Monday, March 1, 2021

What should the South Caucasus expect from the Biden administration?

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The government in the United States changed a month ago. After Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Joe Biden took over the running of the country. With each such change, the question arises as to what foreign policy the new administration will have. This question is also heard in the South Caucasus region and Georgia.

President Biden knows Georgia well. He has visited the country twice and has personally declared his support for Georgia.

In 2008, when Biden arrived in Tbilisi during the Russia-Georgia war, he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. You still remember the words then said “I will never leave you” in Georgia. In 2009, Joe Biden arrived in Georgia as Vice President and personally conveyed support for the new US administration to the country’s parliament.

In addition, for the past 40 years, Biden has held high positions in American politics and is well acquainted with current events in the South Caucasus.

However, is the knowledge of the region sufficient by the new president for the South Caucasus to play a priority role in US foreign policy? Will the Biden administration have a new, clear policy towards the South Caucasus and will it be considered as a separate region and not part of the policy of Russia or the European region?

Svante Cornell, director of the Caucasus and Central Asia Institute, says the administrations of several previous US presidents have not had clearly defined policies toward the South Caucasus region.

“The Trump administration has developed a specific strategic document for the Central Asian region … However, we have not seen such a document in the case of the South Caucasus. “As far as I know, the closest thing that can be perceived as a strategy was political statements by various officials who very rarely focused on the South Caucasus as a region.”

In his opinion, the South Caucasus should be considered as a separate region and the United States should have a common policy and strategy towards Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Cornell says that until now these countries were considered separately from other regions and they were considered as a kind of addition to the US policy towards the big countries.

“In the case of Georgia, it was Russia, the issue of Armenia was discussed with Turkey, and Azerbaijan was sometimes part of the policy towards Afghanistan,” Cornell said.

Not all key officials in the Biden administration have been approved yet. Consequently, neither fully developed policies nor approaches are known. Now one of the main questions for the South Caucasus region is whether the Biden administration will change the old approach.

“Individuals matter”

The Trump administration has developed a specific strategic document for the Central Asian region … However, we have not seen such a document in the case of the South Caucasus. As far as I know, the closest thing that can be perceived as a strategy were political statements by various officials who very rarely focused on the South Caucasus as a region.

The State Department alone does not work in the field of foreign relations in the US government. Decisions in this regard may come from the White House, the State Department, the National Security Consulate, and so on. Therefore, as experts in the field say, it is important that in high positions in this direction, there were people who have an idea of ​​the South Caucasus region and are familiar with the challenges and current events there.

In terms of foreign relations, one of the most important links in the US government is the State Department. Biden has named Anthony Blinkel as Secretary of State. Blinken is known for his statements about Georgia both in the past and, at least recently, after his resignation.

The first American diplomat is in favor of Georgia joining NATO, and he spoke about it at the Senate hearings on his appointment. Blinken said he would support Georgia’s NATO membership if “the country meets the membership criteria and contributes to our overall security.”

Claire Kaiser, director of strategic initiatives at the McLarte Associations, says naming knowledgeable people in the region as leading positions is already a good sign.

“Biden’s foreign policy team, as well as President Biden himself, are not really strangers to the South Caucasus, and I think that should be good news. Their [გამოცდილება] Goes beyond just working during the Obama administration. “In the case of the president, this, of course, includes years of service in the Senate and two visits to Georgia, as well as active involvement in the challenges in the region,” said Kaiser.

“Individuals matter,” said Mark Simakowski, a researcher at the Atlantic Council. He agrees with Kaiser that it is important for foreign policy-makers to have an idea of ​​the South Caucasus.

Simakovsky believes that the people in office at the moment are experienced enough to work on US-South Caucasus policy and relations. At the same time, however, these people in the US administration are “restoring democracy and human rights as one of the most important parts of national security policy.”

Simakovsky believes that it is in the light of these principles that American policy towards the South Caucasus will be shaped. “I think that the so-called We will see the expression of strict love. If America decides to get more involved [სამხრეთ კავკასიაში]”Then he wants to see the human rights and democracy situation improve in this very strategic region,” Simakowski said.

Although experts in the Biden administration agree that many foreigners familiar with Georgia and the South Caucasus region still doubt that this region will be a top priority for US foreign policy.

Priority or part of the policy of other regions

“The main challenge for the South Caucasus is where they will be among America’s priorities. With all that in mind, [რასთან გამკლავებაც ახალ ადმინისტრაციას მოუწევს]”The economy, the climate, the climate, China, Russia, I’m afraid the South Caucasus will not be on the list,” said Scott Kalinan, executive director of the US-Europe Alliance.

Biden’s foreign relations team, as well as President Biden himself, are certainly no strangers to the South Caucasus, and I think that should be good news.

Like Kalinan, Claire Kaiser doubts that the South Caucasus is a priority. He says he would be surprised if the region would be included in the Biden administration’s priorities given the developments that are taking place in America itself and with major players in the European region.

Mark Simakowski also believes that the issues of Ukraine and Russia will be much bigger and more important for the new US administration than the South Caucasus.

In addition, Simakovsky says that the part of the US that is paying attention to this region may not be to the liking of the governments of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The researcher believes that America will always focus on the improper functioning of those democratic institutions or the human rights violations that are manifested in different ways in these countries. Despite the amount of politics and attention, Simakowski believes, America always requires these countries to work on these topics.

It is not yet known what will be, or will not be, a separate, clearly defined policy for the South Caucasus region in general. Until then, Georgia and the United States remain strategic partners and allies. Recently, Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends of Georgia, Democrat Congressman Jerry Connolly and Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger introduced a pro-Georgia act in Congress.

On February 12, after presenting the act, Kinzinger wrote on his Twitter page that “Georgia is a great and important partner of the United States, which fights on the front lines for freedom against Russian aggression.”

The fact that the Democratic and Republican congressmen presented the support act in Congress together underscores America’s bipartisan support for Georgia.

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What should the South Caucasus expect from the Biden administration?