Exclusive interview of the professor International Black Sea University (Tbilisi Georgia) Mr. Nika Chitadze
1. After Brussel summit to what extent are Georgia-NATO relations will contributing to the regional security?
Taking into consideration important geopolitical geo-economic and geostrategic location of Georgia and perspectives of the implementation of the new transport and energy projects, after the Brussels Summit of NATO, the Alliance will be more interested in the regional stability in Caucasus and Black Sea Region. In this regard, it is expected the increasing the number of military exercises in the Black Sea Region with participation of NATO member and partner countries – first of all Georgia.
For example, in the first half of the August of this year, by the initiative of NATO, the multinational exercise, Noble Partner 2018 was held in Georgia near Tbilisi, Vaziani military aerodrome, the Vaziani drill ground and the Norio training area.
As it is known, Noble Partner 2018 was conducted in Georgia for the fourth time and main purpose was at improving skills in stability, defensive and offensive operations; increasing readiness and interoperability with the NATO member and partner countries; as well as making contribution in maintaining stable and secure environment over the Black Sea region. Due to this factor, the main message of the NP 2018 was - “Strength through Partnership”.
This time in the framework of Noble Partner 2018, in total, more than 3000 military servicemen of NATO member and partner countries: Georgia, USA, UK, Germany, Estonia, France, Lithuania, Poland, Norway, Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia took part at the exercise. This time increased number of US air support and German armored vehicles participated in the exercise as well.
With regard to the geopolitical interests of NATO in Georgia, it should be pointed out the following aspects:
Geographical Location: Georgia's geopolitical parameters is distinguished by mega projects of transport -geographical location. It’s territory is an axis of Europe - Caucasus - Asia transport. It also constitutes energy corridor (TRACECA), as well it is the shortest transit line which connects with the countries of Eurasia. At the same time, Georgia can contribute in the functioning of "Great Silk Road".
Transport and energy projects: Georgia is aware of its role in energy resources from the Caspian Sea and Central Asian regions via alternative routes. Georgia’s Black Sea ports (turnover of goods of Poti port is between 6-8 million tones per year, and future capacity of Anaklia port will be about seven million tones), the Baku-Supsa (capacity five million tones of oil) and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (capacity 50 million tones) oil pipelines, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline (capacity 8 billion cubic meters) significantly increase the interests of the west toward Georgia. These active projects are strategically important for both regions and rest of the world. Georgia is determined to ensure the effective functioning of these existing projects and to develop prospective new ones- such as TANAP (Trans Anatolian Gas Pipeline) project (Capacity from 16 to 32 Billion cubic meters of gas).
In this regard it should be mentioned - that the Implementation of the TANAP and TAP (Trans - Adriatic) projects will promote the further integration of Georgia to the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. It will solidify Georgian vision toward its aspiration. In case of the TANAP and TAP projects realization, NATO member states, will be more interested in the stability of Georgia, as a transit country in the gas transportation process, so they will be more interested in the NATO membership of Georgia.
Together with energy projects, Georgia is an active participant of such important transport project – as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project. The initiative is intended to establish a transport corridor linking Azerbaijan to Turkey through territory of Georgia by rail. At the same time, the next step is to connect China with Central Asia, Caucasus and Europe via railway system - For example, in late 2015, a goods train took only 15 days to travel from South Korea to Istanbul through China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, which was the significantly less time than a transportation of goods by vessel.
Discussing about NATO-Georgia relations, it is necessary to analyze the USA-Georgia cooperation in the field of Defense and Security.
Particularly, on July 13, 2018, US President Donald Trump signed the US National Defense Authorization Act (FY19NDAA), which determines the budget priorities of the US Department of Defense. According to this document, Georgia in the context of European Security, together with the countries from the Black Sea and Baltic region is considered as a US Ally and partner.
In document is particularly mentioned, that for the strengthening US allies in Europe, US Command in Europe should promote the assistance of Georgia in the field of defense and security, including providing the country with important military equipment, which will strengthen the defense capabilities of Georgia and promote the satisfaction of the NATO standards.
Document also underlines the importance of the organization more frequently the military exercises in the Black Sea Region with participation of Georgia and Ukraine.
Document fixes the “open Door” policy of NATO, including the support of NATO membership of Georgia.
2. Today how important for Georgia are its mutual relations with Kazakhstan and others Central Asian countries?
For Georgia is important to develop mutual relations with Central Asian countries.
From its turn, the transportation of goods from Kazakhstan and four Republics of Central Asia through the territory of Georgia in the framework of Eurasian corridor - represents the important factor for the development of close relations between Georgia and Central Asian states.
For example, Kazakhstan has the interest of the transportation the additional volume of the crude oil to the west by the using the ports of Georgia (bypassing the territory of Russia where between two countries the Tengiz (Kazakhstan) - Novorossiysk (Russia) oil pipeline is functioning). As it is known, since 1997, US-Kazakhstan joint company “Tengizchevroil“ was implementing the transportation of the crude oil to the Georgian port Batumi from oil field in Kazakhstan “Tengiz”.
Furthermore, there are possibilities to transport crude oil from the Kazakh port Aktay to Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, In this regard, the capacity of this pipeline can be increased to 80 million tones.
It is important to mention about investments of Kazakhstan in the economy of Georgia. In this case it is significant to underline the functioning in Georgia gas distribution company “Kaztransgas” and Bank “TuranAlem”.
It is necessary to point out again about railway Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki-Kars. Central Asian countries expressed its readiness to joint the project with the purpose of provide transportation of their goods. The railway line is intended to provide transportation an initial annual volume of 6.5 million tones with the long-term perspectives to increase the volume of goods up to 17 million tones (including of course the goods from Central Asia).
3. If the specifics of today's relations between Tbilisi and Yerevan after the Armenian revolution?
With regard to the relations between Armenia and Georgia, despite the differences in foreign policy priorities of two countries, under any government, Georgia and Armenia will maintain good neighborhood relations. Especially noting the fact, that Armenia carries 70% of its foreign trade operations through the territory of Georgia. On the one hand, Armenia is interested in establishing good neighborly relations with Georgia in order to avoid the full isolation, and from its turn, Georgia is interested in integrating Javakheti Armenians into Georgian society and to maintain Armenian support in avoiding any problems in Southern part of Georgia.