Small State in the Context of “New Order:” Georgia


Briefly about the created environment which is rather controversial and nonstandard. Several large-scale challenges of late, the pandemic, the war, the climate, have put an already enfeebled global system of legal and economic relations to a serious test, requiring the replacement of it with a new and more effective system.

The need for such replacement emerged before the outbreak of the pandemic, but the speed and scale of spread of the virus proved to be a totally different stress-test for the world’s economy. Interrupted manufacturing, paralyzed business, closed borders, disrupted supply chains and the acute inflationary processes that ensured at the following stage further deepened economic and social inequality.

Dangerous prerequisites for a rough revision of globally practiced rules of the game, as well as for the undermining of internal stability, thus emerged.

A more or less effectively operating post-Cold War system suffered a severe blow as a result of the war in Ukraine, which impaired not only the security system but also the perception of security in Europe for good. Expectations for a quick end to the military actions that initially arouse have gradually transformed, and Russia’s renewed aggression in Ukraine has now taken on the form of attrition warfare.

The pandemic, first, and then the events unfolding in the center of Europe, directly affected the pricing structure: under the conditions of peaking inflation rates, limited crediting and strict monetary policy, a sharp rise in energy and food prices has become a new pressure. As a result, a traditional understanding of security, seen through a rather narrow, largely military prism, has shown the need to be revised and reconsidered. Today, the essence of self-sustained and competitive state already includes, along with energy and food self-sufficiency, a technological component and access to minerals.

The state of affairs has been further exacerbated by the challenges of Chinese economic system. Before the pandemic, it was mainly characterized by the lack of financial transparency and actual insolvency of state enterprises that comprised a substantial share of the economic structure. During the pandemic, a zero-Covid policy put a global supply chain to a severe test, when cargo turnover in Chinese seaports decreased, logistic difficulties emerged and, later, export restrictions were imposed on critical products by Beijing. All that combined had an adverse effect on the world economy.

That resulted in questioning a capacity to effectively counteract considerable climate risks. Processes related to the war and the pandemic have slowed down the rate that was set earlier for the transfer to a green economy. Although the benefit of the green economy is undisputable, a decline in living standards across the vast geographic area of the world, which can only be contained through traditional, hydrocarbon-based economic measures, has pushed up the geopolitical price of readjustment to the green economy.

In order to make the introduction “brief,” we will limit ourselves to the above said for outlining the existing state of affairs and, through the lens of prospects of the Georgian state, will draw readers’ attention to several specific and pressing issues faced by this small state.

New order…

Order in international relations was sometimes denoted by a Latin word Pax. This word, however, does not have one semantic meaning: depending on a context, it denotes “peace,” also, under the influence of a certain dominant country/alliance of countries or civilization, it denotes “order” – a set of global or regional rules of behavior established under the influence of soft or hard power.

From these two meanings, the “order” actually means a type of situation when the dominant one offers others the stability necessary for observing the rules of behavior. Even more, applying certain resources, the dominant one, that enjoys written or unwritten legitimacy, ensures the fulfillment of these rules.

Bearing in mind the processes mentioned in the introduction, we think that the order that has formed today will be different from the previous one in two main features. The first is a confrontation between large geopolitical coalitions – normativist camps – in the foreseeable future, or at least in the medium term, of such type that will leave little room for small states to have freedom of choice. To pursue “non-alignment” or their own original path, they will require great efforts, knowledge, courage and … luck.

The second characteristic feature, which we have repeatedly discussed in previous publications, is a more intensive formation of regional hub-and-spoke systems of the new international order, whereby autonomous regional “orders” will be formed under the influence of strong regional players. It would be a mistake, of course, to say that such regional hubs will be removed from the common global format. No, they won’t. Nor will it be correct to assert that super-regionalization is expected to fragment the world order. This won’t happen either. With the term “hub-and-spoke,” we want to indicate that strong regional players will create such a geopolitical and geo-economic gravitation within a particular region, that it is made virtually impossible for other countries in the regions to ignore.

…and “small state”

Talks about a small state should begin with the definition of “small state.” An understanding whereby “small” is directly linked to quantitative parameters, for example, the size of a territory or the number of population, is stereotypical and wide of the mark. Numbers, in general, need to be taken into account, but they are only superficial and, hence, rather stereotypical indicators which invite misperceptions. Even more, today, a number of countries that are small by territory or population play such a functional role that it cannot be linked to the amount of square kilometers or number of people.

Thus, “qualitative indicators,” such as the economic, diplomatic and security resources of this or that “small country” are far more important. There are a number of examples when resources ensure not only self-sufficiency but even allow the projection of soft power across national borders.

None of modern research topics tolerates rigid division, and the topic discussed in this article will not be an exception either. For example, one may also assume an option whereby a small state is marked with internal political firmness, but is extremely vulnerable to external factors. Such internal firmness is, first and foremost, ensured by the solidarity of society, rule of law and creative decision making (“shifting opinion” as PhD in Law, Academic Mindia Ugrekhelidze calls it). However, it is easy to assume that despite the named components of internal firmness, a small state still fails to counterbalance its external vulnerability. Such disbalance may be caused by many factors, from a heavy dependence on strategic imports down to a difficult regional security environment.

