Seeking Security: Georgia between Russia and ISIS

Georgia’s Minister of Defence Tinatin Khidasheli (right) with USIP Executive Vice President William Taylor (Moderator). Photo by USIP website., 18 Aug 2015 - 13:54, Tbilisi,Georgia

As Georgia navigates it way towards Euro-Atlantic integration, the country is under pressure from external forces, putting international security at risk. But Georgia won’t respond with aggression but with peace, says the country Defence Minister Tinatin Khidasheli.

The Georgian official is due to make a poignant presentation at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) tomorrow, August 19, during her first visit to America since her appointment. Her speech will focus on the challenges to Georgia and the Black Sea region and how her country is navigating regional security threats that have deepened in the past 18 months since Russia attacked Ukraine.

According to USIP, international security remained at risk in the small post-Soviet nation: Russian troops last month continued creeping seizure of new Georgian territory, including part of a strategic pipeline, and ISIS was recruiting fighters throughout the Caucasus for its war in Syria.

Minister Khidasheli will make her first visit to Washington as defense minister just weeks after little-reported events that underscore Georgia’s continued importance to regional security. In July, Russian troops, who invaded in 2008, quietly advanced from South Ossetia to take over part of a BP-operated oil pipeline that supplies Europe,” said USIP while announcing tomorrow’s conference in Washington D.C.

"Georgia placed major orders with Western firms for defensive radar systems compatible with those of NATO. The trans-Atlantic alliance conducted its first exercises in Georgia involving troops from multiple member states. And elders in Georgia’s Muslim minority community reported that the Islamic State movement, or ISIS, has wooed new recruits for the Syrian war from among their youth—part of a broader radicalization across Georgia’s borders in predominantly Muslim Chechnya and Azerbaijan,” stated USIP.

"In recent speeches, Minister Khidasheli has underscored Georgia’s renewed push for the Atlantic alliance to offer it a formal membership plan at next year’s NATO summit in Warsaw. At USIP, she will discuss the security challenges her country faces, and how they have changed since Russia last year annexed the Crimean Peninsula and began its war with Ukraine.”

Khidasheli’s US visit is of great importance to Georgia and it aims to strengthen the country’s relations with the US and seek stronger support.

While abroad Khidasheli is has already held meetings at the Pentagon with various US officials including US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter and formed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the US Defence Department.

A lawyer by training, Minister Khidasheli has been an outspoken advocate for human rights during a career of more than two decades that has included service on the Tbilisi City Council and in Georgia’s national parliament. She is the first woman to serve as Georgia’s Defence Minister.

If you wish to attend the August 19 USIP conference, you can find more information here.