GFSIS https://www.gfsis.org/ Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies - events. 5-day Training Course in Tbilisi for the Group of Journalists https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/768 On November 13-17, 2017 Rondeli Foundation organized a 5-day training course in Tbilisi for the group of journalists under the framework of the project ""Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Awareness Raising Trainings for Journalists and Civil Society Organizations". The training participants were introduced to the following topics: Free Trade and Economic Integration Models, Trade Related Energy Provisions of DCFTA, Trade in Services, Electronic Commerce, Establishment, and Operation of Businesses, Transport Services, Government Procurement and many more. The participants were awarded with the certificates of successful completion. Previously, the training sessions were conducted for the local journalists and the representatives of CSOs in Telavi and Akhalkalaki, the future training locations also include Batumi, Gori, Marneuli and Kutaisi. The project will enhance the quality of journalists’ reporting on trade and DCFTA as well as improve the capacities of the central and regional NGOs dealing with DCFTA and strengthen the support towards DCFTA-related policy reforms. The training program is implemented by Rondeli Foundation with the support of USAID/Governing for Growth (G4G) in Georgia. Mon, 20 Nov 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/756 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 for journalists and civil society representatives will take place in Batumi between December 11-13, 2017; · The five-day training course for journalists and civil society representatives will take place in Gori between December 18-22, 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 Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Sanitary/Phytosanitary issues (SPS) in DCFTA DCFTA: Competition DCFTA: Sustainable Development Intellectual Property Rights in DCFTA Trade Related Energy Provisions of DCFTA Trade in Services Electronic Commerce Establishment and Operation of Businesses Transport Services Government Procurement Coordination of DCFTA implementation Who can apply: local journalists reporting on economic policy, business climate, agriculture, trade, regulatory environment and other relevant topics as well as Tbilisi based 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, December 10, 2017. Shortlisted applicants will be required to pass an interview. For additional information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator Ms. Meri Biniashvili: 599170013. Mon, 20 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT Panel Discussion “Middle East – Current Challenges” https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/767 On November 16, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized the panel discussion on the current challenges in the Middle East. The discussion was moderated by Irakli Menagarishvili, the Chairman of the Center for Strategic Studies and the speakers included Davit Batashvili, specialist on International Relations and Zurab Batiashvili, the Expert of Oriental Studies, Doctor of Historical Sciences. The presenters discussed the situation in the Middle East after the collapse of DAESH, the Sectarian confrontation in the region, military and political situation related to the Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the policies and relations between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, the roles and impacts of EU and U.S. and the increasing influence of Russia in the ongoing regional conflicts. The speakers also talked about potential threats endangering the political stability and security of other states. The representatives of expert community, governmental and non-governmental organizations attended the event. The presentations were followed by an engaging discussion between the audience and the speakers. The event was conducted in the framework of the series of expert panel discussions about the current situation in Middle East. Thu, 16 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Tskhinvali Region is Growing: Support for Full Integration https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/766 Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, the control of Russia over the security field in the occupied regions of Georgia is growing every year. The level of influence of the Kremlin is especially high in Tskhinvali region, leaders of which talk about merging with Russia openly. The events unfolding recently make it clear that Russia is taking full responsibility over the field of security in Tskhinvali region. The Fourth Russian Military Base and the Integration in the Military Field After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, the protection of the interests of the Russian Federation in the field of defense in Tskhinvali region is ensured by the Fourth Russian Military Base. Aleksander Kravtsov has been commanding the base since September 2016. The Fourth Russian Military Base has been in Tskhinvali region since 2009 and it houses about 4,000 military personnel. The Fourth Russian Military Base, much like the Seventh Russian Military Base operating in Abkhazia, is subject to the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation. The District has been headed by Aleksander Dvornikov since 2016. Dvornikov personally oversees the processes and projects taking place in the field of defense in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, inspecting them