The Atlantic Council has today released a report titled “Georgia in the West: A Roadmap to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Future.” A summary at the linked page states:
The report makes recommendations for policymakers in Washington and key European capitals to strengthen Georgia’s ongoing integration into NATO and the European Union, by offering a clear vision and concrete intermediate benefits to reward Georgia’s progress. It offers recommendations for the Georgian government and all sectors of Georgian society to undertake important internal reforms that advance Georgian democracy and in turn secure Georgia’s place in the West. It also lays out strategies to counter Russia’s creeping annexation of the occupied territories and to solidify an international commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity over the long-term.
Russia sees Georgia as firmly within its own sphere of influence, and any moves by the West to move into the Caucasus via Georgia is likely to antagonize them. However, two recommendations within this report are certain to draw quick responses from the Russians. First, the proposal to sell weapons to Georgia; second, the notion of deploying US troops there:
Bolster the US footprint in Georgia. Georgia’s security strategy is premised on deterrence. Any US presence in Georgia helps to augment that deterrence, and just as importantly, reinforces a psychological sense of security among the population. In the absence of formal security guarantees, the United States should augment a small military footprint associated with its: 1) program to train Georgian forces for coalition operations; 2) support to NATO’s Partnership for Peace Training Center; and 3) facilities and logistics to handle transit of forces and equipment from Afghanistan now and, in smaller numbers, in the future, and to serve as a logistics hub for access to Central Asia.
EGP is fully supportive of Atlanticism in general and certainly supports and encourages the expansion of the US geopolitical footprint in the Black Sea and Trans Caucasus regions in particular. However, this particular set of proposals seems prematurely aggressive. The Atlantic Alliance is spread thin militarily and its component nations are all in a financial bind – it is unlikely that they could effectively respond to a similarly aggressive Russian response to a move like this. Also, stripped of its boilerplate idealism about promoting democracy and extending Western institutions, there is next to no geostrategic rationale offered for the need to offer such a commitment to Georgia. Certainly, such a rationale exists – this blog is partially dedicated to that idea itself. But, the rationale needs to be debated openly and publicly, not hidden behind the old platitudes about democracy promotion. In the wake of the Iraq War, the public will not fall for that deception anymore. This report proposes that we plant a flag on the doorstep of Putin’s Russia and defend it with a US military commitment. The public needs to know the truth – that the region is a gateway to vast stores of fossil fuels and the domination of that region by a single nation or alliance opposed to our system and values would have devastating consequences. That is why we were in Iraq, that is why we are interested in Georgia and Azerbaijan. The world is going to see a global struggle for oil and gas over the next few decades, and the US and the West need to be positioned for that fight. Democracy promotion is a tool to leverage access to those positions, not the goal itself.