Modern Security Dilemma: Georgian Polyhedron (Part 1)


Here, as in our previous articles, we will refrain from talking affirmatively and continue our communication with readers in the form of discussion, especially considering the specificity of the topic. This time around, however, we are going to open our discussion in a different way, without offering a long introduction and, instead, making a few propositions that accompanied the process of our reasoning when working on this piece:

– Absolute security is impossible in the contemporary world, while the promise to ensure it is empty;
– The convincing power of the norm of international law has sharply decreased in the past few decades;
– The authority of international law and, with it, international organizations, have seriously diminished;
– The effectiveness of preventive political and legal mechanisms has apparently become dependent on the good will and desire of world powers;
– The nuclear component has lost its initial checking and balancing effect in international relations;
– The nature and structure of military conflict have changed; it has become useless to distinguish its passive and active phases from each other due of complexity of the applied methods;

The so-called salami strategy, whereby a political result is built on a military advantage gained step by step and legalized, has become a common practice in achieving a geopolitical advantage.

A deeper study and analysis of the operational code of conduct based on the above principles is a means (if not superior, at least not inferior to international law documentation) to identify the strengths and weaknesses of Georgian security in the modern security context in a better, more realistic way. If we agree to such an approach, then the most realistic method of managing the Georgian security system needs to be developed.

Security dilemma: introduction (to be continued)

Originality in understanding the current system of Georgian security has become trendy. We do not want to follow that trend, but also realize that we cannot fully ignore it in this article.

In any case, the extraordinariness of the current situation requires similarly extraordinary reasoning and liberation from the established, useless clichés. For example, the Georgian environment is largely dominated by a debate about the formal status of the country’s security. This is understandable and logical, but hot discussions about the formal side overshadow the main determinant of the country’s security – its functional connotation and its need by the outer world. We have discussed this very critical facet of Georgia’s foreign policy many times. In particular, several projects of the Georgian leadership of the 1990s, set to outlie the “practical function” and “particular benefit” of the country, will serve as a good and needed reminder that the development of nation state has no prospects if someone else does not benefit from your creation, and, vice versa, you do not benefit from someone else’s creation. Only projects that are built on such converging interest can become critical prerequisites for the internal stability of Georgia and needed by the outer world. The new realities require a renewal of the political-doctrinal line of the 1990s.

Besides, a security dilemma is indeed the “dilemma,” because no country such as Georgia can ensure full and unconditional security by means of full militarization alone, or by making concessions alone. Even more, the disturbance of the needed balance in either of the cases and a plunge into radicalism may be counter-effective and further encourage and embolden external aggression. Therefore, an additional complexity in the nation-state security dilemma, from the viewpoint of Georgian interests, especially in the light of the difficult region, is its correct prognostication: prevention of external actions directed against stability and peace in the country, with maximally adequate and balanced measures, in such a manner that will spare the political leadership from accusations of being either “excessively aggressive” or “conspicuously conceding.”

In short, the preliminary conclusion is that it is extremely difficult to find a truly reliable and effective response formula to challenges that exist in the conditions of (dis)order existing in the world. Separate periods of time and separate individual-pragmatic solutions are, however, determined by the coincidence of a given moment and circumstance. To illustrate the evolution of security and transformation of static, so-called status-quo patterns, it is suffice to bring examples of the recent decisions taken by Finland and Sweden to reject their non-aligned status, frequented debates in Austria about its post-World War II status, revision of the neutral status, the “historical” decision taken by Switzerland to join the sanctions imposed on Russia, and the readiness of separate political circles in Denmark to join common defense initiatives of the European Union, etc.

Thus, it is not surprising that the abovementioned dilemma is becoming even more problematic in the Georgian reality, containing as it dies numerous unanswered questions for both itself and the country’s partners, as well as in terms of the effectiveness of regional security systems. We believe that to avoid further ambiguity in the issue, the Georgian state must increase efforts to better explain the existing threats and challenges to its citizens, and, at the same time, to seek, based on a common national consensus, effective means of responding to them.

Alternatives and diversity of choice (?)

From moving along a linear trajectory towards consideration of possible alternatives – this is one of the options to consider the progression of Georgian security for harmonizing the country’s interests and international obligations. Furthermore, when considering alternatives, we deem their combination, supplementation, alternation and replacement equally acceptable, as long as it is done in such a manner as to contribute to the creation of maximally possible conditions for the key Georgian imperative – our security in the current transactional international (dis)order. Repeating what we have said in previous publications, to assess the current threats, we view a regular stress-test as a necessary requirement for the Georgian reality to timely identify national risks in a fast-changing and unpredictable world, so as to plan the adequate political, military or organizational response.

