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Ajaria – a Turkish mine for Georgia?2010-07-08 18:51
There were times when Georgia was not in the spotlight of events in Big Caucasus though it has never fallen by the wayside. Developments of recent years show that Georgia is thoroughly seeking its place among countries of the region. Georgia's current status is a pride for Georgian authorities that expertly take advantage of it.
In order to consider the issue seriously there has to be a book or some demonstration of Georgia's history of relations with each of its neighbors. Let's start with Turkey.
Georgia has long been an important segment of Turkey's geopolitics that following the collapse of the USSR immediately became a key state in the regional system of communications. Why should Muslims force into closed European doors when the way to the East is almost open? Thus Georgia became an important geopolitical battering-ram. As a state Georgia must be taken under somebody's wing - which is a perfect instrument for geopolitical pressure on Russia.
With Armenian border shut down and strict restrictions over communications imposed by Iran, Georgia remains the only direction for links with Azerbaijan, North Caucasus and Central Asia. Georgia grew an important direction and a "field" for various operations by Turkey's intelligence services in Chechnya, Dagestan, Adygeya and Kabard. Without Georgia's assistance Turkey would have not been able to set up a wide agent network in North Caucasus over such a short period of time. Turkish-Georgian cooperation became a crucial factor of Georgia's economic survival, which is ok with the USA.
Here we see improved mutual understanding and simultaneously differences between Turkey and the USA. The problem is that according to the USA's plans, Turkey must retaliate Russia's attempts to recover its positions in the region without affecting political regimes in the states of South Caucasus. Turks have always been openly resentful over it, while the States have always considered Turkey's political influence in the region as dangerous and undesirable.
At the time of rising crisis in Georgian-Russian relations in 2005-2008 the USA tried to persuade Turkey to support Georgia. But Turkey hoped for cooperation with Russia, and in 2008 Turkey virtually supported Russia's actions offering an unambiguous reaction to the States' incoherent policy. It served as a reminder to the USA that demonstration of intended military presence in Georgia including projected use of Georgian airfields for deployment of US air forces as an alternative to Turkish bases, is a non-constructive way of dealing with Ankara.
This could not but help Georgian elite realize Turkey's possible position and role in the future.
With Mikheil Saakashvili's advent to power Turkey was not so desperate for Georgia's services since many problems of Turkey's political presence had been solved. The main apprehensions of those years were that activities of the Western community toward Georgia won't leave room for Turkey's influence. Still there was room.
Now Turkey is playing an important role in Georgia's economic development with Turkish goods accounting for 35-40% of Georgia's re-exports. Besides, Turkey consistently fulfills tasks in compliance with NATO plans for provision of military aid and assistance to Georgia. Turkey plays an important part in training border troops, helping to train military personnel and interested in deployment of its combat air forces in Georgia.