being his direct responsibility. The steps recently taken by the parties indicate that Tskhinvali region will not be retaining its illegitimate military units for much longer. On 31 March 2017, the Minister of Defense of Russia and the de-facto Minister of Defense of Tskhinvali region signed an agreement on the incorporation of certain separatist military units into the armed forces of the Russian Federation. According to the new agreement, the soldiers of Tskhinvali region will now be able to serve on the Fourth Russian Military Base as well. Before the full abolition of the Tskhinvali region armed forces, Russian militaries retain top positions in the de-facto armed forces of Tskhinvali region. The First Deputy de-facto Minister of Defense and the Head of the General Staff of Tskhinvali region is the representative of Russia, much like it is in Abkhazia as well. Before being appointed as the Head of the General Staff, Viktor Fedorov, who has been living in Tskhinvali since June 2011, worked on various positions in the armed forces of Tskhinvali region. Integration in the Russian Law-Enforcement System Unlike Abkhazia, where implementing joint projects in the field of security with Russia is openly criticized by parts of the public and political elite, in Tskhinvali region the integration of the local law-enforcement structures in the Russian law-enforcement system enjoys strong support. Hence, the Kremlin has taken over much more authorities in terms of law-enforcement in Tskhinvali, than it has in Abkhazia. The decision of the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tskhinvali region to reduce the number of employees from 1,600 to 1,150 from 2019 also indicates a high level of integration with Russia. Signing the agreement on creating the Joint Information-Coordination Center among the Ministries of Internal Affairs of Russia and Tskhinvali region, signed on 4 July 2016, is also a significant step towards deepening cooperation in the field of law enforcement. From the Russian side the agreement was signed by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, Igor Zubov, who supervises the occupied regions of Georgia on the part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. According to Zubov’s assessment, the Center will be a legally independent service, whilst practically it will be an international organization, the first head of the structure being a local person. The aim of the Center is to coordinate the work of the Russian and Ossetian law enforcement structures in terms of battling organized crime and other violent criminal activity. In order to achieve its goal the Center is expected to record, analyze and exchange the information connected with criminal activity. The work of the Center will entirely be funded by the Russian side. Despite the negative attitudes towards the formation of such a Center in Abkhazia, it has already started operating and the Head of the Center has already been appointed. In Tskhinvali region, there are still some preparatory works taking place. During his meeting with the de-facto President of Tskhinvali region on 26 June 2017, Zubov stated that "the creation of the Information-Coordination Center in Tskhinvali is a done deal". According to Zubov’s statement, the funding for opening the Center already exists and it must be used up until the end of 2017, with money being spent on the capital rehabilitation of the building and equipping the Center with modern technologies. The Center will employ 23 people from the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tskhinvali region and seven people from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. It is interesting to note that due to the discontent with the formation of the Center in Abkhazia, it will have 20 employees (10 from each side) there. At the same time, in the case of Tskhinvali the agreement specifies that the working language of Center will be Russian. Unlike Abkhazia, the Officers of the Center in Tskhinvali region will also be authorized to hold, carry and use weapons, also being allowed to conduct operations and carry out investigations. Due to the delays of the activation of the Center a new panel was created in the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tskhinvali region in October 2017, tasked with resolving the issues connected with the creation of the Center. Strengthening the Occupation Line On 30 April 2009, an agreement was signed between the leaders of the Russian Federation and Tskhinvali region on the "Joint Measures for Protecting the State Border of South Ossetia". It is the responsibility of the Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation to "protect" the 467.4 km de-facto border of the occupied Tskhinvali region, which also includes the 391.4 km "border" with Georgia. Since March 2017, Major General Anatoly Utkin, the Head of the Border Police Department has been in charge of "protecting" the de-facto border of the occupied region with Georgia. On 30 June 2017, the newly elected de-facto President of Tskhinvali region, Anatoly Bibilov held a meeting with Utkin, demanding that he improve the border security with Georgia. More specifically, according to Bibilov, the "violation of borders" by the Georgians must be eradicated fully. It is Utkin’s structure that is arresting Georgians near the occupation line. Since 2009, his Department has arrested and detained over 900 Georgians with the charge of crossing the so-called border. After 2008 Russia-Georgia War, in terms of the illegal process of "borderization", the Department has been installing barbed wires, fences and