GFSIS https://www.gfsis.org/ Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies - events. Chronic Poverty and Income Inequality in Georgia: presentation of interim results of the project https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/745 On September 22, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted a presentation of interim results of the report - Chronic Poverty and Income Inequality in Georgia. The project is implemented by the Rondeli Foundation with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The representatives of governmental agencies, international organizations as well as independent experts attended the meeting. The opening remarks were made by the project team leader, Prof. Merab Kakulia, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation. Felix Hett, the Regional Director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in the South Caucasus addressed the participants. Nodar Kapanadze, Senior Researcher of the project presented the interim results to the audience. The authors of the research answered the number of questions. The attendees positively evaluated the results of the project and made the useful remarks and suggestions. The presentation of final report is scheduled in November. Fri, 22 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Call for Applications – Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Awareness Raising Trainings for Journalists and Civil Society Organizations https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/746 The Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) is pleased to announce a call for applications for a professional training program in DCFTA Awareness Raising. The training aims to increase the capacity of the media and civil society representatives on informing the population and monitoring of DCFTA implementation process, to raise awareness of journalists to report on DCFTA and to enhance the knowledge and skills of civil society to monitor, communicate, advocate and participate in DCFTA implementation throughout the country. The training program is implemented by GFSIS and supported by USAID/Governing for Growth (G4G) in Georgia. The three-day training course will take place in the regional office of GFSIS in Akhalkalaki, Samtskhe-Javakheti region, on October 2-4, 2017. The training participants shall be awarded with the certificates of completion. The topics covered: Free Trade and Economic Integration Models General overview of EU-Georgia Association Agreement (AA) and DCFTA DCFTA: Tariff elimination and Rules of Origin DCFTA: Sustainable Development Sanitary/Phytosanitary issues (SPS) in DCFTA Trade in Services and Establishment DCFTA: Competition Government Procurement Trade Related Energy Provisions of DCFTA Who can apply: journalists reporting on economic policy, business climate, agriculture, trade, regulatory environment and other relevant topics as well as SMEs, industrial, agricultural unions, Professional Unions, NGOs working in DCFTA related fields as well as representatives of local governments and municipalities. Application Process: To apply, please submit your CV in English or Georgian mbiniashvili@gfsis.org no later than 18:00, September 27, 2017. Shortlisted applicants will be required to pass an interview. For additional information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator Ms. Meri Biniashvili: 032 2 47 35 55 (Work). Fri, 22 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT The Module on Iran and the Region https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/744 On 18 September, 2017 Alex Vatanka, and Expert in the Middle Eastern regional security affairs and a Senior Fellow in Middle East Studies at the Jamestown Foundation launched the course on Iran and the Region at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Relations (Rondeli Foundation). The module shall include the following topics: Iran - A history of the country, Political rivalry: The president vs. "the others", Relations with the USA, Relations with other states and neighbors, Arab States - Why are they fighting? The module is conducted in the framework of the flagship training program implemented by Rondeli Foundation, supported by the U.S. Government, on National Security and Public Policy. The program is designed to prepare the policy analysts for the national security community for careers as government policymakers in defense/security agencies, diplomats and non- governmental policy analysts. Tue, 19 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Trojan Horse Model IL- 76 or Why Would Russia Want to Fight Georgia’s Forest Fires https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/743 Author: Amb. Giorgi Badridze, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation The summer of 2017 will probably go down into the collective memory of Georgians by the massive forest fires. I can’t blame those who suspect that the fires may have resulted not just from unusually hot and dry weather but by someone’s foul play. No one can recall this many and so intensive forest fires in so many different places at once. On the 9th of August, after the first major fire which burned down the forest at the top of Vera and Mtatsminda in downtown Tbilisi, I wrote this in my facebook page: "The conclusions that Georgia’s ill-wishers may have taken after yesterday’s fire is this: it would take just one matchstick to cause as much destruction as normally caused by an air-raid or an assault with a massive army". In a week’s time fires started ravaging Georgian forests in Borjomi valley, Abastumani, Adjara, Kakheti, Tusheti and many more places. I can’t assert that they were