30 October 2009

Democratic Georgia

I'm starting this blog as a way to help contribute to the efforts of those in Georgian government structures, political parties, and civil society, as well as in the international diplomatic and development communities, who are working to implement democratic institutional reforms in Georgia. Georgian democracy is a work in progress, and continued reforms are vital if Georgia hopes to stay on a path that leads to further integration into European and Euro-Atlantic communities of nations.

Georgia's devastating war with Russia led to a new, existential, sense of insecurity. Russia militarily occupied South Ossetia and Abkhazia (at the behest of local leaderships), built new bases and border patrols, expanded into territories and districts formerly under Georgian control, and positioned its forces in strategic locations kilometers away from Tbilisi and from Georgia's main east-west artery.

The well-meaning insistence of U.S. policymakers that the United States will never recognize South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence misses the point. Georgian insecurity has far more to do with the return of the Russian military presence to Georgia, less than one year after it was voluntarily withdrawn; the de facto Russian annexation of its internationally recognized territory, particularly in South Ossetia; and the opacity of future Russian intentions toward Georgia as a state.

Under such circumstances, it should be no surprise that democracy-building might run into some difficulties. But a bitterly-divided body politic; a lack of trust and transparency among political forces, between state and society, and within governing institutions; and a lack of consensus regarding the fundamental rules of the political game all do more to further imperil Georgian security and, conceivably, its statehood.

Moreover, with Europe and the United States having lost (at least for the time being) whatever appetite they may have earlier had to bring Georgia briskly toward NATO, or in any way to play a serious role in its security architecture, Georgia's hope for deeper European and transatlantic engagement lies solely with its ability to democratize -- genuinely, in multiple spheres, and in multiparty fashion -- in other words, its ability to indisputably become Europe's newest democracy.