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Geopolitical aspects of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo's visit to Georgia

 

Geopolitical aspects of US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo's visit to Georgia

 

     Nika Chitadze. Ph.D. 

     Director of the Center for International Studies 

    President of the George C. Marshall Alumni Union, Georgia - International and Security Research         Center 

    

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As it is known, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visits Georgia on November 17-18. He will hold meetings with the representatives of the Georgian government and the non-governmental sector. Mike Pompeo will also meet with the Catholicos-Patriarch in Tbilisi.

Overall, it is noteworthy that in the aftermath of Georgia's restoration of state independence, the United States provided significant political or economic support to Georgia. In particular, under various programs, the total volume of financial assistance of the United States for Georgia has exceeded $ 4 billion.

Given Georgia's crucial geographical location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the United States has its own geopolitical, geo economic and geostrategic interests in Georgia, the South Caucasus, and the Black Sea region as a whole.

Michael Pompeo's visit to Georgia is most likely related to the recent developments in Georgia and the South Caucasus region and should be of concern to official Washington. Among the above-mentioned events, the main focus should be concentrated on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, the growth of China's geopolitical strengthening in the South Caucasus, and the situation around the Anaklia (port of the Black Sea cost) project. During discussing each aspect, it is necessary to analyze the following key factors, namely:

During discussing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it should be noted that Russia has further strengthened its position in the South Caucasus, which is a cause for concern for official Washington. In particular, the following factors can be considered as Russia's main achievement in general:

- In addition to Georgia and Armenia, Russia is already deploying its armed forces on the territory of Azerbaijan for a period of at least 5 years (with the prospect of an extension for next 5 years), thus increasing its influence in the entire region;

- Russia leaves the issue of Karabakh status open, thus always having the opportunity to manipulate and influence the conflict parties;

- Russian "peacekeepers" will control the situation on the lachin road, which connects with each other Karabakh and Armenia. Thus, Kremlin will always have the leverage to influence tp Armenia and Azerbaijan;

- The issue of the functioning of the road connecting Turkey-Nakhichevan-the rest of Azerbaijan will depend on Moscow's "good will", which is another additional lever in the hands of the Kremlin;

- The Kremlin has sufficiently "punished" the Western-backed Pashinian (creating a real chance of ousting him from the power) and threatened all Western-led leaders in the region and post-soviet space.

In total, the "Peacekeeping" contingent of the Russian Federation will consist 1,960 military serviceman, 90 armored vehicles and 380 units of vehicles and special equipment will be deployed along the Nagorno-Karabakh dividing line and the Lachin corridor.

In addition, China's activation in the South Caucasus region is against the US national interests. A clear example of this is the Chinese government's proposed project  "One Belt, One Road", which aims to restore the "Great Silk Road"  and enhance cooperation between countries on the Eurasian continent. For this purpose, the Silk Road Fund has been set up with a starting capital of $ 40 billion.

In addition, a free trade agreement between China and Georgia entered into force in 2018, making China one of the Georgia's leading trade and economic partner in 2020. This factor will determine the increasing economic dependence of Georgia to China (China is considered by Washington as a one of the main geopolitical rival of USA), which from itself can cause the strengthening political dependence of Georgia to China.

As for another US concern, it is most likely related to the suspension of the Anaklia Port project (hopefully temporarily). As it is known, the tender for the construction of new ports in Anaklia was announced in 2014. Construction began in December 2017, and in 2018 it entered in an active phase. The American company "Conte Group" took an active part in the implementation of the project. The port had to receive the first Panamax-type ship in 2020. Finally, the port had to be completed in 2069 and the throughput had to reach 100 million tonnes.

It is important to point out, that on June 11, 2019, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo expressed strong support for the Anaklia Port project during a meeting with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, when Mr. Pompeo declared:

 "I shared our hope that Georgia will complete the (Anaklia) port project. These and other projects will deepen Georgia's relations with countries with free economies and prevent the economic influence of Russia and China in Georgia. These supposed friends do not have the best interests of Georgia in their hearts. "

In view of the above, all of the above issues will be discussed during Michael Pompeo's visit to Georgia.

As for Georgia, official Tbilisi should seriously consider the strengthening the Russia's position in the region, which should be an additional motivation for Georgia to make more efforts in relations with strategic partners, more efforts to gain international protection guarantees and more efforts to integrate Georgia into NATO. At present, there are no international agreements, which guarantee the protection of national security of Georgia. Therefore, in addition to the above issues, more emphasis should be placed on Black Sea security programs and cooperation with the United States and other NATO member states.

All these issues must be discussed during the visit of the US Secretary of State to Tbilisi. There is some possibility that, given the new geopolitical realities in the South Caucasus, the visit of the US top diplomat should pave the way for a new phase in US-Georgia relations, especially in the light of US General Ben Hodges (former Commanding General, United States Army Europe) announcement. According to Hodges, the US military infrastructure should be deployed in Georgia.

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