caused by Georgia’s enemies, but at the very least it is a possibility, particularly given not so distant experience – in August 2008, during the Russian invasion, the very same forest in Borjomi was burned down after the Russian military helicopters dropped incendiary flairs. The very first fires demonstrated that Georgia was completely unprepared to deal with such a challenge. It became clear that Georgia did not have adequate technical means to fight forest fires, particularly on the mountainous terrain which requires the use of specialized aircraft. Naturally, in such circumstances one seeks the help from partners and the closest neighbors. Azerbaijan and Turkey sent their helicopters and vehicles at the first request, which is only natural - many thanks to them. Even Armenia sent fire brigades and did all they could, even if more on the symbolic level. The odd things started when we learned about Russia’s offer of help by sending an IL-76 firefighting plane. Absolute majority of Georgians responded with hostility to such an idea and the representatives of the Georgian government explained that they never requested any help from Moscow. They told us that after they heard about Georgia’s problems, Russia offered its help on its own initiative, which Georgian government, allegedly, declined. Later, Prime Minister Kvirikashvili added that he considered such an offer by Russia as a very positive development. It was at the very end when we learned from the Russian officials that, actually, they had received quite specific and absolutely official request for help directly from the Georgian government (without any mediation of the UN). It transpired that initially this request was communicated by the Special Representative of the Prime Minister Mr. Abashidze to the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Karasin, after which it was sent via official channel – a Note Verbale of the Section of Georgian Interests at the Swiss Embassy in Moscow to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. When this became obvious, virtually all political parties and the entire society sharply criticized the government for its actions. Here I will humbly attempt to offer my own view on why I think it would be a bad idea to accept Russia’s help, let alone – to ask for it, regardless whether these fires were caused by Russia itself or they were caused by the angry mother-nature. The main argument which the Government provided after the revelation of their secret request to the Russian foreign ministry was that both the appeal for help and Russian offer were the expression of good will by both sides and that it could contribute to improving of the troubled bilateral relations. This would indeed signify a positive development, if in the recent years, including during the five years of the current government, Russia had shown even slightest interest in improving of these relations. Instead, it has been methodically pursuing the policy of creeping occupation, regular abductions of our citizens, the integration of the "Abkhaz and South Ossetian armed forces" into its own army and many more, of which the Georgian government should be well aware. So why would Russia want to extend this supposedly friendly gesture and send the IL-76 plane of the Russian Ministry of Emergencies to fight the forest fires in Borjomi? Surely our government would remember that in 2008 the massive fires that destroyed many miles of the national park forests there were caused by the Russian air force. The motive, in my view, is quite simple: in the eyes of the international community (or at least for Russia itself) the acceptance of the Russian help in such a way would give some legitimization to the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. Sadly, whether they like it or not, by sending the formal (even if secret) request for help to the Russian authorities, the Georgian government has signaled their readiness for such a scenario and the Russians were only eager to reveal it. Like I said, because the lack of direct evidence I can’t accuse Russia of setting forest fires in Georgia but what is clear to me is that these fires served the Kremlin interests: they exposed Georgia’s weaknesses and secured the desirable plea for help from the Georgian government. On this occasion, sharply negative reaction of the Georgian society prevented Russian planes from entering the Georgian air space. In the hot days of August, the majority of our compatriots deemed it as a matter of dignity to reject the help from Russia. I personally think that, apart from the issue of dignity, such a move would represent direct and long-lasting threat to our national interests and security. I have already mentioned Russia’s desire to legitimize or at least normalize "the new realities on the ground" – e.i. the occupation of the two occupied regions. But there might be other goals too: what would Georgian government do in case of Russia, after generously extending the helping hand and sending the fire-fighting IL-76 plane, asked for the over-flight permission for another IL-76 – this time of the Russian air force, carrying military hardware to the military base in Armenia or even Syria? Those who still have an illusion that it is possible to make any deals with Russia’s current regime without conceding our national interests and sovereignty obviously have very poor understanding of Russia and the Kremlin’s not so veiled plans regarding Georgia. Those who can’t recall the past decades, or blame the Georgian leaders at the time for the Russian hostility, should take a fresh look at the events of the last five years under the present Government. Russia has been