Author: Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow, Rondeli Foundation
The year of 2018 is fading – dangerous and full of controversy. It was a rather complicated one for Ukrainian and Georgian diplomacy.
The agenda of international relations was loaded with many interesting events, but two of them carried particular importance. These two annual gatherings of world leaders were traditionally distinguished by the high quality and level of influence in the overall system of international cooperation. This was the meeting of the Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs and Security Issues of the G7 Member States of April 22-24 in Toronto and the meeting of Heads of States and Governments of the same format in Charlevoix, Québec, June 8-9. According to the G7 practice, in 2018 both meetings were held in Canada, on the territory of the Presidency.
The fact that the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, was invited to a Toronto meeting where a special session was devoted to Russia’s aggressive policy in the region can be treated as an unconditional victory of Ukraine’s diplomacy. As a result of the negotiations, a relevant text was agreed and reflected first in the document of the G7 Toronto Foreign Ministers meeting and then in the final communiqué of the G7 Summit meeting in Charlevoix.
Unfortunately, Georgia did not manage to secure its position in the process. As a result, G7 Foreign Ministers condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in the region but Georgia was not mentioned in this context. No one cared to fix this situation in the timeline of 44 days. This was the interval between the meetings held in Toronto and Charlevoix. This was despite the fact that respective opportunities really existed.
Exactly in this interval, to be precise on May 20-21, the Prime Minister of Georgia visited Washington. It is important that Georgia received a pledge of impressive assistance as a result of this visit. For instance, the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, when addressing the annual US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Council meeting in Washington on May 21, 2018, underscored: “The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil… Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.” This principle approach, unfortunately, has not been reflected in the final documents of Charlevoix.
Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, proposed an offer to then Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili during his official visit to Ukraine which should also be treated in this context. This proposal was on enhancing resistance coordination against Russia – a hostile state for both countries in that Russia occupied and annexed a significant part of the territories of Georgia and Ukraine. And, by the way, not only territories of these countries. The then leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia did not pay attention to this proposal. Therefore, we missed the chance to strengthen Georgia’s position in the fight against the occupying power. We wrote about this problem in two blogs that we dedicated, correspondingly, to the meetings of Toronto and Charlevoix.
Today, we have the opportunity to correct the mistakes made in 2018. Last year’s negative experience should not vanish without lessons learned. This year we have to strengthen pressure on Russia and support the process of the international community position’s consolidation against Russia as an occupant as well as Georgia’s stronger representation in the network of international relations with the ultimate goal of facilitating the prospects of de-occupation.
In this light, we can benefit from a number of important developments. First: Russia continues its aggressive policy in the region and, moreover, bolsters it (for example, the attack on Ukrainian warships near the Kerch Strait on November 25). This enhances the need for maintaining the point of Russia’s aggressive policy in the G7 agenda. This stems from two fundamental principles of diplomacy applied in the civilized world – sustainability and continuity. Second: From January 1, 2019, France will take over the chairmanship of the G7. And third: Salome Zourabichvili’s connections with France and French diplomacy are widely known.
In 2019, during the G7 chairmanship French period, we have all of the necessary preconditions for a serious diplomatic breakthrough. For this, it is vitally important to elaborate the program-minimum and program-maximum and develop a respective action plan. This plan should be based on existing material and human resources. It has to set concrete goals for Georgian diplomats. At the same time, initial analysis shows that no additional material resources will be needed.
Program Minimum: The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia (better together with his Ukrainian counterpart) takes part in the Special Session of the G7 Foreign Ministers. Objective: To prepare a text condemning Russia’s aggressive policy in the region. The text to be included in the document of the Ministers meeting and later to be transferred to the G-7 Summit documents as happened in the case of Toronto and Charlevoix.
Program Maximum: The President of Georgia receives an invitation to attend the meeting of heads of state / government. This corresponds to G7 traditions. For example, the presidents of Argentina, Marshall Islands, Kenya, Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa were invited to the Charlevoix Summit as were the Prime Ministers of Norway, Jamaica and Bangladesh, etc.
The Action Plan may be composed of the following components:
- Coordination of positions with Ukraine. Cooperation with Ukraine will add additional weight to our actions on the international arena, strengthening common positions and significantly simplifying the implementation of priorities. The draft text should be elaborated in close interaction with Ukraine, further to be included in G7 documents (this is a serious matter, the document should contain both general messages – territorial integrity, sovereignty, the right to choose partners and alliances, etc., and specific approaches to toughen sanctions; the Tatunashvili – Otkhozoria list should be part of the text as well as a respective Ukrainian list; Ukraine should immediately start to work on such a list; say, stemming from Russia’s military invasion or the attack on Ukrainian warships near the Kerch Strait etc.).
- Joint activities of Georgian and Ukrainian diplomats in the seven capitals of the G7 member states, joint formal and informal meetings of ambassadors in the Foreign Ministries, in the president / prime minister administrations, in parliaments and so on.
- Coordinated work with the ambassadors of the G7 countries in Tbilisi and Kyiv.
- Activating of the Institution of Special Representatives of the Presidents of Georgia and Ukraine at a certain stage; their visits, better if combined, to the seven capitals of the G7 member states.
- As a decisive factor – involvement of the two presidents in the process – in the appropriate format and in necessary circumstances. When and how – time will show.
Georgia has all of the necessary resources and opportunities to demonstrate success in foreign policy and diminish the abilities of the aggressor to maneuver. For obvious reasons, this goal is much easier to achieve in interaction with Ukraine …