for the last 30 years have all ended up behaving the same way, they say. That kind of cynicism is especially toxic to the establishment of healthy democratic norms.

The crisis also has a broader, regional dimension. The South Caucasus features two small and extremely fragile democracies – Armenia and Georgia. The former took a major hit last year, with its dependence on Moscow growing following Yerevan’s defeat in the Second Karabakh War. Today, Russia is much better positioned to roll back any reformist agenda Armenians may want to enact. Armenia’s current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has been weakened, and easily staged protests are an easy way to keep him in line.

Georgia faces similar challenges. At a time when Washington and Brussels are patching things up after four years of Trump, and the Biden administration vigorously reiterates its support for NATO, Georgia’s woes are a boon for Moscow. Chaos at the top weakens Georgia’s international standing and undermines its hopes for NATO and EU membership. And internal deadlock not only makes Georgia seem like a basket-case but also makes a breakthrough on economic matters ever more unlikely. Without a serious course correction, international attention will inevitably drift away.

At the end of the day, democracy is about a lot more than finding an intra-party consensus or even securing a modus vivendi in a deeply polarized society. It is about moving beyond the push-and-pull of everyday politics and addressing the everyday needs of the people. No party has risen to the occasion yet. Georgia’s NATO and EU aspirations remain a touchstone for Georgian voters, and both parties lay claim to fully representing those aspirations. But only through credibly addressing Georgia’s internal economic problems can these aspirations ever be fully realized. The party that manages to articulate this fact would triumph.

Author’s note: first published in cepa.org

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