Michael Hikari Cecire is a Black Sea and Eurasia regional analyst and an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He is also a member of the Georgian Institute of Politics.
Articles written by Michael Cecire
Last month, Russia ratified what it called a “Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership” with the separatist Georgian region of Abkhazia, and a more comprehensive deal with nearby South Ossetia looks to be on the way. With the treaties, Moscow’s “recognition” of the breakaway territories has come full circle. more
The abrupt firing of Defense Minister Irakli Alasania last week has triggered Georgia’s most serious political crisis since the Georgian Dream-led coalition government came to power in October 2012. But Alasania’s departure is unlikely to disrupt Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy—for now. more
The overrepresentation of Chechens from Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge in Syria’s Islamist rebel leadership has reignited interest in the rugged valley bordering Chechnya. But it has also led to fears that Pankisi may be used as a casus belli for Russian intervention into Georgia.
Armenia recently appeared poised to take its first substantial step in years toward European integration. But then Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced he was suspending plans to sign an EU association agreement and would instead join the Russian-led Customs Union and Eurasian Union projects. The move was less a sudden change of heart than a reflection of Russia’s overwhelming influence over the country. more
In the wake of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, Georgia appears isolated and exposed. Just over a month ago, the context looked remarkably different. Georgia had managed to arrest the acrimony of the period following its own 2008 war with Russia in an effort to reduce prospects for renewed conflict. But the fragile sense of security painstakingly crafted by Tbilisi now seems to have been shattered. more
Many Western policymakers have nudged Georgia to the backburner recently as its pro-West alignment appears increasingly institutionalized. However, the recent contest between Israel and Iran for Tbilisi’s affections demonstrates that Georgia remains a geostrategic front line. More broadly, and contrary to some assessments, the South Caucasus is liable to increase in importance in the coming years. more
The August 2008 Russia-Georgia War seemed to mark the end of one era and the beginning of another. By invading another state, Russia had directly challenged the prevailing Euro-Atlantic security architecture. But while many at the time feared a resurgence of Russian influence in the region and beyond, August 2008 may instead come to be seen as the high-water mark of Russia's re-imperialization project. more
With small measures of tangible progress counterbalanced by intermittent stumbles, Georgia-Russia relations seem to have taken two steps forward and one step back. For all of Tbilisi’s efforts, Moscow continues to view ties from a zero-sum perspective. While some degree of normalcy may be possible, divergent interests mean that the high-water level of Georgia-Russia relations might already have been reached. more
Georgia's recent announcement of its intention to contribute to the EU military operation in Mali signals not only Tbilisi's continued role as a supplier of forces for Euro-Atlantic security missions, but also the Georgian military's ambitions as a niche counterterrorism force. To support these ambitions, the Defense Ministry is embarking on a series of reforms to fit its force structure to this mission set. more
With only days to go before Armenia’s presidential election, all signs point to the re-election of President Serzh Sargsyan. Continuity in Armenia’s foreign policy is likely under a second Sargsyan term as Armenia continues to balance opening to the West with its longstanding loyalty to Russia. However, the one potential for significant geopolitical change after the voting is in Armenia-Turkey relations. more
The implication that the government of Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili could be building a haven for Iranian anti-Western activities is unsubstantiated and ignores the previous government’s many overtures toward Tehran. However, there are legitimate concerns that Iranian investments in Georgia could help the Islamic Republic to evade the crippling international sanctions regime. more
Among the many questions as to what comes next for Georgia, the country’s geopolitical direction under billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition has become the subject of extensive inquiry and supposition since his victory in last week's elections. Ivanishvili has reiterated his support for continued Euro-Atlantic integration. Some wary Western observers are not convinced, however. more
As Turkey’s once-hailed approach to foreign policy flounders in the Middle East, the spirit of “zero problems” continues to consolidate gains in other neighboring areas, notably the Caucasus. Georgia has become a particular beneficiary of Turkey’s Caucasus strategy. For Turkey, Georgia is a fundamental part of its regional energy strategy and an important buffer between it and historical rival Russia.
In late-June, Turkey and Azerbaijan signed accords green-lighting the $7 billion Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP). While the deal has been described as a deathblow to the once highly touted EU-backed Nabucco pipeline consortium, TANAP’s emergence alongside a host of other alternative and unconventional energy options is also endangering Russia’s near-monopoly in the European natural gas market. more
With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a tour of the South Caucasus last week, hopes that she could use the visit to push for regional peacemaking were quickly overcome by events on the ground. Though Clinton’s meetings in Georgia were mostly low key, the brittle cease-fire between Azerbaijan and Armenia was tested by a series of clashes, fueling fears that another Caucasus war was in the offing. more
Despite parallel histories and a concerted push on both sides to forge lasting ties, Georgia and Israel face very different geopolitical concerns and increasingly conflicting national interests. Indeed, their partnership, which once seemed so natural, now looks permanently derailed. The August 2008 Russia-Georgia War, in particular, was the beginning of the end for Georgia and Israel’s friendship. more
As tensions over Iran’s nuclear program rise, assertions that Israel’s increasing closeness to Azerbaijan represents the emergence of an anti-Iran “tag team” are gaining currency. But despite warming ties, there is no indication that Baku is in any hurry to sacrifice its national interests by participating in a conflict that could possibly drag it into a regional conflagration. more
The Oval Office meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Jan. 30 has already been chalked up as a major victory by Tbilisi, with increased defense ties the centerpiece development. Yet aside from an oblique reference by Saakashvili to “elevating our defense cooperation further,” details on any changes in the military relationship have been scarce.
The standoff between Ukraine and Russia over gas prices will be accompanied by an added wrinkle this year, with news that Ukraine plans to ink a deal with energy-rich Azerbaijan for supplies of liquefied natural gas. The partnership will finally introduce unconventional energy sources to Ukraine, and underscores the flagging fortunes of Russia’s pipeline monopoly and the dwindling leverage it commands. more
With Russia embroiled in demonstrations following surprisingly competitive Duma elections and South Ossetia gripped by political confusion over its own surprising presidential poll, it may be time to re-evaluate a few political tropes in Eurasia. The developments are all the more noteworthy for coming as Georgia faces a political showdown that is casting the republic’s autocratic contours into sharp relief. more