so-called border demarcating banners, as well as digging the trenches and making anti-fire structures, as a result of which the land that has been controlled by the Government of Georgia since 2008 War end up within the occupied territories. The occupation line, which has practically turned into Russia-Georgia border, has become even more "secure" lately. A so-called border zone has been created in Tskhinvali region, where the citizens of Tskhinvali region and Russia can only enter through special passes. The overall area of the border zone is 693 sq. kilometers. The minimum distance between the occupation line and the border zone is 100 meters whilst maximum is 8 kilometers. Principal Conclusions After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War and the recognition of the independence of Tskhinvali region by the Russian Federation, the aim of the Kremlin’s policy is to establish full control over the domestic processes taking place in Tskhinvali, including the fields of defense, policing and securing the de-facto border, in which the Kremlin has the support of the local illegitimate government as well. The recent steps taken by the Kremlin in Tskhinvali region indicate that the full or at least partial integration of the armed forces and law enforcement structures of Tskhinvali region into the corresponding structures of the Russian Federation is a practically irreversible process. The growth of the influence of Russia over the security field of Tskhinvali is further reinforced by the existing consensus in the separatist republic about the issue of integrating with Russia. However, at the same time it should also be noted that in Abkhazia, where there is no such consensus on the issue, the Russian influence has been growing regardless. The actions of the Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation have turned the occupation line into a de-facto Georgia-Russia border. The actions of the Russian border control forces on the occupation line endangers the security, private property and economic activity of the Georgian citizens, especially those living near the occupation line. The growing control over the field of security in both Abkhazia as well as Tskhinvali region exerted by Russia and the development of military infrastructure near the occupation line since 2008 is the main challenge for the security of Georgia. Wed, 15 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT Public Lecture “The Reem Island Ghost: Framing State Narratives on Terror https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/765 On November 7, 2017 Georgian Foundation for strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized a public lecture "The Reem Island Ghost: Framing State Narratives on Terror". The guest speaker was Dr. Vivian S. Walker, the Faculty Fellow, USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Dr. Walker discussed the case study that illustrated how, in the aftermath of a violent event, the United Arab Emirates shaped the public discourse on terror as a reaffirmation of state legitimacy. The event was attended by the representatives of expert community, governmental and non-governmental organizations. The presentation was followed by an engaging Q and A session - the audience and the speaker discussed the ways of building a successful Public Diplomacy strategy, the use of the Strategic communication tools during the pre- election process, they also talked about the ways to counter Anti-Western disinformation in Georgia with a coordinated effort. Tue, 7 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT The Issue of Iraqi Kurdistan in the Context of Regional Security https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/764 Author: Zurab Batiashvili, Expert of Oriental Studies, Doctor of Historical Sciences The Kurds, whose number in the world, according to different calculations, varies from 30 to 40 million, remain one of the biggest nations that do not have their own state. The non-existence of the Kurdish state is due to both external as well as internal factors: clan-tribal, linguistic, religious, ideological divisions and confrontations, non-favorable international environment, no access to sea and large states taking advantage of their inner confrontations. It should also be noted that historically, much like in the rest of the Middle East, the idea of a classical (Western) nation-state was foreign to Kurdistan and the main factor for defining one’s identity was community affiliation. Short History The Ottoman Empire ceased its existence after the First World War. As a result the Kurds found themselves scattered throughout four states (Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria). Today about 15 million Kurds live in Turkey, about eight million live in Iran, about 5.5 million in Iraq and about 1.7 million in Syria. It might sound quite paradoxical at first, but it is a fact that the relatively less numerous Kurdish populations of Iraq and Syria managed to obtain more rights than their kin living in Turkey and Iran. The reason for this is that both Turkey and Iran have long-standing traditions of statehood (and therefore more experience of being in charge of the political situation), whilst Iraq and Syria are relatively new and unstable states with a shorter experience of statehood. One of the major issues in the Middle East today is that of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. Despite unthinkable repressions, assimilation and subjugation (the Saddam Hussein regime even used chemical weapons against the Kurds) the Kurds living here have been fighting to