Can Europe Help Defend Georgia?

For Georgia, the Russian threat still looms. The Russian invasion in 1991, in 2008, and the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine accentuates the importance of closer military cooperation and security dialogue with Europe. But can Europe defend Georgia?

Europe has for too long avoided talks about a supranational defense institution. However, the increased spending and investment in Russian defense together with the open airing of differences on foreign policy views in Washington reignite the debate.

On December 14 2017, the European Union formalised its plans to develop and strengthen European defense, and launched the Permanent Structured Operation (PeSCO). The most important goals of PeSCO are aimed at increasing defense investment expenditure to 20% of total defense spending, and engaging with more collaborative and strategic defense capability projects.

Georgian Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze praised the move, and said that Georgia was ready to deepen its partnership with the EU in the security domain.

Some analysts believe that collaboration in the field of defense should also be extended to Eastern Partnership countries for better coordination and fast mobilization against possible regional threats.

“Over the past ten years, our country has dealt with multiple violations of territorial integrity”, Georgia’s State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Victor Dolidze said. “With the Kremlin’s hostile actions eroding and the current security environment in the region, security engagement is essential.”

PeSCO emerged from the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, though little progress occurred as a result. Analysts point out that Euroscepticism and national interests of EU members could become an obstacle for further integration in the field of defense. Even with intensified defense consolidation, co-operation and discussion remains limited only to EU members that satisfy the criteria encompassed in Protocol 10 of the Lisbon Treaty.

For Georgians, EU membership still remains a matter of economy rather than security alone. Asked whether dialogue with the EU also carries security implications for Georgia, Dolidze admitted that “the EU is not yet a very important security player”. “NATO integration constitutes of an essential direction for our foreign and defense policy”, Dolidze reiterated.

Malgosia Krakowska

11 January 2018 19:08