Thus, it must be considered that the main determinant of “smallness” is the availability of the resource for a full-fledged relationship of a country with the external world – a correct balance of reciprocal interests, obligations and expectations. When talking about the resource, it does not suffice to operate with only economic, political-military or diplomatic parameters: it needs to be asked whether the country’s society possess the potential of will, knowledge and dignity that is needed for utilizing material and physical resources. Yet another issue to become a subject of rational discussion is whether a country possesses such resources by enacting its own capacities alone or whether it needs correct cooperation, partnership and alliance with other countries to achieve a complete result. One should also consider what type of objective restrictions exist for full utilization of the aforementioned resources. A final conclusion about “smallness” should be drawn based on precisely such an analysis.

When talking about the vitality and functionality of a small state in the context of Georgia, we should bear in mind that a correct process of political decisions requires the consideration of the following key issues:

A range of freedom of choice: which directly relates to the above-discussed self-sufficiency of the national (domestic) resource, as well as to natural or artificial limits to originality in security, economic and trade contacts with leading actors in an international format. In this regard, the needed balance helps in the making of such decisions that facilitate the adequate management of risks and, consequently, stability inside the country and threats coming from the outside.

Resilience: We believe that national resilience is not a condition that has been historically formed forever. Time passes and with it the structure of societal and social relations changes. Therefore, national resilience, which is extremely critical for a small state, needs to be continuously protected, cared for and supported. In modern times, nothing will happen by itself and even more so, owing to a historic-national code. It should be noted that only a targeted, systemic state policy that is fere from partisanship and conjuncture – the so-called all-out nation approach, may become a foundation for achieving a desired result. As for key elements of resilience within the all-out nation approach, I would name the open and institutional governance, a society’s attitude of co-ownership and co-participation towards their state, macroeconomic stability, “smart” regulation-based market economy and welfare state policy as such.

Economic effectiveness: This is a particularly important issue for a small state while one of effective forms is the integration of its economy into regional economic system. It is precisely the regional integration that we regard as one of the mechanisms of neutralizing macroeconomic risks and advocating collective economic interests of regional countries on global markets. At the same time, much like in case of any integration, it is recommended here as well to stick to a moderate level of interdependence and interconnection that takes into account specific requirements of the national economy of a small state.

Higher security through more diplomacy: We have broadly discussed earlier the importance of collective, multilateral and bilateral formats for strengthening security. This time around we would like to underline the role of proactive-preventive, not formalistic-formulaic, diplomacy from the standpoint of imperative objective of national security of a small state. In general, the role of diplomacy is widely acknowledged and equally important for small as well as medium and large countries. However, in the conditions of limited defense resources, a creative and specific result-oriented diplomatic activity acquires a strong connotation – to avoid even a single mistake that may become fatal for a country and determine its life over a long period of time.

Georgian case: objectives, possibilities

Analysis of the Georgian case in the modern context requires the understanding of theoretical basics as well as experience gained and lessons learned of Georgia’s international politics of the past few decades.

The key aim of this necessary exercise is to evaluate the national interests and existing experience anew and to adjust them to the needs of social development. This will assist us not only in conversing with an adversary, but also in forming a balanced, mutually comprehensible and acceptable relationship with a partner.

The imperative of our geo-dimension or domestic politics in relation to foe or friend must rest on two key aims: a higher degree of security and a greater economic welfare.

To ensure this imperative, a corresponding Georgian strategy must organically link the above-mentioned aims, practical ways of realizing them and reasonable resources available to reach them to one another.

In terms of security, Georgian imperative must relate to (1) the country’s defense; (2) improvement of regional security environment; (3) compatibility of multilateral security formats with the participation of our country; (4) unlimited functioning of trade and economic channels.

We should also bear in mind that we have limited resources in the area of protection of national security. It is therefore in our national interest to be an active supporter of international order, an active contributor to the development and perfection thereof. Firm international norms and multilateral international formats are one of the defense shields for the interests of small states and the removal of this shield or revision thereof under the compulsion is fatal.

We believe that in practice, among other components, the linking of the Georgian security system to the international should include: (1) participation in international missions; (2) in light of own limited defense resources, maximum avoidance of engaging in military actions alone, independent of partners’ coalition; (3) consolidation and continuous support of Georgian and international opinion about strengthening own security.

Even more so, in an uninterrupted dynamic, Georgia, as a small state, may find its voice and purpose in the new global order (or disorder). Georgian ego-standard – a higher degree of security and a greater economic welfare – is in the service of nonstandard ways or original solutions heading towards that. Our country has no right to stop, to freeze, to stay silent: any relaxation is tantamount to losing its voice.

Improvement and enhancement of political-military, economic and diplomatic ties should, at the end, translate into economic and social welfare of Georgian citizens. The political course of the country – today, tomorrow and thereafter – should also create the perception that the system of governance is in the service of people, not vice versa. Public institutions must break fully free from past stereotypes and become a provider of services in the eyes of citizens, whereby court is administering justice, security system is ensuring stability, legislature is stirring up a sense of belonging to citizen in political process, etc.

And last but not least: the new world, apart from other characteristic, will be more “consumer” type. This means that in a large global consumer format you, as a country, must be a carrier of your own, country-specific functional benefit. Georgia remembers the formation of this line in not very distant past – I would call it Shevardnadze doctrine – when by engaging in transborder projects, our country became a part of the scheme of regional relationships. However, time and circumstances change fast and with them, “our” and “their” expectations too: complacency about the past would not be wise, while the search and adoption of a new function is a condition for continuous renewal of the country’s vitality.

Discussion of these and related issues, the use of necessary setting for needed and irreversible national dynamic is the imperative of our times.