Georgia's Upgraded Foreign Policy: For Greater Practicality, for Greater Effectiveness


Current Realities

Foreign policy has never been a linear endeavor, and one could always read in the visible or hidden movements of its creation the successful or unsuccessful operation of a complex mechanism. As the system of international relations has evolved, this mechanism has become increasingly complex and comprehensive. Its effective utilization, along with direct costs, has required the use of many new types of resources that many countries and actors have to draw upon along the way.

In real time, this practical "training course" has been supplemented by the fact that today the clear line between white and black has been erased, the previously known "extremes" have shifted towards each other, the absoluteness of assessments and even more so, action, has become somewhere useless, and somewhere directly risky.

This disruption in global order produced a "disorderly order" in which one or another predetermined grand strategy led to narrowness and crudeness in navigating the outer course. At the same time, paving the way for one's own interests in a world order "without planning" and even partially ensuring one's own security places a particularly heavy burden on small countries.

The fate of small countries has not been easy before. However, in our time, this fate is further aggravated by such realities as the declining role of international law, ignoring reputation factor in the implementation of the agreements reached, for reconciliation and harmonization of interests of global or regional actors, subordination of these interests to one big "trade exchange", "delicate" violating declared principles or ideals by the needs of "trade".

These and a number of other reasons led to the adoption of qualitatively new approaches as official policy. For example, the so-called Balancing Policy was actually introduced in the foreign arena, the relevance of which is increasing against the background of the war in Ukraine and other military conflicts. Such balancing, or, to put it differently, maneuvering, in the absence of clear lines and rules of the game in the system (or in the systemlessness) of international relations, is associated if not with the full protection of national interests, then at least with their temporary preservation.

Moreover, the so-called practice of balancing, which should by no means be unquestionably equated with unprincipledness, has become part of the geopolitical handwriting not only of small and medium-sized countries, but also of large ones. At the current stage of policy creation, the existing methods of minimizing threats and realizing one's own interests are constantly changing: both their form and content are undergoing modifications. Thus, for example, the emergence of the phenomenon of the so-called Swing State should be attributed to the type of content changes. Let us now temporarily set aside the question of its etymology and correct Georgian definition. The main point is still the essence, according to which a country (especially a small and medium-sized one) should pursue a rational policy of such quality that would create prerequisites for taking into account the national interest of this country by major geopolitical centers or, at least, avoiding encroachments on it.

Perhaps for some it is controversial, but we would still say that given the created realities, even large countries are not always known for a direct foreign policy line, including despite their declared principles. Moreover, if we take the example of the United States of America, this global player is clearly trying to solve the problems of a particular given at the expense of situational partnerships with democratic, hybrid or autocratic regimes. It is also worth noting that such a situational partnership, driven by necessity, is openly permissible for the U.S. national security strategy and, in a sense, gives the aforementioned Swing State connotation to this country's foreign policy.

In connection with the above, the article published in the January issue of this year of the authoritative magazine Foreign Affairs by William Burns, Head of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America, is significant. Discussing a number of issues, Burns points to the growing demand for hedging (i.e., balancing) by "middle ground" countries. The influential U.S. diplomat and senior intelligence officer emphasizes that whether democracies or autocracies, developed or developing economies, they all exhibit a growing tendency to "diversify relationships to maximize choices." Moreover, he recognizes that "few benefits and many risks" come from "monogamous geopolitical relations" (i.e. exclusive relations with one particular country - definition by the author of this article) and notes that "geopolitically 'open' status" may become more acceptable to countries. We believe that after citing these considerations, our reasoning that we develop in this article will be taken adequately and will be spared from attaching toxic clichés and hackneyed labels.

In short, where modern international politics for large or medium-sized countries means moving along a risky trajectory of endless discoveries and surprises, the situation is exceptionally opposite for small countries that have no special political, economic and financial, military or lobbying resources to advocate for their own national interests.

And the purpose of this article is to talk about the peculiarities of creation and realization of Georgia's foreign policy taking into account the mentioned circumstances and contradictions, as well as to point out some practical considerations that will make our efforts more effective and realistic. In other words, this is an open and non-reverential discussion of the contours and prospects of a newly understood Georgian foreign policy, the so-called "Georgian Path".

Introduction for Better Context

Before concretizing and formulating the principles of upgrading our foreign policy (and not only) line, let us also remind ourselves and the readers of some contextual issues:

Let us start with the banal postulate that geography has been, is and will remain an essential determinant of Georgia's foreign policy making. It is quite enough to mention the all too popular connotations of "geopolitics" and "geo-economics" alone.

