George Katcharava - Liberal approaches in international relations are fading in the past and realism prevailed, meaning, Huntington wins over Fukuyama

The ongoing processes in the Middle East are likely to further evolve, thus how these processes will affect or are connected to the South Caucasus, Interpressnews spoke with George Katcharava, International Security and International Relations Specialist.

- Mr. Katcharava, after Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization, attacked the State of Israel on October 7 and launched a brutal operation in Israel's peaceful cities and villages, more than 15 days have passed.

There are various reports and views on the developments in the Middle East. How would you assess the current situation that we are witnessing in the Middle East after October 7? What are the political and cultural aspects of what is happening and what are the external as well as internal factors of all these?

- First of all, we are dealing with the greatest tragedy that has claimed the lives of many civilians, and unfortunately it seems the sacrifices made to this day are not final. What is now happening in Israel and Gaza strip is a consequence of an unprecedented terrorist attack that is designed and executed possibly with an aim to explode the stability of the Middle East region and the existing fragile equilibrium. Partly this was achieved, as the old dividing lines reappeared, and the prospect of deepening and aggravating the situation as a whole became ever so real.

You have rightly noted that all these have political and cultural basis. Internal factors are likely to imply the recent political crisis in Israel itself that has led to the split within the country's political elite and general public. Such processes naturally affect all functional areas of the state, and the field of security has not been exceptional.

As for external factors, of course we have to refer to the partial degradation of the global security architecture in general, which creates fertile ground for various state and non-state actors for such unprecedented actions.

As we are witnessing, combination of the mentioned factors, that are followed with a large-scale terrorist actions, in turn, can seriously aggravate the situation in such a sensitive area, as the Middle East, with a real possibility of a spillover effect to drag neighboring countries of a wider region.

- America and Europe declared solidarity with the State of Israel. U.S. Navy forces are deployed close to the Israeli coast and seem to play a deterrent role to keep Iran from openly engaging in this fight. European leaders, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, visited Israel.

US President Joe Biden stated - "The US will not allow the victory of Hamas and Putin." Moreover, the U.S. President requested USD 61 billion and USD 14 billion from the Congress to provide assistance to Ukraine and Israel.

One can assume that Hamas is backed by Russia and Iran, and Washington took on the challenge.

In the current situation, how would you assess the involvement of the US and the collective West in the ongoing processes in the Middle East? Do current developments in the Middle East represent prerequisite for a big regional war?

- After the October 7 terrorist attack, despite intense air and artillery strikes delivered against Hamas terrorists located in the Gaza strip, Israel's actions can be assessed as highly measured. Such a conclusion is primarily stipulated by the fact that Israeli Defense Forces still did not launched ground offensive operation that most probably will cause much more civilian casualties.

As for the US reaction, as you know, there are a number of agreements between Israel and the US in terms of security and military assistance and cooperation. Therefore, America's immediate reaction to the events unfolding in the Middle East should not be surprising to anyone.

However, in addition to the rapid weapon and munition delivery, the U.S. deployed two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, accompanied by a large group of warships, representing US military might deployed in the region. This powerful military maritime group really has a deterrent function to prevent the conflict from spreading to other fronts, and at the same time prevent military involvement of the “third party.”

This is certainly a formidable force that includes hundreds of modern fighters and several thousand Marines. Moreover, the U.S. Navy capabilities, deployed in this region of the Mediterranean, has the ability to launch up to 400 Tomahawk-type cruise missiles simultaneously, which can have devastating effect to anyone in the region and beyond.

Thus, the US forces deployed currently in the eastern Mediterranean serve the purpose of preventing large-scale warfare, and we must hope that any force that acknowledging such strength will not dare to think about deepening, expanding and escalating the conflict.

- While the US president and European leaders explicitly condemn the Hamas actions against the State of Israel, the so-called leftist and far-right forces that hold rallies and demonstrations supporting Palestinians are underway in many European countries.

It happens in the light of the fact that these forces have never protested against what Russia has been doing in Ukraine since February 24th, 2022. By this I refer to the bombing of peaceful cities and the death of Ukrainian children killed in Russian shelling.

How would you assess the political situation amid the ongoing processes in Ukraine and Israel?

- The world has entered a very turbulent period, and naturally there are a differences in opinions on the ways in which events should unfold. The current situation indicates that liberal approaches in international relations have been fading in the past for some time and realism has prevailed. So, Huntington wins over Fukuyama.

