The conflict with Russia in August 2008 is naturally a dominant feature on the political landscape. That conflict left South Ossetia and Abkhazia – twenty per cent of Georgia ’s national territory - under Russian occupation. Russia ’s failure to comply with the EU-brokered ceasefire agreement and its continuing military build-up only add to the seemingly intractable nature of the situation. However, in the face of these obstacles, Georgia has adopted a strategy of community-level engagement and has given an undertaking on the non-first use of force which has not been reciprocated reportedly on the perplexing grounds that Russia is not a party to the conflict.
The prevailing view among Georgian leaders is that Russia ’s antagonism towards Georgia stems from Russia 's adherence to the notion of "spheres of influence" and its concern that Georgia ’s successful reform process and eventual Euro-Atlantic integration would stand in sharp contrast to Russia 's record on reform
That said, it was underlined that Georgia and Russia were historically and culturally intertwining and that Georgians and Russians could and should be working together on their many shared interests and concerns. These could include the fight against terrorism and organised crime, separatism, the economy, energy, transport, education and science
Regarding Georgia ’s democratic reform process, the new constitution will introduce a new separation of powers along with checks and balances. Parliamentary, presidential and local elections in successive years – 2012, 2013, and 2014 - will also be seen as key landmarks in the electoral reform process.
Other areas being addressed were media ownership, judicial reform, education, and civil-military relations.
Regarding the prospects for NATO membership, many participants at the seminar reiterated that the question is “when” not “whether”, bearing in mind the clear statements on this point made at successive NATO summits.
Linas Linkevicius , Lithuania ’s Ambassador to NATO, noted that the experience of Central and Eastern Europe showed that membership always seemed to be a more distant prospect than it actually turned out to be.
Ambassador Linkevicius also paid tribute to Georgia ’s invaluable contribution to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
The seminar closed with sessions on regional security concerns in the South Caucasus and the North Caucasus . On the South Caucasus it was stressed that the regional situation was dynamic and there were grave concerns about rising tensions. However, one observation was that although borders might be closed, there were signs that minds were opening.
On the North Caucasus , among many comments about the complexities of the region, one noteworthy observation was that separatist movements were being superseded by ideological and religious ones. This change might have reduced the likelihood of the secession of the North Caucasus republics from Russia, but it has not led to an improvement in the regional security situation.
View the full Report