We have mentioned geography, and whether we like it or not ("idealists" and "internationalists" will be very much against this opinion), the division of geopolitical geographies into so-called "spheres of influence" or "zones of interest" will remain relevant for the foreseeable future. In this respect, the main concern of countries caught between "zones" and "spheres" will probably be reducing the harmful impact on them, hedging (reinsuring) their interests in the conditions of opposing influences, and optimizing the available opportunities for their own security.

In addition, we should keep in mind the even more prominent place of regionalism and regional geopolitical hubs in the system of international relations. Accordingly, we need to be able to implement the two-frequency institutionalization of Georgia's foreign policy more instrumentally and without excessive emotionality, namely: (a) the steadiness of the Euro-Atlantic integration course determined by the constitutional order of the country, and (b) constant observation, measurement and appropriate response to regional processes, especially against the background of the complex processes of the South Caucasus and the wider Black Sea region.

While integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures is a reinsurance of Georgia's systemic security foundations, Georgia's regional policy should proactively serve to minimize and prevent situational risks "near and around us".

And finally: In the conditions of geopolitical "trade", so-called transactional politics, the priority task of Georgia's foreign policy remains that we somehow manage to prevent the "misappropriation" of our country's interests behind our back. This task will become much more difficult in the wake of the gradual strengthening of radical-extremist and populist-isolationist tendencies among our strategic partners - the United States and the European Union. Accordingly, the call: "No decisions and negotiations on Georgia without Georgia (!)", will become realistically possible only through maximum mobilization of our own national resources, consolidation of intellectual potential of modern standard in a nonpartisan and depoliticized environment.

On the Upgraded Fundamentals, in Short and to the Point

Georgian foreign policy handwriting has gone through several stages of formation. In our opinion, the characteristics of each stage were influenced by the following factors: (a) the situation inside and outside the country at a particular stage; (b) the characterization of a particular top political figure of the country and his personal outlook; (c) personal and professional qualities of a particular head (leadership) of the foreign affairs agency and (d) the real role of the foreign affairs agency and the efficiency factor in shaping the country's foreign policy. The latter factor is all the more important because under the conditions of weak institutional development of the Georgian state, the functionality of this agency was not always organized in a way that is characteristic of a well-functioning system of governance. Unfortunately, with the country's political elite failing to properly recognize the importance of a self-sufficient and meritocratic foreign diplomatic institution, and this institution lacking the strength, courage and resources to properly establish itself in response to current and future challenges, the problem still exists today.

In the past, we have devoted several publications to the functional and structural reorganization of the Georgian foreign affairs agency (e.g.: This is one big topic, the importance of which goes far beyond diplomacy and is directly and immediately related to ensuring the country's effective national security and reputation.

This time we want to discuss only those characteristics that we consider appropriate in the development and implementation of Georgia's foreign policy. We would like to add that such appropriateness does not fall only into the frame of "want or don't want". The point is that it is dictated by the very modern realities that we briefly discussed at the beginning of the article.

(1)    Flexibility and adaptability needed to adapt Georgia's foreign policy to regional or global challenges:

We have already mentioned the excessively transactional nature of international relations. The most important characteristic of this approach, as in business, is to make a concrete decision on a concrete issue taking into account the so-called "costs and benefits". At the same time, it is equally possible that such a decision could change as a result of a change in the views of a political leadership or their expectations of diplomacy.

We should remember and know this and should not be surprised. Moreover, the Georgian approach should be based on the same principle, which includes a correct reading of "our" and "their" practical needs and a mutually beneficial overlap. This is the handwriting suggested by the egoistic environment around us, in which necessity and practicality dominate over futile idealism and useless romanticism.

(2)    Real Opportunities Policy:

What is known in political science as realism, for us it is the politics of seeking and exploiting real opportunities.

Such a policy requires a rational perception of the regional or global contradictions around us and, as a result of the proper management of such contradictions, manifests itself in practical results useful to us. In other words, the existing contradictions should not alarm us, should not frighten us. On the contrary, we should use them as an opportunity to realize our interests through their mutual balancing and opposition.

