The Turkey-Russia Power Play Unfolding: Can Georgia Weather the “Frenemies” Trap?

Ivanna Machitidze

The developments resulting from Russia and Turkey’s turbulent relations have been shaping the political, economic and security landscape in the post-Cold War South Caucasus for three decades already. For Georgia it is a necessity to pursue a delicate maneuver due to the circumstances of its strategic partnership with Turkey, while simultaneously struggling to address Russia’s assertive and uncompromising stance towards Tbilisi. Both Turkey and Russia are increasingly anti-Western, nativist and authoritarian, testing Turkey’s allegiance to its NATO commitments and decades-long partnership with the EU, as well as the existing security architecture in the Black Sea basin. 

This policy paper argues that the tactical and “unequal partnership” of Turkey and Russia highlights the urgent need for Georgia to prevent being entrapped in the “accordion effect” and left without any room for maneuver. The strategic decision must be undertaken in a timely manner. The stakes are high for Tbilisi, as the absence of consistent long-term goals leads to adopting a reactionary line towards Ankara’s and Moscow’s decisions. Hence, the analysis puts forward opportunities and risks to be taken into account stemming from the long-term patterns of Russia and Turkey’s competition in the region. The recommendations for the Georgian Government suggest priority of economic pragmatism, strategic partnership diversification, military modernization and proactive foreign policy stance of Georgia in its neighborhood as the avenues for successful hedging and promotion of its long-term national interests.

 

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