trying to legitimize it aggression and occupation of parts of Georgia for years. The Kremlin invested heavily in the campaign of international recognition of the non-existing independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It resulted in utter failure. Only five countries were persuaded by Russian promises and bribes and, as a result of the efforts of the Georgian diplomacy, later took their recognition back. Last month, however, we witnessed how the Kremlin has been trying to offer us a kind of the Trojan Horse, by accepting which, as I said above, Georgia would indicate its readiness to reconcile with the Russian occupation and it international legitimization. PS In the 1980-s popular "Yes Prime Minister" TV series there was an episode in which an adviser is explaining to the PM how the Russians would use the "salami tactics" if they decided to invade Western Europe. In the words of the adviser, Russians always act in a planned manner and use unconventional methods to limit the options of the West. He offered Prime Minister the following scenario to illustrate his assumption: massive fires break out in West Berlin, East Germans send in their fire brigades, then they are followed by the East German police, and then by the army (for "security"), and then the Russian army replaces the East German army. Of course it is a comedy but like every good joke it’s only partly a joke. Yes Prime Minister, "Salami Tactics" episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKbDKsNsjac Mon, 18 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Meeting with PAR Evaluation Experts https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/741 On September 7, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted the meeting between Ms. Baiba Petersone, PAR Evaluation expert, Mr. Vlad Kulminski, Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Initiatives (Moldova) and Mr. Kakha Gogolashvili, Director of the EU Studies Centre at the Rondeli Foundation. The meeting focused on progress of EU support to Public Administration Reform, through European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) instrument, including programming and implementation and other issues that should be raised for improvements. Thu, 7 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Visit of the Delegation of Swedish Center for Russian Studies (SCRS) https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/740 On Spetember 6, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized a meeting between the delegation of Swedish Center for Russian Studies (SCRS) headed by Mr. Patrik Juton, the Director of the SCRS and Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation. During the meeting the parties presented the main areas of interests and activities of the organizations. They exchanged views on a wide range of issues, mainly focusing on the role and place of Russian Federation in the global and regional international relations. Amb. Chachelashvili briefly overviewed Russia’s policy in the region and beyond as well as the history, current state and perspectives of Russian – Georgian relations. Wed, 6 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Russian Diplomats in Georgia – who are they, how many of them are there and what are they up to https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/738 Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior-Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation Georgia is fighting to safeguard its statehood. Its statehood has a single enemy and that is Russia. This is such an obvious truth that ignoring it can be risky for any professional authority. It is already clear that a European, democratic and economically developed Georgia is not in the interests of Russia. Moreover, it could endanger Russia’s imperial interests in the region. It should be pointed out that the condition of Russian-Georgian relations is a small part of a much broader image of the Kremlin’s foreign policy, because of which the entire civilized world opposes Russia. This is exactly why we should not give in to illusions. You must not rely on salvation from a crocodile, which is trying to bite your leg off. If it helps you get out of water or extinguish a fire, it will only do so because it wants to chew your other leg off as well. All this is coming from a clear, pragmatic standpoint, leaving aside the moral and ethical standards – much has already been said about those. In fighting this single, unambiguous enemy we must pull all our strength together, use every resource we have available. We must also enact all possibilities and find new ones – in any direction and in any format. Georgia does not possess much leverage to hinder Russia from exercising its occupation policy. In this regard, we must use all opportunities – there are no petty things here. Such an additional resource is observing the work of the so-called diplomatic missions established by Russia on the occupied territories of Georgia and planning/implementing countermeasures through bilateral, as well as multilateral diplomatic channels. If the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation is to be trusted, there are about 40 active diplomats in Georgia today. Only eight of them have legal status and are working at the Russian interests section of the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi (https://georgia.mid.ru ). These diplomats include the Head of the Section, Senior Advisor, two First Secretaries, one Second Secretary and three Attaches. The Georgian public is not very well informed about the work of the diplomats working in the aforementioned section, besides the fact that getting