At the same time, in order to identify realistic policy opportunities, we believe it is organically necessary:

(3)    "Desentimentalization" of the immediate process of foreign policy making, whether covert or public:

In other words, practical results require practical and sometimes unpopular methods and steps. Their only justification and measure is a tangible result, and the biggest obstacle to such a result is our own stereotypes or archetypes. We believe it is mandatory to get and understand the stereotypes or archetypes of the other side (regardless of whether it is a friend or an enemy). We talked about this in detail when, while discussing the forms of actual Georgian diplomacy, we considered the so-called diplomacy of empathy (see:

Since we have mentioned the stereotypical vision, let us express some opinions about those aspects that have a significant impact on the foreign policy of our allies and partners today, and if they are not taken into account, Georgia's foreign policy vector will lose its much needed practicality. In particular, we are talking about the fact that:

(4)    The foreign policy of the current stage has come under particular pressure from the domestic political conjuncture:

The process of principal foreign policy decisions is practically governed by the mood of the electorate of a particular country and, accordingly, by the need for power. Moreover, in many countries of interest to us, the substantive side of the process has shifted from populism to radicalism, and from ethno-nationalism almost to extremism.

Since we have mentioned the dominance of nationalism in foreign (and not only) political handwriting, it is impossible not to mention the "rationales" that are sometimes skillfully and sometimes not so skillfully used by practising politicians:

(a) an emotional element manifested in national unity and civic mobilization in making and implementing controversial decisions;

(b) a political element indicating a high willingness to address the existing problem; and

(c) an element of policy-making itself that helps maximize state opportunities and multiply resources.

We believe that by reasonably gathering and incorporating these elements into Georgia's political line, we must have a realistic expectation that the other side will also utilize them.

(5)    Adaptation to the balance of power and timely readjustment when it changes:

The global balance of power between geopolitical centers requires constant professional observation and impartial, unbiased assessment. Here too, the manipulation of propaganda clichés and outdated stereotypes aimed at one's own constituents or external audiences should be a thing of the past.

At the same time, regardless of whatever shift in the balance of power, we believe that the Georgian foreign policy will still have clear priorities in the near and mid-term future as a constant:

(a) continuous development of bilateral relations with the U.S. as a strategic ally to introduce new opportunities and new formats of cooperation;

(b) "export" of European political culture and values to Georgian reality and integration into political Europe through real actions;

(c) an established working relationship with China, subject to the necessary predictability of its results;

(d) managing relations with Russia, whether in an anti-crisis, crisis or post-crisis situation.

It is also clear that however great and sincere our desire to master the creation of such a political line, it must be based on at least two basic premises, namely: (1) an economically self-sufficient national system and (2) the deparatization and "disintoxication" of foreign policy by infusing it with intellectual content, meritocracy, and competence.    

(6)    The region factor in the big foreign policy picture:

We have already talked about the role and significance of regional processes in the wide format of Georgia's foreign policy. There would probably be no need to mention this aspect again if it were not for the complex knot of South Caucasian geopolitical and geo-economic interests.

At the same time, it is precisely this complex regional background that gives us a unique opportunity to assert our role in the South Caucasus as an integral part of the wider Black Sea region, which will contribute to the competitiveness and capacity of the Georgian state, i.e. its functionality and effectiveness. The realization of this in Georgian politics has been taking place already in the 1990s and has been reflected in practical solutions. However, the achievements of the past are no longer sufficient today, and they will be completely nullified tomorrow if we do not constantly act to update this functional usefulness (we have discussed this issue in detail many times, for example, see: or

To use a famous phrase of a famous politician, our task should be to become an "indispensable nation" in a wide region which means that the country should become not only one of the hubs of transport routes, but also a center of knowledge about the region for the rest of the world, a "soft power" in terms of disseminating best practices and standards, a diplomatic arbiter or mediator to resolve conflicting interests. It is to this task (and not to the misunderstanding we see) that the national energy and corresponding material resources should be directed. This work should have been started yesterday, so that tomorrow it would not be futile.


The redistribution of power at the junctures of West and East or North and South on a global scale is still an ongoing process and will continue until the world international system finds a new "balance point."

Given the existing difficulties and high degree of unpredictability, the foreign policy of our country should clearly outline conceptually its own, so-called "Georgian Path".

In transforming the views and recommendations expressed in this article into practical solutions and actions, it is the conceptually renewed approach that should sensibly and comprehensively address global and regional contradictions. Moreover, with their qualified understanding (and, obviously, the growing institutionalization of the Western vector in the internal and external lines) and the support of the modern political (non-existent?) elite, Georgian public diplomacy should assert its multi-priority in external positioning. It is a fact that the country is faced with a demand for the creation of a new type and spirit of politics, which, among other things, requires radical personnel, structural and functional reorganization of the country's foreign policy agency. Without fulfilling this demand, the modernization of the Georgian state in a democratic regime will remain an unfulfilled Georgian dream for a long time to come.