Post-election. Biden, Russia and the South Caucasus
Biden knows Georgia very well, has been here and is in control of the situation. He was aware of what was happening with us when he was in the Senate, he was perfectly aware of our affairs when he was vice president. Therefore, this is a chance for us to actively appear again on the foreign policy radars of the United States and use this circumstance to achieve our foreign policy goals.
Of course, this will take time. The Trump administration was very different from all previous administrations, different in its style and content. This administration was completely focused on the internal problems of the United States, and in foreign policy, some regions completely disappeared from its field of vision. Usually the handover process takes about a month, now it can be delayed, but I hope that the level of mobilization of the Democrats will speed up the process. At least there is no doubt that they will assemble the team relatively quickly, and this is very important, including for Georgia.
Who enters the new administration is of fundamental importance. A very interesting figure of the vice president, after reading the foreign policy program of which I got the impression that she is very good at the subject, and her advisers are very competent. This program can be assessed as very balanced and of high quality. I really hope that those people who know Georgia and are familiar with the problems of the region will return to the team. This is what matters to us.
It must be remembered that today America chooses not only the president; today America elects part of the Senate and House of Representatives. The balance of power there is very important for us. Despite the fact that the President of the United States has very large powers, we must always bear in mind the role of Congress. It is very good that over the years Georgia has managed to maintain a balance and remain a so-called bipartisan case. This is the basis on which we can capitalize our relationship with the United States.
And of course we ourselves must be very active now. Those who are engaged in foreign policy in Georgia must quickly adapt to the new team, reach out to those people who will make decisions. We need active work in all areas – with the State Department, Congress and the National Security Council. Work should begin immediately after a new president-elect is announced. There is no time for buildup, we know perfectly well who can be in his team and we need to start working with these people right now. And this should be done not only by the government. It is very important that non-governmental organizations and analytical centers get involved in this process. Organizations like GSAC should make the most of their personal connections, these people will not today – tomorrow will be in different positions in the new administration, so it is very important that this network is working at full capacity today. There is no need to wait for the green light from the government; if the work is done correctly, the results will not be long in coming without it.
I am confident that Georgia will remain a strategic partner of the United States. It is necessary to understand that the United States considers us its strategic partner is a very important factor. Yes, we disappeared from the current foreign policy of the United States for a while, but we remain a key country in the region for them, and this must be used. The new administration has a lot of foreign policy issues that need to be addressed right now, without delay. Therefore, our task is to raise our questions as much as possible in the list of tasks of the new administration, of course within the limits of the possible.
As for the activity of other players in the region, it is only natural that as soon as the United States ceased to show interest in the region, regional players became more active. Of course, Russia will continue to remain a major player in the region, I do not think that Russia’s positions have weakened, in my opinion, it is now implementing a very cynical, but at the same time very pragmatic real-policy in the region, especially in part of Armenia. Of course, at first glance, Russia’s image does not look very good, but this is only at first glance. The question is complex and the devil, as always, is in the details. Do not forget that to some extent the actions of the Kremlin are an indicative lesson for the current authorities of Armenia, and this is a very difficult lesson. Thus, Russia sends a signal to the rest of its satellites – what happens to its partners when they do not quite accept Moscow’s agenda. Therefore, in my opinion, it is at least premature to talk about a decrease in Russia’s influence.
As for Turkey, today this country has taken the leadership into its own hands and Russia is forced to agree with this. But this is not strategic. but tactical agreement. The rivalry between Russia and Turkey in the region will continue. And here we must be very careful and careful not to get into a situation between a rock and a hard place. To be honest, I don’t know whether or not a risk assessment has been carried out based on the new reality in the region, but if not, it should be done as soon as possible. We need to have a roadmap for hedging these risks.
Regarding Russian-American relations, I don’t think they see Biden as a threat. Rather, they see what is happening as a challenge, and knowing what kind of experience Moscow has in relations with Washington, there is no doubt that they will try to build their relations with the new administration, taking into account the existing realities. With a high degree of probability, we can say that they already have a package of proposals for the new administration, because they perfectly understand that the time of confrontation between the United States and Europe is becoming a thing of the past. Relations between Washington and European capitals will warm up very quickly. The Europeans are waiting for this, and the United States will return to Europe, return to the Euro-Atlantic space, return with all its resources and very actively.
Other than that, don’t forget. that the Democrats remember very well the failure of the Clinton-Lavrov reset attempt, as well as Russia’s interference in the US elections. This is the very intervention that has been proven and which has greatly angered not only the Democrats, but almost the entire political establishment of the United States. This time there was also interference, but it was not so obvious and not on such a scale, since, firstly, the Americans were well prepared to resist such interference, and, secondly, the Russians knew very well that the Americans were well prepared.
Of course, Moscow preferred to see Trump at the White House. In general, Trump’s presidency was very interesting. He had original ideas, but all his energy was directed towards “draining the swamp” in domestic politics, which, admittedly, was necessary on many points. However, he was unable to complete this task. Russia was satisfied with such a concentration of Trump on domestic politics, as well as the fact that Trump initially positioned himself as a deal maker, that is, as a person capable of making deals. And everything that Trump did in foreign policy was subordinated within the American agenda. The Kremlin was quite happy with this, they understood the algorithm of Trump’s actions, watched with great interest the personnel leapfrog in the State Department (there the situation improved only with the arrival of Pompeo), in the Security Council, in the intelligence community, and made their own conclusions. One of the main goals of Russia’s foreign policy is to discredit democracy as an institution. And we must admit that they have achieved certain success in this direction not only in the post-Soviet space, but also in Europe.
So the coming of Biden for the Kremlin is not a danger, but a very big challenge, and it will be very interesting to see how they will solve this problem. I think they will start with negotiations on all treaties and conventions on nuclear weapons, that is, with a topic that is very close to Biden. But it will be very difficult, as the position of the democrats this time will be very tough.
As for relations between Russia and Georgia, recently we practically do not see meetings in the Karasin-Abashidze format, and there have been no meetings in the Geneva format for a long time either. True, there are now rumors that the meeting in the Geneva format is going to be held in Moscow. If this is true, it is absolutely unclear what Moscow has to do with it and why they did not like the beautiful city of Geneva. And there is practically no agenda for such meetings. What to talk about? Is there any new initiative? Of course it is necessary to meet, but the meetings should have an agenda, otherwise they do not make sense.
We are on the verge of great change. A team comes to the White House that knows Georgia well, people who have not only pragmatism, but also human feelings in relation to the path that we had to go through. There is no doubt that this team will stand guard over democratic values. Therefore, I think that we should not miss this opportunity.