Russian visas is associated with difficult, tiring procedures and questionable deals. There are also suspicions that the receiving structure of the reports of the section is not the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia but the Federal Security Service. Apart from the aforementioned distinguished diplomats working in Tbilisi, we also have additional 32 Russian diplomats who have sneaked onto the Georgian territories: two Ambassadors, two Minister Councilors, twelve Advisors, six First Secretaries, five Third Secretaries and five Attaches. It is a rather impressive number, if we look at the size of the populations of the occupied regions. In other words, we must be held in a very high regard to have merited such a presence (http://www.abkhazia.mid.ru/index.html https://rfsosetia.mid.ru ). We must have strict control on all the Russian diplomats working on the Georgian territories illegally. We must know their names and surnames, their biographies and the fields of their professional interest. We must observe who is working in the so-called embassies established on the occupied territories of Georgia in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. The main aim of this will be to create a feeling among the Russian diplomats that working in the occupied regions is risky for their career growth, as they will find it difficult to work abroad in the future. Hence, Russian diplomats must have no motivation to work in the occupied regions of Georgia. We need to create a special window on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, where the information about the Russian diplomats will be placed with a possible title of: "Diplomats which are forced by Russia – their homeland – to violate the norms and principles of international law." In the case of the attempts of moving these diplomats to other countries our Embassies must work with the governments of the destination countries. The main point here is that giving accreditation to these diplomats means an indirect recognition of the occupied regions of Georgia. Such actions must become an indispensable part of Georgia’s non-recognition policy. The Ambassador of Russia to Abkhazia, Mr. Semyon Grigoryev visited Turkey in August 2017 and held some meetings there. It is interesting whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey knew about this. Did we ask the government of Turkey not to allow the employees and the "head of mission" of the diplomatic mission established in violation of the norms and principles of international law to cross the borders of Turkey, even if using the diplomatic passport as a government official? If he wants to travel, let him use an ordinary passport and travel as a private individual. On the grand opening of the so-called embassy of Russia in occupied Sokhumi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia stated that the Russian diplomats would have a comfortable environment for their work in the building. We must make sure that in the future Russian diplomats working in the occupied regions of Georgia only receive such comfort in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru. Elbrus Kargiyev was the first so-called Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Tskhinvali. Mr. Kargiyev finished his 14-year diplomatic career by being a mock ambassador to the occupied Tskhinvali region. Comfortably settled in the occupied region with the Russian help, he received his salary in hard cash for doing nothing for almost nine years. He also got lucky afterwards as he was sent to a "well-deserved retirement" by which they relieved Georgian diplomats from the obligation of taking care of his professional future. Marat Kulakhmetov is rather well known for the Georgian public. His "peacekeeping" activities, which manifested in the planning and implementation of a number of well-organized provocations with the aim of moving the conflict into the active phase, reached their goal and the very first war on the territory of Europe in the 21st century started. A normal country would have at least punished him for his inability to perform the duties of the head of the peacekeeping mission as well as discrediting his title; however, Russia appointed him as an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Maybe because he implemented the Kremlin’s plan, or rather part of the plan of provoking the war in the first place. Semyon Grigoryev worked in the Soviet diplomatic service from 1983, mostly on the issue concerning Afghanistan and Iran. When I worked in Moscow as an Ambassador, Mr. Grigoryev was the Deputy Director of the Fourth Department of Relations with the CIS Countries and according to the assessment of the employees of the Embassy, was one of well-qualified and balanced diplomats with whom you could talk. However, this means nothing now. By agreeing to occupy the position of the so-called Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the occupied Sokhumi, he has limited his perspectives of professional growth to only Caracas, Managua and the capital of Nauru, if such even exists. Georgian diplomacy must take care of this now. As they say, nothing personal, just business. Mon, 4 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Visit of the Delegation of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/739 On September 4, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted the delegation of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). In the framework of the official visit to Georgia, the members of the delegation met with Prof. Vladimer Papava, Prof. Prof. Merab Kakulia and Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior Fellows at the