Armenian-Georgian Relations: Actuality of Sustainable Development

Nowadays South Caucasus is a sub-region bordering one great power and two regional powers.  It is considered as an important intersection of transnational infrastructure links. This turns it into a zone of superpowers’ vital interests, as well as arises growing interest by non-bordering great powers. The region is saturated with ethnic and confessional conflicts which provides openings for influence by all non-regional actors. It is inhabited by nations that show intolerance to each other because of numerous controversies and obvious and latent conflicts. In addition, all this is marked with disagreements and sulk between residents of centuries-long neighbourhood and ex-soviet “communal flat”. հայերեն

What are the borders of the region? This question bears primary importance. Geopolitically and geoeconomically, South Caucasus is a very important element in the system of “Three Seas” (Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas). It borders a number of areas actual for the contemporary geopolitics, such as Middle East and Central Asia that lay on the crossroads of two global projects of Wider Near East and Enlarging Europe.

However, in terms of building regional security system, a number of external factors complicate determining the borders of the region. Including even one extra-regional element in the security system would mean importing also other elements of the same level. For instance, engaging Turkey in a regional structure, immediately includes or excludes Iran. In case of Russia’s engagement, a process involves Turkey and Iran on one hand, the U.S. and EU on the other hand, as well as China.

The term “South Caucasus” differs from Russian Caucasus but in real life, it does not reduce penetration of Russian interests into the sub-region. The above-mentioned demonstrates the reasons why the South Caucasus states have different vectors in determining their political priorities for national security and foreign affairs.

Globalisation processes suppose consolidation of globally important infrastructures in global frameworks that can’t afford obstructions and disruptions.

Existence of conflicts charged with wars does not allow to create new circles of global infrastructure system and hinders the work of the existing ones. Great powers that are the major authors and implementers of the globalisation projects, as well as regional powers that fight for a more profitable role in those global projects in their competition and sometimes in conflicts, use all inner-regional contradictions either for evolvement, or for obstruction of the work of global infrastructure.

All this impede creation of new cells of global infrastructures and threatens the functioning of the existing ones. In these terms, development of the South Caucasus region is seriously obstructed not only by the existing regional conflicts, but also by tension on the Russian-Georgian and Armenian-Turkish borders.

In this situation, it becomes obvious that Armenian-Georgian relations are important not only for our two countries but also for the entire mega region of Three Sees. Perception of the last as one taxonomic unit is based, apart from mostly shared values and mytho-religious perspectives, on the ideas of effective using of global infrastructure systems and global economy for their unification.

This rapidly modernising tendency encounters barriers hindering unification of infrastructures.

Our sub-region, as mentioned above, is saturated with such barriers, i.e. conflicts, choice of various military-political and economic logics and so forth.

Clearly, all this is rooted in the competition between various globalisation projects which causes serious problems on the levels of both wider region and our sub-region. The difference between Armenian and Georgian political orientations stems from security ensuring goals. This is why our neighbour’s vision of the future is tied to the membership in NATO’s military-political system. Georgian-Turkish partnership, which has important impact on Georgia’s military, economic, educational, cultural and other areas, can be viewed as a part of it. A significant part of these relations is realised in tri-lateral format that includes Azerbaijan. The last has also gained large influence on the decisions made by the Georgian government as the abduction of an Azerbaijani oppositionist journalist in the territory of Georgia and his transfer to Baku has demonstrated.

Naturally, all this certainly concerns the Armenian society. However, it should be noted that the majority of Armenian society shows respect and understanding for the development route chosen by our neighbours and appreciates the fact that adoption of European values and standards by Georgia will turn Georgian society into a real democracy which is also important for increasing the rights protection level of minorities, including Armenians, inhabiting the country.

In terms of values and economy, Georgia has determinedly oriented toward European Union, signing an Association Agreement with it. Armenia, a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), signs an enhanced agreement with the European Union that allows to realise a much deeper partnership in almost all areas. This step shall also foster resolution of the problem mentioned above.

Armenia, which is forced to seek tangible security warranties in the face of its historical collective memory and Turkey’s negative position on establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) initiated and influenced by the Russian Federation. At the same time, however, Armenia actively cooperates with the NATO: handling the difficult task to counterbalance Russia’s influence, it takes part in many projects and initiatives proposed by the NATO.

Russia’s big influence on the power structure of Armenia, as well as the presence of the Russian military anchor in Armenia, cause serious concerns in the Georgian society.

Armenian-Georgian intergovernmental relations can be described as good-neighbourly and pragmatic. Governing elites of the two countries realise the importance of maintaining the relations on the current level.

Understandably, in the context described above, high level of Armenian-Georgian interstate relations turns to be an obstacle for the projects of competing parties.

The Armenian-Georgian millennia-long experience of coexistence and partnership can and shall play its positive role creating an atmosphere and conditions thanks to which the territories of our two countries will be able to turn into a platform of harmonisation and complementation of interests, rather than their clash and refusal.

Despite all the circumstances mentioned above and in some cases, thanks to them, multilateral relations of our two countries have enormous potential of development. There are obvious opportunities for realisation of common initiatives and projects in the areas of culture, academia, education, environment, healthcare, fight against terrorism, trafficking and many more. A range of joint efforts initiated by non-governmental organisations are an evidence of that. Amidst them, two scholarly and educational projects supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation worth to be mentioned, where the author of this text also has taken part.

However, wider opportunities are currently opened for development of infrastructure, industry and trade as far as mutual utilisation of the two countries’ markets provides opportunities to gain access both to European and Eurasian economic systems through various common enterprises.

Most probably, participants of the Armenian-Georgian business forum in June 2017 create their activity plans in this direction. They must have evaluated the volume of the current exchange of products as very low as far as the real development potential of economic relations is seriously high in numerous economic areas. The Georgian Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Giorgi Gakharia said in his opening remarks at the Forum: “We should be able to use our two countries’ successes to enter other countries’ markets, with our joint efforts and coproduction”. [1]

While realising these positive preconditions, we need to take into account the fact that there are people and groups charged with ultranationalist moods in our societies and, in the hands of competing and some cases conflicting parties, they willingly or unwillingly turn into tools for perpetuating anti-Armenian and anti-Georgian tensions. Fortunately, an objective assessment shows that sharp contradictions do not exist between Armenia and Georgia, and existing disagreements are natural for peoples living next to each other for centuries. In these terms, all projects targeting younger generation, especially its intellectual groups, are very important as in reality, good-neighbourly relations are created through mutual respect, realisation of common projects and research, commonly gained work experiences and simply creation of interpersonal connections.