The echo of the Turkish crisis in Georgia
A single glance at news headlines is enough to realize that the Middle East is actually facing a political crisis of an unprecedented scale.
The region’s two major countries, Syria and a significant part of Iraq, have fallen under the rule of a terrorist organization, causing the most wide-scale migrant crisis in Europe since WWII.
In addition to this, Yemen and Libya have been gripped by war; there has recently been a coup in Egypt and Islamic organizations have strengthened their foothold throughout the region.
There has been an alarming increase in the amount of terrorist threats worldwide.
In such a situation, any inkling of stability gains particular importance, and Turkey has been always outstanding in this regard.
This country directly borders with Syria. It is the only NATO member-state in the Middle East, with its numerous and well-trained troops and a democratically elected government. Some of Turkey’s territory was used by NATO air forces to attack the ‘Islamic state’, and this was the country that received the largest number of migrants from Syria (which now exceeds two million).
Therefore, maintaining stability and a secular, democratic system of government in Turkey is vitally important for the already shaky stability of the countries in the region, including Georgia.
Since it became a democracy, the Georgian government has always viewed Turkey as a stable and loyal political and economic partner. Many successful projects have been implemented jointly with this country (it’s enough to just mention the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project).
During the period of January-May 2016, Turkey, with a share of 11% of export and 16% of imports, was Georgia’s major foreign trade partner. Likewise, according to 2015 data, 1.39 million tourists visited Georgia from this country.
Apart from the economic benefits it receives, Turkey is of particular importance for Georgia in terms of its security. Any possible long-term confrontation and turmoil in Turkey is dangerous for Georgia. Instability in Turkey will set loose the terrorist organizations.
If Turkey derails from its democratic track, it will also affect Georgia.
There have been threats that Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will deliver a blow against his political opponents under the pretext of suppressing the coup, and this is already evident – thousands of people have already been arrested and there have been talks about the possible reinstitution of the death penalty, abolished in 2014. President Erdoğan demands extradition from the USA of his key political opponent, Fethullah Gülen. All the aforesaid is likely to spoil Turkey’s relations with the USA and EU. There have been speculations about Turkey’s possible rapprochement with Russia, which goes against Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic interests.
The assumption has been made that Turkey will distance itself from the West and Georgia will be given the chance to maximalize its use of its NATO and EU regional strategic partner’s status and insist on more active rapprochement with Euro-Atlantic bodies. There is probably a certain logic in this, though Georgia will be greatly affected if it loses Turkey as an important ally and an unconditional supporter of Georgia’s integration into NATO within the alliance.
Since the developments in Turkey are of vital importance to Georgia, the Georgian government’s initial and rather flummoxed reaction has left one with a rather blurry impression of how they will handle the situation.
Georgian government officials immediately made statements on the possible closing of the border with Turkey. Luckily, the border was not closed, though many were indignant over the aforesaid statements, since many Turkish nationals rushed to the border late on July 16 so that they would be able to get home.
This has already affected Georgian business. Many hotels and casinos in the Adjara region have been abandoned. Close ties with Turkey are particularly beneficial for this sector’s business.