Rondeli Foundation. The aim of the meeting was to discuss current international and regional issues of common interests as well as the cooperation within the "One Belt – One Road" initiative. During the meeting the Senior Fellow of the Foundation briefly presented the political and economic environment within the country, discussed the relations with neighboring states and emphasized the EuroAtlantic aspirations of Georgia. The visit the CASS delegation to Georgia was organized by the Rondeli Foundation. The delegation will also meet with the representatives of various non-governmental organizations, think-tanks and academic institutions. Mon, 4 Sep 2017 0:00:00 GMT Putin’s Visit to the Occupied Abkhazia: Was our Reaction Actually Adequate? https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/737 Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior-Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation Vladimir Putin visited the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, which is a Georgian territory occupied by Russia. The principle of choosing the date and place is entirely understandable. The content of the message directed to the Government of Georgia is also quite clear: Russia does not at all appreciate the new type of foreign policy conducted by Georgia towards Russia since 2012 and it has not motivated Moscow to review its policies towards the occupied Georgian regions. The so-called new reality, seen by Russia through the warped looking glass, has strongly influenced the thinking and consciousness of Putin himself, as well as the entire Russian political elite and a large part of the opposition forces too. Russophiles in Georgia are wrong to think that by refusing our aspirations to NATO or acceding to the Eurasian Economic Union we shall manage to change the Putin Administration’s attitude towards the occupied regions of Georgia. President Putin would not willingly return Abkhazia to Georgia, even if Georgia were to become a part of the Russian Federation. Of course, the response reaction to this visit from Georgia should have followed swiftly. What could the Georgian government have done? We could not, of course, close the airspace for Putin’s plane or stop him and his companions at the border. We could not have sent our President to one of the Russian autonomous republics occupied by Georgia with a working visit either, since there is no such an autonomous republic. We could have made a statement – and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia did just that, communicating a precise, clear and short statement – one of who knows how many statements! Could we have done more? Below we shall present several opinions about this: In general, the statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia must be based upon facts, relying on the entirety of the recognized norms and principles of the international law, also containing a conclusion, demand and an address to the international community, coupled with a response measure or at least its framework. All of these components were neatly presented in the 8 August 2017 statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, except for the response measures, that is. This is despite the fact that Putin’s visit is precisely the type of event, which provides a perfect opportunity for such actions. Before moving to a specific proposal, we shall present several general opinions: Any statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia must be designed for three target groups: The opposing side The allies The domestic public Which messages should it contain? A message for the opposing side – that we shall not leave their illegal actions unanswered; A message for the allies – that we are in a constant search for response measures and do not plan to get used to the situation; A message for the citizens – that the state will not tolerate the violation of their rights. What could have strengthened the 8 August statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? A bolder indication to the new US sanctions against Russia. Bolder because we can consider the indication to the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement already present in the statement to be such an indication. It is entirely understandable that connecting the text of the statement more clearly to the aforementioned sanctions is beyond the authority of the authors of the text (to whom I would like to reaffirm my respect) and requires a political decision. Among other things, underscoring the importance of a coherent implementation of the newly imposed sanctions by the USA against the Russian Federation would make our position strongly compatible with the attitudes of our strategic ally – the United States of America. In addition, it would have enabled us to observe what kinds of response measures Russia is ready to employ. It should be pointed out that in the given situation, additional complications would not be beneficial for Russia, since it is already forced to fight on many sides and waste its limited resources. Taking all of these conditions into account, we can imagine an alternative version of the 8 August 2017 statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia: "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes the new sanctions imposed by the United States against Russia, including for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and would like to underline the importance of consolidated, principled and coherent enforcement of such sanctions by the international community. