Georgia Navigates Regional Powers in the Caucasus

Georgia Navigates Regional Powers in the Caucasus

In the early 18th century, King Vakhtang VI of the ancient Georgian kingdom of Karlti watched as his land was overcome with chaos and warfare. Having traded his vassalage to Persian overlords for allegiance to Peter the Great, the Georgian king was unexpectedly abandoned by his new allies and saw his kingdom brought to ruin by the onslaught of Persians, Ottomans, Afghans, and Russians. Vakhtang's submission would eventually lead to Georgia's total capitulation to Russian domination in the 19th century and Soviet rule in the 20th.

Today, the dynamics that marked the tumult of the 18th century are no less potent. Titles and borders have changed, and the independent variable of the United States has been added. But Georgia and the broader Caucasus remain valuable and strategic real estate for the historically competing empires of Persia (Iran), Muscovy (Russia), and the Turks (Turkey).

Looking at a map, one can see why. The borders of these three regional powers all arc around the buffering Caucasus, whose strategic position is strengthened by its imposing mountain ranges and defensible highlands, and protected on two sides by the Black and Caspian seas. Control over the Caucasus can both facilitate regional trade and also shut it down. Add the multiplying effect of key natural resource and hydrocarbon transit points and it's not hard to see why this little region gets such outsized attention.

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