Georgia

  • Is This the End of Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine?

    Today opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili was deported to Poland. For months he has been leading protests outside of Ukraine's parliament, urging President Petro Poroshenko to resign. The Saakashvili drama has been ongoing; last year he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and then reentered the country illegally. In December, he was arrested and then broke free.

    We asked Atlantic Council experts and UkraineAlert friends the following questions: Have we seen the end of Saakashvili’s days as a Ukrainian politician? What does the process of deporting an opposition politician after stripping him of citizenship say about the health of Ukraine’s democracy? Is Saakashvili a special case, or does his deportation send a signal to opposition leaders and civil society groups that they are next? 

    Read More
  • Karatnycky in POLITICO: The Rise and Fall of Mikheil Saakashvili


    Read More
  • Does the EU Even Care about Eastern Europe Anymore?

    If you missed the European Union’s Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on November 24, you are not alone. It was a forgettable event, but it tells us quite a bit about the EU’s state of affairs in Eastern Europe.

    The proud start of the EU Eastern Partnership was the Prague summit in May 2009, instigated by Foreign Ministers Carl Bildt of Sweden and Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland. These heroes of East-West integration are out of office, and we feel their absence keenly.

    In 2009, the essence of the joint declaration between the six members of the Eastern Partnership, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, was “that the Eastern Partnership will be based on commitments to the principles of international law and to fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to, market economy, sustainable development, and good governance.” Today, little remains but threadbare slogans.

    The Eastern Partnership advanced until the Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit in November 2013, as Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine negotiated association agreements, including deep and comprehensive free trade agreements. In Vilnius, Ukraine was supposed to sign its association agreement, but Russia’s President Vladimir Putin persuaded Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych not to do so. He had already done so with Armenia’s President Serzh Sargzian in September 2013. Only Georgia and Moldova held fast and signed their EU agreements.

    The next Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in May 2015 marked the decline. The fault did not lie with Latvia but with the EU’s lack of strategy.

    It is easy to ridicule this latest Eastern Partnership summit, and sadly there are good reasons for doing so.

    Read More
  • Unfreezing Eurasia’s Frozen Conflicts May Not Be as Hard as You Think

    It was nearly impossible to find an empty seat on the twice-weekly WizzAir flight from Berlin to Kutaisi this summer. The budget airline carries mostly German hikers to Georgia’s second largest city. From there, the hikers transfer in Zugdidi to reach their final destination, the remote and breathtaking Svaneti region, high in the Greater Caucasus. In Svaneti, most of these hikers undertake an established four-day hike from Mestia to Ushguli, one of the highest inhabited towns in Europe and home to striking UNESCO heritage sites. On the way, they stop overnight in three villages, which has boosted local economies.

    Inspired by the success of the Mestia-Ushguli route, a group of nature-loving idealists wants to elevate the Caucasus in hiking circles and bring world-class trails to other parts of Georgia, as well as to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and eventually, the conflict zones of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Read More
  • Why Russia’s War against Ukraine May Never End

    Russian President Vladimir Putin recently requested a UN peacekeeping mission for eastern Ukraine. While at home this looks like a peace overture, Putin is not motivated by the desire for amity.

    The proposal is similar to Russian actions in Georgia prior to 2008, when it supported a UN observer mission in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone and an OSCE mission in South Ossetia in addition to its own “peacekeeping” force. Rather than achieving lasting peace, these moves were a prelude to Russia cementing its presence in Georgia’s conflict regions.

    In the Donbas, Russia is using military force to create a permanent unresolved conflict. The war is putting intense pressure on the government in Kyiv, sapping momentum from its efforts toward reform and Euro-Atlantic integration. But if and when Ukraine, Russia, and the Russian-backed separatists reach a durable ceasefire agreement, temporary respite is all it will be.

    Read More
  • There He Goes Again. Putin Meddles in the South Caucasus

    Russia President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump likely agreed to restrict intervention in the affairs of third countries at the G-20 summit. This agreement, however, contradicts Russian foreign policy. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, Russia seeks to curtail the ability of these governments to pursue independent foreign policies. A series of recent probes in the region demonstrate that Trump’s agreement with Putin is worthless and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these states is meaningless from Moscow’s standpoint. Russia feels free to intervene in their affairs at any time, threaten their compatriots in Russia, and regularly brandish military and other forms of power to intimidate them. Unless Washington, Brussels, and NATO step up their game, this region will either explode or be compelled to shelter under Russian power. The West cannot simply look away because European security is linked to the security of the South Caucasus.
    Read More
  • Just How Much Influence Does the Kremlin Have in Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic?

    In a handful of Central and Eastern European countries, governments and the media have been slow and ineffective in countering the Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation. The best defense? An active, engaged civil society.

    Those were some of the findings of the Kremlin Influence Index (KII), a report released in mid-May that analyzed the Russian government’s ability to affect the media environments in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Georgia.

    Read More
  • Hall Hall Joins VOA Georgia to Discuss US-Georgian Relations


    Read More
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People on a Global Scale

    Dale Carnegie’s famous self-help book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, centers on investing in personal relationships in order to achieve success. President Donald Trump has demonstrated an instinctive understanding of this principle in the way he has interacted with a succession of world leaders, whether over a round of golf at Mar-a-Lago or an informal dinner in Washington. Yet his administration is set to undermine one of the most effective vehicles for this on a global scale, through proposing a radical cut in funds for the State Department’s international scholarship and exchange programs.

    That’s not completely surprising. These programs are often seen as only benefiting foreigners or as wasting money on fuzzy people-to-people contacts, with little tangible outcome for US taxpayers. At a time of competing domestic priorities, it is unsurprising that some believe the funding could be better spent elsewhere.

    But cutting funding for the exchange programs would be a giant mistake.

    Read More
  • Mikheil Saakashvili: “By my own standards, I failed on every account in Odesa.”

    Mikheil Saakashvili strode into the Toronto Four Seasons Hotel on a Saturday morning, all smiles and apologies for being late. The café was empty, except for myself, a handful of patrons, and a young waiter who had recently immigrated from Ukraine. I told him who I was waiting for and he smiled.

    Saakashvili is only forty-nine, but has accomplished more politically, and can drop more names, than the previous three US presidents combined. He became president of Georgia in his thirties, turned the country around, was nearly assassinated with his good friend George W. Bush, stared down Vladimir Putin, and became a Ukrainian citizen to join the effort to transform Eastern Europe’s sleeping giant.

    He supported the Euromaidan from afar then was recruited by President Petro Poroshenko, a university pal. Months after becoming an adviser, Saakashvili convinced Poroshenko to appoint him as governor of Odesa oblast to reshape the corrupt port. For less than one year, he ruled with an iron fist and began cleaning up port operations, then suddenly announced his resignation in a typically dramatic fashion. At a press conference, he accused Poroshenko of supporting "corrupt clans in the Odesa region."

    He is unusually forthcoming as an interviewee. “By my own standards, I failed on every account in Odesa. We proved that it was possible to operate customs without corruption. Some people miss this. But we only accomplished 5 percent of what we wanted to do.”

    Poroshenko, he added, has missed his chance to transform the country. “This is because he spends most of the time running his businesses. They cannot be combined. They’re part of the old system. He is part of the old system,” he said.

    Read More