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to address the international community to give an adequate assessment to the aggressive steps taken by Moscow and employ further decisive action, in order for the Russian Federation to fulfill its international obligations, including the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement." And finally about the promised action: Putin’s visit has created an ideal precondition for instituting a synchronized visa regime for the holders of the Russian diplomatic and working passports. The time for taking this action is exactly right and it has not expired yet. Putin’s visit was also a good reason for banning the Russian officials from entering the Georgian territories controlled by us without an express permission from Georgia – to also create additional legal problems for entering the Georgian territories not currently controlled by the central government. This is a timely, adequate, proportional and measured response, which is entirely compatible with the established international practices. What could the Russian Federation oppose to this? Institute a visa regime for Georgian passport holders? Demand that Georgia require visas from the holders of any type of Russian passports? Ban its citizens from entering Georgia? Such an action would have had another positive outcome – we could avoid unexpected and scandalous visits to Georgia, such as the recent visit of one of the leaders of Putin’s party and the MP of the Russian Duma, Artem Kavinov. This action contains one more important message. Our doors are open for Russian tourists. They can visit Georgia and compare the existing reality with the ideological narratives of the Russian news sources. And since we expect no positive actions from the Russian politicians, we are instituting control on their crossing of the Georgian state borders. It would definitely be interesting to see the reaction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, if Georgia were to impose a visa regime for the holders of Russian diplomatic and working passports. What could have been, for example, the commentary of the chewing-gum-loving Maria Zakharova, made at the behest of Sergey Lavrov? It would probably have been something like this: „Нет предела самомнению грузинского Мининдел. Решив все проблемы Грузии и охмелев от безвизовой подачки Брюсселя, в Тбилиси решили, что теперь за грузинскими визами выстроится длинная очередь из российских депутатов, политиков и дипломатов. Может, какой – нибудь дипломат Гиви захочет ввести визы и для российских туристов, тем самым лишив собственную страну единственного надежного источника доходов в валюте? Заодно этот Гиви пусть постарается и все грузинское вино выпить, которое на экспорт в Россию идет? Американцы и европейцы ведь грузинского вина почему – то не пьют…" However, what Ms. Zakharova says will not be very important to us – we need to take care of our own problems. Fri, 18 Aug 2017 0:00:00 GMT Pence’s Visit to Georgia: Several Lessons and What We Should be Expecting https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/736 Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, the Senior-Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation The visit of the Vice President of the United States of America, Mike Pence, to Georgia has been completed. This, in itself, is a huge success, especially if we take into account two very important conditions: First – the configuration of the visit took us out of the South Caucasus regional context and coupled us with two Eastern European NATO member countries – Estonia and Montenegro. Second – the visit was parallel to NATO’s Noble Partner exercises. Together with these undoubtedly positive events, there are a couple of conditions that need to be analyzed in order for us to use our opportunities better in the future. Pence’s strong statements will not be very productive for Georgia and in fact may be counterproductive if the issue of Georgia will not re-appear on the agenda of bilateral negotiations between the Russian Federation and the United States of America. If this does not happen, Russia will quite rightly assume that the United States does not consider the issue of Georgia to be the first grade priority and will continue its tactics of the creeping occupation more actively. We are not aware of what our Prime Minister told the Vice President during their face-to-face meeting. In principle, there are two options in this regard: First – a clear and non-ambiguous request for the issue of Georgia to become an integral part of the negotiations between the United States and Russia; Second – a hint that Georgia will once again try to solve its problems with Russia through bilateral contacts and it is not necessary to provoke Russia any further. Hopefully, the Prime Minister chose the first option. The employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must remember the concept – Act as an Ally, which has been used by our diplomats in their relations with NATO. They must also remember how well this principle worked and how it managed to strengthen Georgia’s reputation and authority in NATO. We must not have abandoned this principle today either, especially given our main foreign policy priorities, which is joining NATO. If we have in fact abandoned it, then we have failed to pass the test due to the uncoordinated actions during the visit. In terms of the results, it is clear that the Georgian President’s proposal about the appointment of a Special Representative of the US President’s Administration to Georgia will not be implemented. The members of the US delegation, including the Vice President, saw very clearly that there is no common position, to say the least, in the Government of Georgia about this issue. Hence, our American partners