Georgia’s New Threat Assessment Document Identifies Russia as a Main Threat

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 192

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

On September 2, 2010, the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, signed Order No.707, which approved the adoption of the Georgia’s Threat Assessment Document for 2010-2013. In accordance with Article 61 of Georgia’s General Administrative Code, the aforementioned document replaced the previous Threat Assessment Document for 2007-2009, which was adopted by the Presidential Order No.542 on September 24, 2007. The examination of the unclassified 7-page portion of the new threat assessment document provides unique insights into the global, regional and local threat perception of the current Georgian government.

According to the Preamble, “the Threat Assessment Document for 2010-2013 [hereafter referred to as TDA] represents the fundamental conceptual document that identifies the threats facing Georgia and analyzes the scenarios of their possible development, their likelihoods and results.

TDA is based on the broad understanding of security that entails not only the assessment of the military-political threats but also of the socio-economic and terrorist threats as well as natural and technogenic catastrophes. The understanding of the aforementioned threats is necessary for the proper execution of government policy aimed "at neutralizing the threats facing Georgia."

TDA is divided into the following five parts: I. Military threats, II. Foreign policy threats, III. Transnational threats, IV. Socio-economic threats, and V. Natural and technogenic threats and challenges.

The first part –Military threats– opens with the doctrinal statement that rules out the conduct of foreign affairs based on the politics of force as “posing a threat to the fundamental principles and norms of the global community.” Furthermore, the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 and subsequent Russian occupation of Georgia’s breakaway regions “made it clear that for the sake of its narrow interests the Russian Federation is willing to openly confront the fundamental principles and norms of international law, which represent the cornerstone of contemporary international relations.” It follows then that Russia’s continued occupation of the separatist territories “poses a direct threat to Georgia’s sovereignty, statehood and represents the most important factor of political, economic and social destabilization.” Therefore, “failure to comply with the international obligations of the ceasefire agreement by the Russian Federation, absence of international peacekeeping forces in the occupied territories, and the increasing militarization of the occupied territories increase the risk of provocations and create a possibility of new military aggression.”

The main aim of the policy of the Russian Federation vis-à-vis Georgia is “to disrupt the realization of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic choice and to compel Georgia by force to return to Russia’s orbit.” In this conceptual context the ultimate objective of the August 2008 military aggression “was not the occupation of Georgia’s territories or international recognition of the marionette regimes, but the removal of the pro-Western government of Georgia because the Russian ruling political elite considers independent and democratic Georgia a significant threat.” The failure to achieve that overarching objective and the unwillingness of the Russian ruling political elite to reconcile with the status quo “increase the expected threats and risks from Russia.”

The situation in the occupied territories is a significant source of risks. “The lawlessness dominating the occupied territories and the existence of illegally armed and criminal groups of the marionette regimes there negatively affect Georgia’s national security and increase the risk of provocations and incidents, especially in those areas immediately adjacent to the occupation line.”

Another important security challenge is represented by the existence of the conflict zones in Georgia’s neighboring countries. The possibility of spillover from those conflicts into Georgia represents a “challenge to Georgia’s national security” because “the transition of the regional conflicts to a more intensive phase and possible resumption of hostilities, along with other challenges, will cause a humanitarian crisis that will produce large refugee flows and will increase the danger that informal armed formations may enter the country along with the refugees.” Other harmful consequences of such developments also include “the increase in contraband and other types of transnational organized criminal activities” and “the deterioration of the regional security environment,” all of which “will threaten the transportation and energy projects existing in the Caucasus.”     

The second part –Foreign policy threats– proclaims outright that the Russian Federation “spends significant resources in the international arena to carry out an anti-Georgian information and diplomatic campaign” with the purpose of “derailing the transformation of Georgia into a state based on Western values.” Thus, the main objective of the aforementioned campaign is “to create the image of Georgia as a non-democratic and unstable state with aggressive aims.” TDA predicts that the Russian Federation “will continue an intensive and widespread anti-Georgian information and diplomatic campaign” in order to “hinder Georgia’s integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.”

With the purpose of undermining Georgia’s statehood and territorial integrity the Russian government expends considerable political and financial resources on efforts aimed at achieving international recognition of the independence of Georgia’s occupied territories. TDA soberly admits that “despite the fact that the ‘independence’ of these regions was recognized only by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru, the Russian government continues an active campaign on the international arena to legitimize the occupation of Georgia’s territories and to undermine the international legal status of Georgia’s sovereign territories by recognizing the marionette regimes.”

Equally noteworthy is the emphasis on “the demographic manipulations in the occupied territories,” which are recognized as “containing a threat to Georgia’s national security.” In particular, “the creation of supporting conditions for settling Russian citizens will extend the occupation and significantly complicate the de-occupation process.” In this regard, especially alarming “are those legal steps that are currently taken by the marionette regimes to give residence and private property rights in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the citizens of other countries” and “construction of so-called military settlements and reconstruction of military infrastructure that will encourage the arrival and settlement of the families of Russian military officials in the occupied territories.”

Georgian national interests are also threatened by the absence of international engagement in the occupied territories. Russia “expends exceptional efforts in order not to allow international engagement in the occupied territories, whereas it is precisely fully-fledged international engagement that represents a significant mechanism for achieving practical results in establishing security and stability in the occupied territories.”

The recap of the remaining parts of the TDA reveals that it is closely modeled on similar programmatic documents of Western countries and most importantly the National Security Strategy of the United States. Part III (Transnational threats) makes mention of the threats posed by non-state actors, including international terrorist organizations and transnational criminal entities. This category of threats also includes cyber warfare. In this regard TDA notes that “during the August 2008 war the Russian Federation in parallel with land, air and sea attacks carried out concentrated and massive cyber assault on Georgia,” which demonstrated that “the use of computer technologies to carry out cyber attacks represents a real threat in the globalized world.” The lawlessness in the occupied territories represents another significant transnational security challenge. Among the types of criminal activity there “the illegal transit of components of weapons of mass destruction, illegal trade in weapons and narcotics, production and distribution of counterfeit currency, and human trafficking” pose particularly grave risks.

Finally, Part IV (Socio-economic threats) mainly discusses the threats to Georgia’s sustainable economic development posed by the global financial crisis, while Part V (Natural and technogenic threats and challenges) focuses on examining the ecologically dangerous developments in the occupied territories, challenges posed by Georgia’s location in the seismically active zone and such technogenic risks as chemical spills, accidents at hydroelectric power facilities, and emergencies on main pipelines.