According to the current version of the country’s constitution, the integration into Euro-Atlantic structures is the key course of the internal and external policy of the country. In recent times, expectations for membership of the Alliance have been discussed with new vigor, especially before and after each NATO summit. Nothing is unusual in that, but the ambiguity of membership prospects and of reciprocal steps from partner countries have been the usual practice for years now. We cannot assess the entry in the declaration of the recent summit about the membership of Georgia on the condition of an “individual membership plan” as a step forward. Even more, with this entry, a step was taken not forwards, but somewhere “sidewards,” and “ambiguously”, considering that the archaism and inadequacy of “individual membership plan” is nowhere near to certainty. In reality, this entry looks more like an attempt to legitimize the country’s stay in the “waiting room.”

The renewed aggression of Russia against Ukraine has become a qualitatively new test for the effectiveness of the Alliance. The period of more than six months since the start of the war has enabled NATO to rediscover itself. However, a question that existed for Official Tbilisi long before the war in Ukraine has become more topical: how do members of the Alliance see the policy of enlargement towards Eastern Europe (the so-called bordering countries)? How effective, and not declarative, could it be in practice? The main answer to these and other questions probably lies in the outcome of the war in Ukraine, not only in its military-political component, but also its geopolitical component. We think that the end of the war, by drawing a new dividing line in Europe, will become a new watershed between key geopolitical powers. In such case, a question is which side of the divide we will find ourselves on? How high will the degree of “cohabitation” be between the various geopolitical powers on either side of the aforementioned divide? Will the Georgian state be able and have a real possibility to ensure that, before documenting an overall European outcome of the war in Ukraine, a decision about Georgia will not be taken without the involvement of Georgia when drawing the new dividing line? At present, we can imagine answers to these and other questions in the form of assumptions and reservations, without categorical formulations.

It is also worth to note that discussions about multilateral alliances miss Article 42(7) of the Treaty of the European Union, which was enacted in 2009 and envisages aid and assistance among EU member states in the field of defense. This point is especially topical assuming that maximum support to the accession of Ukraine into the EU, in lieu of its NATO membership, may become one of the conditions for the formal end of the war in Ukraine. Consequently, such an option is noteworthy for Georgia, too: The acceleration of integration of so-called bordering states (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova) into the EU as a “compensation” for non-enlargement of the North Atlantic Alliance. This is, clearly, one of formulas to fill the geopolitical void existing in the post-Soviet space. Naturally, this is an assumption too, which is difficult to discuss extensively yet.

And still, since such assumption has been voiced, and it has some prospects, we would like to briefly talk about the essence of the mechanism envisaged in the abovementioned provision, especially when this very particular aspect of the EU, security, is actually not discussed in Georgia and the main focus of attention is the topic of NATO.

Although Article 42(7) of the Treaty says that if a Member State is victim to armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance, the relevant mechanism is thought to be flawed. In particular, there are no clearly set formal procedures of activating mutual assistance available; the wording of the article is rather weak, as it reflects a compromise between countries of different political-military activity (from neutral countries to the countries where militarism is dominant in the foreign political course), work on the article was carried out in the light of Article 5 of NATO founding treaty, etc. It is also worth noting that Article 42(7) of the EU was applied in practice only once, when a well-known terrorist attack was carried out against the capital of France.

In short, the quasi-collective security of the European Union is rather an attempt of intention than a basis for the establishment of a comprehensive and truly effective system. Its further improvement requires corresponding legislative technique as well as practice. Nevertheless, as an EU aspirant country, and to better understand that multifaceted security system, Georgia needs to constantly analyze and monitor aspects of common EU defense and security policies and research ways of “adjusting” them to national interests.

Actually, the entire Cold War era was distinguished for largely multilateral security alliances. This practice will be maintained in the foreseeable future, and NATO is sufficient proof of that. At the same time, particular attention is paid to so called mini alliances, alliances of countries on a regional-thematic basis, which are built on the understanding of common threats by the parties. Such mini alliances are outlined in different parts for the world, be it Eastern Europe, Middle East, India and the Pacific, or others.

Therefore, cooperation for the improvement of communication in political-consultative or defense areas based on regionality, may boost or facilitate the Georgian security system, especially in light of the NATO issue. After all, a less risky and more predictable neighborhood is as important as proper diverse contacts on the international arena. Furthermore, along with the main course enshrined in the constitution of the country, the regionalization of Georgian security will have an additional, complementary effect.

When mulling over any alliance on regional-thematic basis, it is necessary, for its healthiness and effectiveness, to consider a number of important circumstances. In particular, Georgia, and other participants in such a potential alliance, must clearly understand the common threat they face. A disregard of any interpretation will directly affect the timeliness and effectiveness of measures to be activated by the relevant security mechanisms. We would add here that for joint measures to be brought into play (of particular importance in this regard is to determine those circumstances (casus foederis) that bring into play common defense measures), strictly formalistic-legal documentation of obligations of the parties is of secondary importance. Of higher importance is to have an equal understanding of common threat, while a joint measure could be based on legal norms as well as a political declaration or statement, the so-called de facto obligations. As a result, the link between a common threat and measures to be undertaken should be strong enough to practically exclude avoidance of or delay in undertaking the measures. No less important is the geographic area and duration of the security system of such an alliance, though these are details, whereas the key is a true demonstration of the political will and readiness of members of the alliance to deter and eliminate the threat.