preserve their unique identity for decades. For decades they have been promised special rights; however, they only managed to obtain de-facto autonomy in October 1991 when Saddam Hussein, defeated by the international coalition formed under the leadership of the United States of America, was forced to remove his military units from the region. The de jure autonomy, on the other hand, was only obtained after the collapse of the Hussein regime and the adoption of the 2005 constitution. However, the internal political confrontations in Iraq and the consequent instability did not allow for a factual enactment of the autonomy. This was complemented by the capture of Iraq’s central part, mostly settled by Sunnis, by Daesh (or ISIS), because of which Iraqi Kurdistan was now disconnected from the central government territorially as well. That said their armed forces, the so-called Peshmerga, managed to halt the advance of ISIS. In addition, they also managed to occupy the oil-rich disputed territories (including the city of Kirkuk and its surroundings) on 12 June 2014, further boosting the ambitions of independence. Situation Today – Referendum and its Results Despite many difficulties, the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan managed to unilaterally hold numerously postponed independence referendum on 25 September 2017, where about 92.7% of voters supported the secession of the region from Iraq. Holding a referendum did not automatically mean declaring independence. Based upon the results of the referendum, the local government planned to start negotiations with the central government of Iraq and the neighboring countries. In addition, Masoud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, hoped to regain his popularity among the Kurdish voters by holding a referendum. It should be pointed out that despite external threats, which should have fostered the consolidation of the Iraqi Kurds, political fragmentation among them remained ever strong. If the right wing Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is dominant in the Erbil governorate, the left wing Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is controlling the Sulaymaniyah province. In the Kurdish provinces bordering Turkey, Iran and Syria, the Marxist oriented terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has strong support. Confrontation between these three has often turned into a serious bloodletting. Even today, when it comes to the occupation of the city of Kirkuk by Iran supported Iraqi armed forces and Shia Hashd Al-Shaabi without almost any fight on 16 October 2017, the KDP and PUK accuse each other of treason and serving other states’ interests. By holding a referendum, the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan managed to fuel the tide of patriotism and unite various forces around the idea of independence; however, it apparently did not manage to calculate a very clear negative attitude by external actors towards the independence referendum. Not to mention a starkly negative attitude of Iraqi central government towards the idea of the aforementioned referendum, Barzani managed to antagonize now already former partners like Turkey and Iran, which are very sensitive towards the Kurdish issue. Other Arabic states and Russia also expressed their solidarity towards the central government of Iraq. Even the main ally of the Iraqi Kurds, Washington, supported Iraq’s territorial integrity in the given situation, as it does not wish to see the Iraqi Project fail. The United States fears that in the case of the separation of Kurdistan, the current Iraqi central government led by Haider Al-Abadi may collapse and the power in Baghdad will be grabbed by radical Shia forces, which will fall under Iranian influence completely. Israel turned out to be the only country in the region which, taking its own interests into account, openly supports the aspirations of Iraqi Kurds towards independence. However, in Erbil they understand that the support of a strong, but not immediate neighbor will not be enough to halt the sanctions already instituted by Turkey and Iran (airspace is on the lockdown and the transport of Kurdistan’s oil through pipelines has been reduced), which could turn into a full land blockade at any given moment. This is exactly why on 25 October 2017, the government of Iraqi Kurdistan put forward an initiative of suspending (not abolishing) the results of the referendum. It should be noted that this turned out to be not enough for the central government of Iraq and its allies and the attacks on Peshmerga positions continued. The 29 October 2017 statement by President Barzani about his resignation does not alter the situation either, as his successor will represent the very same clan. Threats Iran and Turkey view the creation of Iraqi Kurdistan as an existential threat. Ankara and Tehran fear that it could turn into a certain type of example and/or the center of gravity for the Turkish and Iranian citizens of Kurdish origins. Iran clearly remembers that in 1946, with the encouragement from the Soviet Union, the father of Masoud Barzani, Mustafa Barzani, created the Republic of Mahabad on the territory of Iran. It is true that this entity proved to be short-lived (it did not last even a year), but it turned into a considerable precedent of the Kurds living in different countries coming together. Hence, two strong regional powers, Turkey and Iran, started joint actions against the government of Iraqi Kurdistan together with Iraq. In the Middle East they also fear that Iraqi Kurdistan can turn into a sort of Pandora’s