will not wish to facilitate additional tensions in the domestic politics of our country through unplanned actions. One of the customs of diplomacy is that different branches of the government must have special communication before such important visits, mainly to synchronize their messages. In the given case, such communication was either not very effective, which is very bad, or it did not take place at all, which is even worse. As a result, the President put forward a proposal, which, as it would appear, was not agreed with the government. If this was the case, it was a serious mistake as even the best of proposals, when voiced in an unfavorable situation and at a wrong time, can become counterproductive. The diplomats are well aware of this. However, the previous mistake was followed by thoughtless and unacceptably worded statements made by the government and the Parliamentary majority MPs. Undermining the President’s statement was also a serious mistake. I believe that the latter assessments/messages are even more harmful as they confirm the level of disconnect between the government branches when dealing with the main strategic ally of our country. This harm could possibly overturn the positive effects obtained from the visit of the Vice President. Neither the President nor the Prime Minister have emerged as victors in this battle. On the other hand, both of their reputations, as well as that of our country in general, have been tarnished by this incident. Three conclusions can be drawn from the given situation: First – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is the key government institution for conducting the foreign policy of our country, especially in terms of the issues of coordination. It is possible that the Prime Minister’s entirely correct decision to elevate the status of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to that of the Vice Prime Minister was dictated by this consideration as well. It is necessary to use this institutional leverage more boldly. It is understandable that for a number of objective and subjective reasons it is not easy to perform this function of coordination, as it sometimes requires unpleasant discussions about difficult matters with the President and the Prime Minister. However, the state interests demand that this be done and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no real alternative in this field. Second – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be commenting on the results of the visit, including the proposals of the President. The diplomats know how to wrap even the most unpleasant messages without using absolutely inappropriate wordings when assessing the actions of the President. This is especially important when comes to Georgia’s relations with its main strategic partner – the United States of America. Third – it would have been good if the appropriate department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had prepared a compilation of major foreign policy messages and terms to be used to convey them. The usage of such a document by the politicians and public servants from different branches of the government would have helped us avoid mistakes. Now let us, for a minute, imagine a summarizing discussion/assessment between President Trump and Vice President Pence about the visits paid to the three Eastern European Countries and let us try to guess what conclusions these two people would draw. The Presidents of three NATO member Baltic States are united in their attitude towards Washington’s policies whilst in Georgia we do not even have an agreement between the President and the Prime Minister about the main messages to be conveyed to the United States. I would hope to be wrong about this; however, it is possible that after this visit the United States will think that they were too fast to place Georgia into a special configuration, together with two Eastern European NATO members. As already pointed out earlier, the geographic-political configuration of Vice President Pence’s visit was, in itself, a great victory for Georgian diplomacy. What can we do to balance the negative background, which has been created? First, we need to form and well-coordinated and convincing position, voicing it in Washington. The fact that this position brings together the opinions of the President of our country, as well as the Prime Minister, must not be under any suspicion. For this purpose, we need to use all the resources at hand, including the former Georgian Ambassadors to the United States of America. Many of them are in Georgia today and I am convinced they would be pleased to have an opportunity of serving their country once again. It is good that the current Ambassador of Georgia to the United States is also a quality professional – in a remarkably short while Mr. Davit Bakradze has already managed to initiate many beneficial proposals and implement projects. We must also remember that the government of the United States will receive information from its own embassy in Georgia as well. It would be very good if we could manage to maintain the geographic-political configuration used by the US Vice President during his visit in the future visits of the US and European Union high ranking officials as well. Taking the EU integration priority into account the Kyiv – Tbilisi – Chisinau triangle also seems to be an interesting option. The mistakes made by diplomats may not be noticeable on the surface, unlike those of a builder or a doctor; however, the mistakes made in diplomacy can cause irreparable damage not merely to specific persons or groups of people, but to the whole nation and the state. Fri, 4 Aug 2017 0:00:00 GMT