Mutual defense agreements may also be considered one of the facets of Georgian security. We have extensively discussed their practical benefit and acceptability in the past and now, we will only limit ourselves to discussing its yet another facet.

Discussions of late cursively touch upon a possibility of a neutral status for Georgia. The discussion of this issue as one of possible options of the security system is not only superficial, but also politically loaded. Even more, the word “neutrality” is associated with a particular geopolitical and foreign course of the country, which, in our view, is incorrect and represents an attempt to avoid a deep consideration of the problem.

We will consciously avoid detailing the issue of neutrality. We think that the thematic discussion of this issue requires a calm, solemn and unbiased environment. However, since we are talking about the Georgian polyhedron in terms of security dilemma, we will still outline several aspects in the form of (rhetorical) questions alone for, at least, facilitating further argumentation.

For example, one of the aspects necessary to discuss is how relevant (in the context of specificity of current international relations) the word “neutrality” is to the current reality? Apart from sounding unpleasant to the ear, what is its practical and real substance in the conditions of interdependence and interconnection of the current world? Even more, in case of desire to behave “neutrally,” what is the mechanism of realizing this desire? We do not talk here about a mere declaration of the status, the creation of a political-legal fiction, but about ensuring tangible (not nominal) and international guarantee.

Does the existing environment create a true space for “neutrality” when “authentically” neutral countries are either the echo of historical legacy or the result of World War II? Let us reiterate: we limit ourselves here to posing questions alone, although raising a proper question already means a job half done.

Let’s go back to the term in this brief insert about the aforementioned particular facet. Instead of largely fictional “neutrality,” would a “military nonalignment” not denote the particular essence better? In terms of minimizing threats, is the nonalignment of the country with the parties to the conflict that particular substance which “neutrals” are looking for? And if this is so, then, we think, it is a topic for real discussion. Especially given that the war waged as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has exposed a so-called course of balancing in foreign policies of a number of countries: domination of political-economic-humanitarian agenda by maximally minimizing a military component. Again, this is proposed as a discussion topic alone in the context of Georgian security dilemma.

And last but not least. One should take into account that when discussing the possibility of a “neutrality” formula, we should bear in mind that a guarantor of neutral status is the country in question itself, its security system and defense forces. Without this firm prerequisite and a high degree, sustained material and financial provision, neutrality, be it self-declared or recognized by others, may be a mere form without substance. It is a fact that in any case, this or other aspects require a comprehensive and competent consideration for drawing out correct conclusions.

Security dilemma: continued

When considering security issues, one can often hear accusations that the discussion of the proposed theme by invoking realism is devoid of norms of ethics and humanism. This accusation is, of course, unfounded, while the link between realism and ethics has been discussed in our previous publication.

The main message here is not that when discussing the problem, we should ignore moral and ethics, but that the preoccupation with moral-ideologized teachings must not hinder one from correctly seeing and solving the problem itself. This is even more topical in Georgia’s case, where excess “isms” in the field of security must not cause us to waste scarce resources and precious time unproductively and must not be used only for gaining the sympathy of voters and the “hearts” of the partisan media. In light of the existing and future challenges, romanticizing, so characteristic for the “Georgian political school,” with excessive nostalgia for the past and camouflaging present and future inactivity or inability, will not be handy either. This is nothing but a clumsy attempt to mask the absence of preventive and proactive politics.

To put it simply: artificially pitting realism against ethics in foreign policy, and particularly in a modern security environment, is extremely counterproductive. It is unacceptable. We do not say that in its approach to threats, the Georgian state should totally ignore ethics and moral. No, of course not. Nor do we call for indulging in excessive geopolitical empathy, but we suggest using it proportionally, which, as a rule, is very beneficial for navigating in foreign and security realm.

To put it even simpler: politics that rests on useless idealism and excessive theorizing does not allow for comprehensive discussion of numerous topics of international and foreign policy, including of issues such as modern specifics of relationship of large and small countries. As a result, Georgian politics, in terms of its tangible benefit, real purpose and necessary result, will only be harmed from a viewpoint of practicality. We should remind ourselves, time and again, that the space between expediency and universal virtue in attaining the goal is narrowing in the conditions of modern security dilemma: rationality of expedience is increasingly narrowing the space of operation based on values alone.

A separate problem is how we should try to manage, at least, with relative success, the challenges of the modern security dilemma; what methods or approaches should we apply to adapt or adjust to this unordinary and hardly predictable environment so that to maintain our main national priority, the country’s security, as intact as possible. We will discuss that with our reader more in future.