Box (especially dangerous would be the unilateral declaration of independence) and its example could be followed by other minorities in the region. This could lead to chaos and unmanageable situation. There is also a risk of the beginning of a long-term ethno-confessional confrontation inside Iraq itself, which could lead to the dissolution of the country in even smaller parts. Apart from Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Turkmens, Assyrians and Yezidis also feel subjugated in Iraq. These groups could easily turn into so-called proxies in the hands of large states. Similar situation fostered the strengthening of the positions of Daesh in the Sunni part of the country. Were the events to develop in this way, another humanitarian catastrophe and a new wave of refugees should be expected towards both the neighboring countries (including Georgia) and Europe as well. Despite the fact that the problem of Iraqi Kurdistan differs from those of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, it is still possible for it to be used as an important topic in this regard as well. The central government of Iraq subjected the Kurds to ethnic cleansing and deportation multiple times, which, in the case of Georgia, happened vice versa – the occupation regimes were the organizers of destroying the lives of ethnic Georgians or chasing them away from these regions. However, this does not mean that if the Kremlin is given a chance, it will not start pointing at the example of Iraqi Kurdistan. Conclusion Referendum was followed by many complications; however, it is a fact that the issue of independence in Iraqi Kurdistan moved from a theoretical discussion to a specific process. In addition, it is important to note that this issue managed to unify the Kurdish parties and groups previously treating each other as enemies. The only real solution in the given situation is a political dialogue between the parties, which should be overseen and sponsored by the international community. Otherwise, the conflict could turn into a serious military confrontation and bloodshed, likes of which the Middle East has witnessed many times in the past. Mon, 6 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT The Module on Strategic Communications https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/763 On October 25, 2017 Dr. Vivian S. Walker, the Faculty Fellow, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, launched the module on Strategic Communication at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Relations (Rondeli Foundation). The course entails the topics on Public Diplomacy Concepts, Context and Craft, Building a PD Strategy, Influence, Advocacy and Framing, Countering Disinformation. Dr. Walker is a Research Fellow at the CEU Center for Media, Data and Society. Having a 26-year career with the State Department, she also served as Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College in Washington, DC , a professor of strategic and security studies at the National Defense College of the United Arab Emirates. 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, 31 Oct 2017 0:00:00 GMT Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Abkhazia is Increasing https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/762 Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst On 11 October 2017, the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the armed forces of the separatist republic of Abkhazia was celebrated. Despite festive mood, part of the Abkhazian public and the political elite believe that the level of influence of Abkhazians in the field of security of Abkhazia has been declining since the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, whilst the level of influence of Russia is increasing year-by-year. Russia’s growing activities are noticeable in several directions, especially in the fields of defense, policing and controlling the de-facto border. Russia’s Seventh Military Base and Russian Generals After 2008 Russia-Georgia war, the protection of the Russian interests in the defense field of Abkhazia and the security of the separatist republic of Abkhazia is being ensured by the Seventh Military Base of Russia, headed by Igor Egorov since 2017. The Seventh Military Base is subject to the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation, which is headed by Alexander Dvornikov since 2016. Before his appointment, Dvornikov was the leader of the Russian army military grouping in Syria. The Southern Military District exists since 2010 and is tasked with defending the southern border of the Russian Federation. Apart from Abkhazia, the forces of the District are also placed on the territory of the Tskhinvali region. The local Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, working on the occupied Georgian territories since 2009, is also under the command of the Military District. Dvornikov himself is looking after the processes and projects taking place in the field of defense in Abkhazia, monitoring of which is his direct responsibility. He visits Abkhazia quite often. For example, in May 2017 Dvornikov inspected the existing infrastructure as well as the infrastructural projects being implemented at the Russian base in Abkhazia, also checking the condition of military technologies placed there. The level of influence of the Russian soldiers over the Abkhazian armed forces is also quite high. Representatives of the Russian Federation hold high-profile positions in the armed forces of Abkhazia. In this sense, we must single out Anatoly Khruliov, who has served as the Deputy Minister