Arguably, the most straightforward entree into the world of Georgian geopolitics is the West-Russia tension at the heart of its foreign policy dilemma. Georgia is a former Soviet republic with longstanding cultural, economic and political ties to Russia in its various imperial incarnations. Yet the political consensus in Georgia since regaining independence in 1991, despite its proximity and many ties to Russia, has largely been in favour of Euro-Atlantic integration.
This is, in many respects, a classic political science conundrum: given Russia’s local preponderance of military power, regional economic clout, and the two countries unmistakable (if sometimes grossly overstated) cultural affinities, why hasn’t Georgia chosen to bandwagon with Russia like many other post-Soviet states? Conversely, why has Georgia chosen to align itself with the Euro-Atlantic West instead?
The question becomes even more muddled when considering recent events. The premier Euro-Atlantic institutions, Nato and the EU, are not exactly embracing Georgian aspirations to membership with open arms. The likelihood that Tbilisi will accede to either club in the near to medium future appears remote at the moment. Conversely, Russia, though amid an economic reckoning of titanic proportions, has doubled down on a foreign policy of adventurism. Between the two, Georgia’s relative regional isolation is sobering.
But, in reality, Georgian foreign policy has never been wholly binary. While the West-Russia dynamic has been the dominant lens through which Tbilisi has presented itself to the world (particularly under the former United National Movement regime), it’s actual foreign policy portfolio is – and has always been, to varying degrees – much more complicated.