Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow, Rondeli Foundation
Friendly Ukraine-Georgia relations have a centuries-old history and were never burdened by any problems; that is a unique phenomenon in international relations. In different historical periods, Ukraine and Georgia were independent states, partially or fully conquered by different empires, or had restored their independence; however, the two nations always had a sincere sympathy.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia-Ukraine relations developed dynamically. This process is a clear demonstration of how the two countries can take advantage of new opportunities that emerge in international relations to develop qualitatively new relations.
After the restoration of independence, the term “strategic partnership” was often mentioned in Georgia-Ukraine negotiations. From their first meeting, Georgia’s second president, Eduard Shevardnadze, and the first president of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, defined bilateral relations exactly with this term. The logical continuation of this process was the Ukraine-Georgia Framework Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed during the official visit of Eduard Shevardnadze to Kyiv on 13 April 1993 (see: http://base.spinform.ru/show_doc.fwx?rgn=9687 ). For more than a quarter of a century, this treaty has operated for the benefit of both states.
During this historic period of 25 years, Ukraine has repeatedly proved to be a loyal friend of Georgia, that the term “mutual assistance” outlined in the title of the April 13, 1993 treaty has been the basis of real actions.
Here are some examples.
On 27 July 1993, a ceasefire agreement was signed in Abkhazia (see: http://www.cyxymu.info/2017/07/27-July-1993-soglashenie-o-prekrashenii-ognia-v-Abkhazii.html ). Together with the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, as a representative of a guarantor state, the agreement was signed by the Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozirev. Two months later, we had lost Abkhazia as a result of Russia’s traitorous behavior. During the tragic events of September 1993, tens of thousands of Georgian citizens of Abkhazia were forced to leave their homes, trying to escape genocide. Then Ukrainian helicopters and pilots saved the lives of several thousands of Georgians.
In the 1990s, Ukraine provided vitally important military assistance to Georgia. Many Georgian officers (including Vakhtang Kapanadze, Head of the General Staff of Georgia) graduated the Defense Ministry Academy and the Border Guard Academy of Ukraine. In 1997, Ukraine presented to Georgia the first military warship – “Grif”, with full armament. The ship crew was prepared free of charge on the Ismail training base. Only after this step has Georgia received similar military assistance from other friendly countries – Germany, Turkey, USA, etc. But Ukraine was the first. It is clear that this was not a simple decision for Ukraine, having in mind the Russian factor.
In 1993, Ukraine provided us wheat worth $1 million on terms of preferential credit.
In August 2008, during the Russian-Georgian war, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko arrived in Georgia, risking his own life to support the Georgian people. Moreover, together with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, he organized the arrival of all three Baltic States’ Presidents to Georgia – Lithuania’s (V. Adamkus), Latvia’s (V. Zatlers) and Estonia’s (T. Ilves).
These are just a few examples from the new history of Georgia-Ukraine relations.
On July 18, 2017, Georgia-Ukraine relations moved to the next level. During the official three-day visit of President P. Poroshenko to Georgia, the Declaration on Strategic Partnership was signed (see: https://www.ukrinform.ru/rubric-polytics/2268511-ukraina-i-gruzia-podpisali-deklaraciu-o-strategiceskom-partnerstve.html ).
How the Georgian side has fulfilled its obligations and is acting in conformity with the 13 April 1993 Agreement and the July 18, 2017 Declaration – Ukrainian experts should evaluate; but now is the time when Ukraine really needs Georgia’s support.
Surely, this concerns the issue of autocephaly of the Ukrainian United Orthodox Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church is a political weapon of Russian imperialism. It is such a clear truth that its rejection is dangerous for professional reputation. Let us recall its attitude to the Georgian Orthodox Church in the 1800s – the abolition of autocephaly, prohibition of church service in the Georgian language, the appointment of vodka-loving exarchs, one of them cursing the Georgian nation, the destruction of the unique Georgian frescos, whitening them with lime, and so on. For these and many other reasons, the Russian Orthodox Church does not represent any authority for me personally.
As far as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Mr. Kirill Gundiayev is concerned, his reputation in the Orthodox world is far behind that of the world Patriarch Bartholomew the First; besides, Kirill’s commercial interests (alcohol, tobacco), and addiction to watches worth 50,000 euros and other luxurious gifts are well-known.
In diplomacy, responsibility and consequences are the result of both action and inaction. In my view, Tomos-related, extremely diplomatic statements of Georgian officials are not enough. As a result, we have seriously limited our capacity of interaction with Ukraine. This will be directly reflected in the quality of our cooperation, which will be of great importance for the implementation of our interests in international relations over the course of 2019, particularly in anticipation of the G7 format meetings in France. At the end of last year we considered this topic (see: https://www.gfsis.org/ge/blog/view/896 ).
The state of affairs has to be rectified immediately. To do so, there are several options:
A) Foreign Minister congratulates his Ukrainian counterpart;
B) the Government congratulates the Ukrainian Government;
C) Parliament adopts the resolution supporting Ukraine at the extraordinary session (time is limited; it is worth doing);
D) The President congratulates his Ukrainian counterpart.
Until this happens, I want to congratulate wholeheartedly my Ukrainian friends and all the Ukrainians for this great, undoubtedly historic success. Слава Україні.