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Analysis
Last Updated: 05/05/2004
Security Concerns in Georgia
Vahagn Muradyan

The BBC reports (May 5, 2004) that the "Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili has imposed direct presidential rule in the rebel region of Ajaria. The moves came amid growing pressure on Ajaria's leader Aslan Abashidze to accept Tbilisi's authority or resign. The Georgian government has warned Aslan Abashidze that he has only a few hours to step down and avoid bloodshed." We offer Vahagn Muradyan's article on the problems of identity in Georgia in explaining its Security Policies.


The Role of Identity in Georgia s Security Policies: Critique of Realism
Download the complete article as a PDF

Introduction

To understand the security policies of Republic of Georgia one must focus on both domestic and external factors. Domestic factors include dire economic straits, political instability, and general ethnic make-up of Georgia. On the external area one needs to consider rivalries of global and regional powers. Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between domestic and external implications because they are inextricably bound together and sometimes go without any distinction. For instance, problems of Abkhazian and South Ossethian breakaway republics are both internal and external; they involve economic, ethnic implications on the domestic scale, and simultaneously define relations with Russian Federation. Relations with Russia, in turn, define Georgian domestic politics and affect the republic s foreign policy in general. The same is true in the case of NATO Georgia relations: they substantially affect bilateral relations between Russia and Georgia. All these important characteristics are necessary to take into account in order to understand Georgia s security concerns and introduce a somewhat clearer picture of the situation in South Caucasus at large.

 

Ethnic make-up being one of the most important variables deserves a special attention. Apart from the fact that Georgia is comprised of various ethnic groups, such as the Abkhazians, the Adjars, the Ossets, the Armenians, and the Azerbaijanis, there exists also a view that the Georgians themselves are not homogeneous and can be further divided into groups. For instance, Hunter while summarizing important facts of Georgian history and explaining geographical differences between eastern and western parts of Georgia writes that the nucleus of the first independent state was established in eastern Georgia; afterwards the western part fell under the eastern control. He goes on saying that  the sense of Georgianness was strongest in the eastern part. Echoes of this aspect of Georgia s history are still to be heard today, when some observers characterize the behavior of various Georgian governments toward the country s minorities in the last few years as Kartvelian chauvinism. [1][1][1]

 

In this respect a somewhat radical approach can be traced in George Hewitt s views. He claims that the term Georgian has been used since 1930s as a general term for four South Caucasian, Kartvely languages, that is, Georgian proper, Mingrelian, Svan, and Laz. He asserts that mutual intelligibility between this sister tongues is possible only between Laz and Mingrelian.[1][2][2] This implies that the Georgians themselves cannot be regarded as ethnically cohesive and are subject to internal divisions. If we add to it the problems of almost independent Adjaria populated by ethnically Georgian Muslims, Javacheti populated by Christian Armenians, minority of Azeris, the image of Georgia, as a state extremely susceptible to ethnic divisions will be complete.

 

The ethnic cleavages, aggravated by harsh economic conditions, make Georgia extremely vulnerable to threats coming from both domestic and external sources. Having a strategic geographical location but limited capabilities Georgia, seeks to enhance its security first of all by joining alliances and incorporating itself in European structures. This policy complicates Russia-Georgia relations, for Georgia s westward trip raises Russian suspicion and hostility. Consequently, Georgia is facing the following reality: by trying to join NATO it aggravates relations with Russia, and postpones the probability of restoration of Georgia sovereignty over Abkhazia and South Ossethia. Indeed, it is widely admitted that reliance on Russia could help Georgia to restore its territorial integrity, because Russia exerts influence over Abkhazia and South Ossethia through CIS (predominantly Russian) peacekeeping forces deployed in these secessionist republics.

 

One of the basic assumptions of realist tradition, namely, state s concern about territorial integrity and sovereignty as the highest priorities of states, is not clearly present in the Georgian case. Other ideational priorities, such as the aspiration to construct Georgia as a European state, professing European values, often times compete with realist assumptions. It is argued that realism, with its emphasis on sovereignty, fails to explain Georgian foreign policy, while constructivist theory by stressing identity factors, can provide better insights into the understanding of security dynamics in Georgia. The paper suggests that identity factors play as significant role in issues related to peace and war, as do power politics. The Georgian case is used as a good example for demonstrating the strength of ideational factors in a region traditionally regarded as a domain of power politics only.

 Read the whole article in PDF

Vahagn Muradyan is from Armenia and is currently doing postgraduate work in International Peace Studies.


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