Assessing the new geopolitical landscape

As the Western world begins to slowly exit from COVID-19 lockdowns, it is clear that the pandemic has accelerated some geopolitical priorities and posed serious questions about how Europe will address these questions, writes Ryszard Czarnecki.
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President Trump has taken aim at China and any global institution that he considers sympathetic to the country - most notably the WHO. At the same time, Chancellor Merkel has announced a re-engagement with China as part of an evolution of German foreign policy strategy.

As these debates continue - against the backdrop of a potential international investigation into the origin of the Coronavirus - the European Commission and leading EU governments must start thinking strategically about the new geopolitical landscape.

We must start with our own neighbourhood. Poland, the Baltic States and other central European nations have benefited greatly from membership of NATO and the EU. If those nations had not joined the Western alliance, the alternative is not difficult to imagine: it is being played out on the streets and in the fields of Crimea, Donbas, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

Too many of our fellow Europeans wake up every day with a fear of attack – either cyber or physical – coming from Russia.

Perhaps the country with the best chance of breaking these shackles is Georgia. NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, made up of elected members from across the free Western world, is highly supportive of Georgia’s ambition.

Successive US Presidents, from both Democrat and Republican parties, have also recognised this and have supported the country’s attempts to enhance its pro-Western and democratic traditions. Today, Georgia is the largest contributor of troops, per capita, to NATO missions globally.

Georgia is a young democracy with a very old history. Young democracies are not perfect; they evolve differently and all have a unique cultural and geographical context to consider.

“We are engaged in a regional and global battle of ideas. Freedom and the independence of the nation state are at risk and like-minded nations must bond together in this battle”

As Georgia makes this journey for itself, the government needs, and deserves, support and friendship from Brussels, Warsaw and other key European capitals including Berlin, London and Paris - old democracies.

The current pressing issue in Tbilisi is one of electoral reform. A proposal for modernising the electoral system was agreed on a cross-party basis on March 8, with all main opposition parties involved in the talks, and agreeing to the final law.

The embassies of the US and EU facilitated the entire process, which will move the Georgian voting system to a very similar model to that used for EU Parliament elections.

The US and EU have continued to urge all Georgian politicians to pass the reform - which occurred on June 29 with the Parliament approving constitutional amendments.

These localised politics belie a greater consideration for Europe’s leaders, when it comes to how we approach Georgia. Indeed, how we should approach all pro-Western, pro-European governments in the wider European neighbourhood.

Put simply: we are engaged in a regional and global battle of ideas. Freedom and the independence of the nation state are at risk and like-minded nations must bond together in this battle.

European and NATO leaders must wake up to this reality and to the scale of the global competition. Russia persists with the archaic 19th Century policy of ‘spheres of influence’. This is a relic and should not be accepted.

“As we survey the new geopolitical landscape post-COVID, it would be tempting for the European Commission and Council to focus all efforts on China or the US. This would be a mistake”

Georgia, like others in the region, is a free and independent country and must be supported to make its own geopolitical decisions, regardless of where it happens to be in the world.

It is also - unlike many others - democratic, which means government decisions have a credibility and moral weight that cannot be ignored.

The Georgian government has repeatedly stated its commitment to the Western alliance. The people of Georgia support NATO and EU membership by a margin of 80 percent.

As we survey the new geopolitical landscape post-COVID, it would be tempting for the European Commission and Council to focus all efforts on China or the US. This would be a mistake.

We must not forget our friends in Europe: they are our future and they deserve our full commitment, especially in these difficult times.

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