What U.S. going to do in Georgia
"The strategic partnership and cooperation between Georgia and the United States under the administration of President Donald Trump reached the highest level. We intend to intensively develop this cooperation," Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze told the Tbilisi-based television channel Imedi TV last week. He is confident that a historic moment has come in Tbilisi-Washington relations in order to continue deepening bilateral cooperation in all areas in a qualitative manner, especially in the areas of economics, security and defense.
The Caspian region and the region of the South Caucasus, in particular Georgia, continue to be a zone of direct confrontation between Russia and the United States. Russia continues its commitment to expand influence in the Transcaucasia, and the United States is trying not to lose the positions achieved in the South Caucasus under the previous administrations, blocking Russia's efforts.
The Tbilisi-Washington military cooperation is aimed primarily at making the pro-Western course of the Georgian government more sustainable, and not at improving and modernizing the Georgian armed forces. The militarization of the entire Transcaucasian region is on the rise, being significantly ahead of the region's economic and social progress. The United States does not want the number of Georgia's troops, weapons and military equipment to exceed the permissible limits. The South Caucasus has already enough weapon and ammunition to unleash another war, which would lead to a greater loss of life.
Tbilisi and Washington are interested in expanding Georgia’s access to the Generalized System of Preferences. It would contribute to the growth of Georgian exports to the EU markets, which provides opportunities associated with trade and the abolition of any trade barriers. In other words, full liberalization of manufacturing trade, as well as a significant easing of the export duty by 95%.
At the same time, the United States restricts closer integration of Georgia into such structures as NATO, fearing excessive rapprochement between Tbilisi and leading European states. For Washington, the format of bilateral cooperation with the South Caucasus countries seems more convenient on a bilateral basis than in the framework of NATO. Finally, Russia's influence is still great, and in this sense, cooperation between the United States and Georgia should create an idea of a real partnership, and not of the American military's penetration into the region.
The maintenance of the Russian military presence in Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia may well ensure the balance of forces in the region. Unlike Georgia, which considers the possible American presence as a deterrent to Russia, the United States sees this as a possible option to deter Turkey. Turkish business is actively penetrating into the Transcaucasus, especially now that Ankara opposes American sanctions policy. Over the past twenty-five years, Turkey remains Georgia's largest trading partner - the trade turnover amounted to 1.58 billion dollars in 2017. Turkey is followed by Russia, China and Azerbaijan with 1.18 billion, 939 million and 881 million dollars, respectively.