of Defense of the de-facto republic of Abkhazia since 18 May 2015, also occupying the position of the Chief of General Staff. During the August war of 2008, he headed the 58th Army of the North Caucasus Military District. On 9 August 2008, Khruliov sustained a heavy injury as a result of the shelling from the Georgian side. Control of the Field of Policing Despite the resistance from the local society and parts of the political groups, the role of Russia in the law enforcement structures of Abkhazia is steadily growing. In this regard, the formation of the Common Information-Coordination Center between the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia was an important development. The agreement about the formation of this structure was signed on 18 May 2017 in Sochi, by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, Igor Zubov and the de-facto Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia, Aslan Kobakhia. The aim of the center is to coordinate the work of the Russian and Abkhazian law enforcement structures in terms of organized crime and combating other violent crimes. In order to achieve the proposed aim, the Center is set to ensure the recording, analysis and exchange of the information connected with criminal activity. On 26 July 2017, the de-facto Parliament of Abkhazia ratified the foundational agreement of the Center. Only 23 out of 34 MPs supported the decision, with nine going against, whilst two were absent. The issue of the creation of the Center sparked a serious public concern in Abkhazia. The opponents of the creation of the Center were stating that "by founding a joint center the government renounced the independence of Abkhazia". According to the supporters of the Center, on the other hand, the work of the structure, which will not have the authority to undertake investigations, will further activate the combat against crime. The proponents of the creation of the Center were forced to take the existing negative positions into account, which meant the reduction of the number of employees of the Center to 20 people. Each side will now have 10 employees. Beslan Parulua was appointed on the position of the Director of the Center on 9 September 2017, previously serving as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the de-facto republic of Abkhazia. According to the agreement, the Deputy Director of the Center will be the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. According to the current information, in three years, a representative of Russia will become the Director of the Center, whilst the deputy will be appointed by Abkhazia. Parulua’s candidacy was agreed during the August 2017 visit of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation, Igor Zubov, to Abkhazia. Zubov oversees the field of policing in Abkhazia from the Russian side. He often meets with the de-facto leaders of Abkhazia, including the representatives of the law enforcement structures. Russia also has a significant influence on the appointments in the de-facto government of Abkhazia in terms of policing. For example, the critique from Russia about the criminal situation in Abkhazia was followed by the appointment of a new Minister of Internal Affairs. One case of murder of the Russian tourist and multiple cases of attacks were recorded in Abkhazia in summer of 2017. The de-facto Ambassador of Russia to Abkhazia, Semyon Gregoriev expressed his critical remarks about this issue, stating that it should be a priority for the government of Abkhazia to ensure the safety of Russian tourists. Gregoriev’s statement caused discontent in the Abkhazian society and he was accused of interfering in the internal affairs of Abkhazia. The discontent from the Russian side was ultimately followed by the appointment of a new Minister of Internal Affairs, Gari Arshba on 21 October 2017. For years, Arshba worked for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia as well as for the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia. More recently, from 2013 until his appointment as Minister, he worked on various positions in the general headquarters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in Northern Caucasus District. Control of the De-Facto Border 0n 30 April 2009, an agreement was signed between the President of the Russian Federation and the de-facto President of Abkhazia "on the Joint Actions for Protecting the State Border of the Republic of Abkhazia". This day is considered to be the day of the establishment of the Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation in Abkhazia (the de-facto embassy of Russia to Abkhazia started functioning on that day as well). The responsibility of the Department is to protect the land and maritime borders of the occupied region. Since 2009, the Department has detained thousands of Georgian citizens for the violation of the so-called border regime. The Department is directly involved in closing down the crossing points on the occupation line, erecting physical barriers and the so-called border demarcation, which has a negative influence on the day-to-day life of the Georgian population of Gali in particular. General-Major Dimitri Iudin has served as the Head of the Department since 24 March 2015, actively participating in all important events in the region. He has a very close professional relationship with the de-facto President of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba. He periodically meets with Khajimba and discusses the operative situation in the occupied region. For example, in April 2016, Iudin informed Khajimba about the situation around