The White House has a new resident, the Democratic Party’s Joe Biden. Despite Trump’s public reaction to the election result and his unconventional approach to foreign policy and domestic politics – he undoubtedly had some great successes. This assessment fits to the whole Middle East and a small country in the southern part of the Caucasian mountains – Georgia.
Georgia gained significant interest from the United States during the middle of the 2000s, when President Bush visited the country in 2005. This was a completely unprecedented event for the nation which at the time had a complete lack of any democratic traditions nor loyal strategic allies. Since then, the Georgian political elite and civil society have always tried to get broader support from the US. In January 2009, Georgia and the United States signed the Charter of Strategic Partnership, when there were still Republicans in office.
After Obama’s foreign policy reset, Georgia lost relevance on the international stage and Russia attacked another neighbour in 2014. After Donald Trump took office, Georgian politicians were not the exceptions and like many, they did not know what was coming. But soon the Trump Administration published its very smartly planned foreign policy plan, which was a far better strategy, than many expected. According to the National Security Strategy of 2017 and the National Defense Strategy of 2018, Trump’s term seemed proactive in competing against totalitarian regimes like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela.
Unlike the former administrations Trump named China as his most dangerous rival, a position on which almost his entire foreign policy strategy was built. China is one of the main foreign investors in Georgia, at least in the last 8 years in the numerous infrastructural projects by loans or direct governmental orders. That was attentively observed by the hawkish Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was even tougher toward China than Donald Trump himself.
Therefore, to deepen the bipartisan relationship and consider potential infrastructural projects in Georgia, Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili was invited in Washington for May 2018. Kvirikashvili described the idea of an Anaklia port as a game-changing project in his article for Fox News and wrote about possible trade agreements and investments with the US. Apparently, there was a light shining at the end of the tunnel, but Kvirikashvili left his position soon after and construction of the “game-changing” project became mired in doubt.
Of course, that change did not alter US interest in Georgia, which was expressed many times in many ways since then. The Anaklia project was a key issue for Mike Pompeo, who has expressed the necessity of its construction.
The facts clearly underline the strength of the geopolitical and strategic support of the United States toward Georgia, something that is not adequately realised and perceived by Georgian opposition and the media.
To make the process more visible we have to demonstrate the efforts of the Republican leadership towards Georgia, to disclose possible corruption in the Georgian governmental system and fulfill strategic goals. The letter by Senator Ted Cruz to Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin suggested the “deliberate exclusion of American companies from port construction aimed at insulating Georgia from reliance on Russia” and “deficiencies in enforcing American sanctions against Iran”. This was a perfect example about how closely Trump allies observed the political and economic process in Georgia.
In July 2020, The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2021 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill, by which the central government of Georgia cannot get any assistance if the Department of State does not see strengthening of democratic institutions, combatting the corruption within the government, ensuring the rule of law and protection of foreign business. In my opinion, the mentioned bill is a clear reflection of previous activities and works conducted by the group led by Ted Cruz and Republican Study Committee. Both as we mentioned, were allies of Donald Trump.
History will remember Trump’s foreign policy as a departure from Obama’s. It is ironic that the US media and political establishment accused Trump of advancing Russian interests, because in Eastern Europe – the frontline of Russian aggression – Trump was in many ways far tougher on the Kremlin than Obama was. According to the headlines, President Trump was tougher on Russia in just 18 months than Obama was in eight years. The country of Georgia, partially occupied by Russia, should have valued that properly. However, the Georgian opposition — which in many ways, was harmed by the previous administration and benefited from Trump’s — has become vehemently anti-Trump.
The Trump Administration and its allies have tried to accelerate the democratic process in Georgia and to give the opposition the leverage to fight against Russian influence. But as a response, nowadays we see cynical attacks on President Trump as if his team protected the interests of former ruling party chairman Bidzina Ivanishvili during the previous four years. Moreover, it is especially not serious when the director of one of the most popular TV channels in the country links alleged big crypto transactions during the Congress riots to Ivanishvili and claims he was a funder of Trump supporters gathered in DC on January 6.
Instead of this baseless criticism, the Georgian opposition using those letters and messages, should have persuaded Georgian people against political corruption and ensured mobilisation to defend the transparency and fairness of parliamentary elections. That would give them an opportunity to establish a coalition government and avoid the extreme centralisation of power by one party in every state level. Americans are always open to help and assist the people of Georgia but they cannot do things that must be done by Georgians themselves.
I am not sure if our politicians have changed the rhetoric toward the former US administration, but what they need to do actually leave behind their infantilism and stop blaming politicians or ambassadors of democratic countries and create a persuasive strategy about how they are going to bring change to Georgia.