Georgia pipelines worry the West

Georgia pipelines worry the West

It has not been explicitly mentioned nor has it been at the center of public debate, but all this week it has been the big elephant in the room of Georgia’s latest, as-yet-unresolved crisis created by the stubbornness of the Irakli Kobakhidze government to resolve it. Moving forward – despite massive protests in the streets of Tbilisi – with a legislative initiative that would allow clients who receive foreign financing to be excluded from the status of foreign clients. The elephant in the room that has passed through the corridors of power and the conversations of many of the most experienced experts: Georgia’s geostrategic importance to Europe’s energy security, now exacerbated by Russia’s major war against Ukraine, which has left Russian supplies at record lows (from 40% in 2021 to 8 % according to recent calculations).

This was pointed out by the Turkish President, which is the country that receives and exports Azerbaijani gas that passes through Georgia. While European and American leaders criticized the Georgian decision, Prime Minister Kobakhidze went to Turkey on Thursday and met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan there. The Turkish leader then delivered an unusually European and Atlantic speech. In the conversation with the Georgian President, he stressed that he would continue to “support Georgia’s efforts for integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions.” He added that Ankara would also continue to “oppose any action that threatens peace, stability and security” in the region.

Hans Gutbrod, now a professor at Iliya University in Tbilisi, explains it this way: “I don’t think Turkey is very happy about destabilizing a country through which its pipelines, and therefore its money, passes.” For this very reason, even “within the government’s Georgian Dream party, there were those who came to express their doubts ahead of its leadership’s decision to push forward the Foreign Agents Law.” Citizenship Protests [georgiana] “It was predictable,” Gutbrod adds, sitting in a café in the Georgian capital.

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It also did not surprise Nino Evgenidze, director of the Center for Economic Policy Research in the Georgian capital and a geopolitical analyst. “Many oil and gas pipelines pass through Georgia, as well as transportation corridors that play an important role in global trade and energy supply,” he explains to this newspaper. “This role has become even more important after the invasion of Ukraine and the economic sanctions and trade restrictions imposed by Moscow. Today, Georgia is the only corridor connecting oil and gas-rich Azerbaijan, the countries of Central Asia, in Europe and in global markets, thus avoiding the control of aggressive geopolitical players.” Such as Russia and Iran.

All this without explaining the projects still in the refrigerator, suggested Rize Topuria, a lecturer at the University of Georgia. Topuria believes Tbilisi could become a fast transit route and attract more foreign companies through deals involving the European Union and China. He adds: “For this reason, Brussels offered it (last December) candidate status to join the European Union, and China is actively trying to involve Georgia in its so-called Chinese Silk Road initiative.” So much so that some of these projects succeeded in convincing the Americans, Europeans, and Chinese to agree.

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