the closing of the crossing point Tagiloni on the so-called administrative border and the works necessary for the closure. Heads of Border Police services are directly involved in the implementation of infrastructural projects and inspect the occupation line of Abkhazia periodically, together with the leaders of Abkhazia. The infrastructural projects implemented lately concern both the strengthening of the de-facto border, as well as improving the living conditions of Russian border police and their families. Of the representatives of the Russian security forces in Abkhazia, the border police are the most appreciated ones. In 30 April 2010, even a street of Heroes of Border Police was opened in Sokhumi. The work of the deceased Russian border police members was also adequately appreciated. For example, 0n 12 January 2016, a memorial board was opened in Sokhumi for the Head of the Cynological group of the border police department, Andrei Udaltsev, who died on one of the Russian border-control posts on 12 January 2015, during the joint operation in the village of Refo-Etseri, in Gali district. Sokhumi also hosts a memorial dedicated to another Russian border police member, Vice-Colonel Vasili Kvitko. Kvitko was part of an engineering reconnaissance mission with other border police members on 8 April 2011 in the village of Tchuburkhinji in Gali district, when unidentified persons opened fire to the group when they were inspecting homes. As a result, he died. Principal Conclusion After the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia by the Russian Federation, the main aim of Kremlin’s policy is to exert full control over the domestic processes unfolding in Abkhazia, including the fields of defense, policing and protection of the de-facto border. In Abkhazia, the issues of military, policing and defense of the de-facto border are supervised by the representatives of the Russian security structures, who also influence important appointment decisions in these fields. The growing influence of Russia over the security of Abkhazia causes discontent among the people of Abkhazia and parts of its political elite; however, given the security environment formed in the region after 2008 Russia-Georgia war, their leverage to counter Kremlin’s policies is weak and marginally effective. The actions of the Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, which is implementing large-scale military and civilian infrastructure projects near the occupation line, threatens the Georgian population almost every day, especially the Georgian speaking population of Gali district. The growing control over the field of security in both Abkhazia as well as Tskhinvali region exerted by Russia and the development of military infrastructure near the occupation line since 2008 is the main challenge for the security of Georgia. Mon, 30 Oct 2017 0:00:00 GMT Public Seminar “Political Economic Discussions with Vladimer Papava” https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/760 On October 26, 2017 Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted a public seminar "Political Economic Discussions with Vladimer Papava". Professor Emzar Jgerenaia, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University made a presentation on "The Era of Cryptocurrency and the paradigms of "Modern Economics". The speaker briefly overviewed the history of cryptocurrency, analyzed its financial mechanisms and emphasized the main problems that Georgia face in respect of this issue. The event was followed by an ardent discussion. The attendees made some useful remarks and suggestions. The seminar was moderated by Prof. Vlidimer Papava, the Senior Fellow and the Director of the Center for Applied Economic Studies at Rondeli Foundation. Thu, 26 Oct 2017 0:00:00 GMT Iran and the Region - Interview with Alex Vatanka https://www.gfsis.org/events/view/759 Alex Vatanka (الکس وطن خواه) specializes in Middle Eastern regional security affairs with a particular focus on Iran. From 2006 to 2010, he was the managing editor of Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst. From 2001 to 2006, he was a senior political analyst at Jane’s in London (UK) where he mainly covered the Middle East. Alex is also a senior fellow in Middle East Studies at the US Air Force Special Operations School (USAFSOS) at Hurlburt Field and teaches as an adjunct professor at DISAM at Wright-Patterson AFB. He has lectured widely for both governmental and commercial audiences, including the US Departments of State and Defense, US intelligence agencies, US Congressional staff, and Middle Eastern energy firms. Beyond Jane’s, the Middle East Institute and the Jamestown Foundation, he has written for such outlets as The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, Americas Quarterly, CNN.com, Al Monitor, the Journal of International Security Affairs, BBC Persian Online, The National Interest, The World Today, PBS, Daily Beast, the Jerusalem Post, Journal of Democracy and the Council of Foreign Relations. Born in Tehran, he is fluent in Farsi and Danish. He is the author of "Iran-Pakistan: Security, Diplomacy, and American Influence" (2015) and is presently working on his second book, "The Making of Iranian Foreign Policy: Contested Ideology, Personal Rivalries and the Domestic Struggle to Define Iran’s Place in the World." Issues of Expertise Iran domestic and foreign affairs, Iranian military and security forces, Iran-US relations, Political Islam in Middle East. To read the interview please visit the following link: https://www.gfsis.org/library/view/2500 Tue, 24 Oct 2017 0:00:00 GMT