Georgia's role in the wider Black Sea region, the country's Euro-Atlantic aspirations, the occupation of its territories, security challenges in the region, and hybrid threats were the main topics of an address delivered by Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI).
RUSI operates under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and is the oldest research institute in the world in the field of defense and security.
Gakharia started the discussion by talking about the occupied regions of Georgia, and noting that 20 per cent of the country - Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region - is under occupation and face security-related challenges.
This is our everyday life. Georgia's democratic and economic development has been under constant pressure from Russia for the last decades. Even now, in the time of the global pandemic, the problem is that we are facing the ongoing borderisation process on the occupation line. Russia constantly violates the [ceasefire] agreement of 2008. And, of course, we have 500,000 IDPs and refugees in the country that still cannot return to their homes", Gakharia said.
Gakharia said that hybrid threats are another challenge facing Georgia. He said that the country faces a disinformation campaign every day.
You know that Georgia's management in the fight against Covid has been recognised as successful. But, at the same time, we are facing, for example, a cyber-attack from Russia directly targeting the healthcare system of the country, first of all, the Lugar Lab, which was the most important part of our fight against Covid", Gakharia stated.
In his speech, Gakharia also focused on the potential of the Black Sea and said that "we see the opportunity for Georgia to figure out a new role, serving as a reliable partner, a security partner for Europe and the United States, as well as NATO".
As regards transport communications, Gakharia said that Georgia has the ambition to become a regional platform for expanded transport communication, which will connect Europe and the East.
Gakharia also spoke about the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Georgia and noted that this course has the support of more than 80 per cent of the population.
Gakharia accented the importance of the peace in the Caucasus region and he viewed the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.
This story shows that there is no notion of so-called frozen conflicts - it simply takes one day, one week to unfreeze the conflicts. That is why they are so dangerous. That is why for us, everything that is happening between two of our neighbors at this moment is so risky, not only for Georgia but for the [entire] region. And furthermore, we think that it is very risky for the wider Black Sea region", Gakharia stated.
At the end of his speech, Gakharia thanked Georgia’s British partners for supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as well as its Euro-Atlantic aspirations.