Many people say that we are dealing with the end of unipolar world and we are facing multipolarity. There is also the notion that Western civilization and US in particular have been reduced its influence on the international arena and other actors have been strengthened especially from a regional perspective. All of these opinions have a right to exist, and it's good to have an active discussion on this.

However, in my opinion, we do not face the establishment of a multipolar world order at this point, and this is a rather vague perspective. The international system is definitely experiencing a change that, in my deepest belief, is in a transitional trajectory, after the end of the "Cold War" and disappearance of a second superpower.

What we are having at the moment is more of a transformation from the bipolar world to a new formation, where the West and the US represent one powerful, well-established and organized pole, although it is confronting a chaotic situation where there is no other real and independent power center, and in the current reality it is still unclear which force can offer any seriously competitive system to other large or relatively small actors, often called regional states.

Such a situation, of course, has its reasons. First of all, it refers to the unconditional leadership of the West and primarily the US in all important areas, such as military strength, economic power, technological innovation and capital.

Taking into account these key factors, all other actors in one way or the another depend on the Western unified center of gravity. This, naturally leads to the unconditional leadership of the West in the international arena. However, at this point, we are witnessing how the West as such has to prove and defend its superiority, whether in connection to the events of the Middle East or Ukraine, for the sake of global stability.

That is why, despite the difficult processes that we observe within the United States Congress, in the wake of the steps taken by President Biden's administration, we can conclude that the USD 100 billion unified assistance package to be allocated in order to strengthen the security of Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan is an open manifestation of what the Western world is ready for today, to stop the chaos that actually threatens global security and established international order.

- In the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine and Israel, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev first raised the flag of Azerbaijan in the former Nagorno-Karabakh capital Khankendi, formerly Stephanakert, and now states that if Armenia does not accept the terms of Baku regarding the Zangezur corridor, Azerbaijan will forcefully occupy the Zangezur corridor connecting Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The position of the official Armenia on this topic is as follows - Yerevan is ready for Azerbaijan to use the Zangezur corridor, but the Zangezur corridor is the territory of Armenia. The fact is that Armenia made a choice in favor of peace in the Azerbaijani-Armenia confrontation. Moreover, it says that by the end of the year, Armenia will sign a peace agreement with Azerbaijan.

But, we see that Azerbaijan is expressing a strong interest in the Zangezur corridor. In light of what is now happening in Ukraine and Armenia, how is the likelihood that another major conflict in the South Caucasus, this time due to the Zangezur corridor?

- I deeply believe that the expectation of a new large-scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is very much exaggerated. Ilham Aliyev's visit to the territories in Karabakh is a natural visit of the head of State. After the self-abolishment of the separatist structures of Karabakh, there is a feeling that peace can be established in this region.

Of course, problems will remain between the two countries, and this concerns the prospect of the return of the Armenian population, which sooner or later will have to be discussed, as well as the issue of delimitation and demarcation of borders and the opening of transport communications passing through the southern provinces of Armenia.

All of these, I'm sure, should be part of the peace treaty that you mentioned. Especially since both parties practically declared that they have reached consent on basic parameters and principles of the proposed agreement.

This does not mean completely eliminating all existing problems, although it is also clear that there is no basis for open and large-scale hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia today, in my opinion, as we have seen an open space for substantial negotiations leading the parties towards signing the peace treaty.

- The current situation on the Ukrainian fronts indicates that the United States and Europe did not abandon Ukraine after the war against the State of Israel. I have in mind that Kyiv has already received American "ATACMS" and it is said that they will soon receive F-16 fighter jets.

Moreover, the US and the European Union are reviewing possibility to allow Kiev to transfer the profits of Russian private companies.

Kazakhstan banned the export of goods used in the war by Russia. It is positive that the exports of goods used in the war are not exported from Georgia to Russia.

According to Russian propaganda, Russia receives weapons from North Korea. This seems to be true, as it would be otherwise unclear whether Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's call to travel to North Korea would be unclear.

As the presidential election in Russia approaches, Russian propaganda is increasingly talking about the fact that Vladimir Putin will win the 2024 presidential election, while those who do not vote for him "must be subjected to destruction."

It seems that the situation in Russia's domestic politics will be exacerbated in the face of the war in Ukraine. No serious changes are expected in Russia's political life, but how would you assess what is now happening in Russia's domestic politics amid the war in Ukraine?

- It is already clear to many that the war in Ukraine is not a story of stand-alone aggression that Russia has organized in a neighboring country. We all should look back and remember ultimatum declared against the Western world at the end of 2021, as well as the aggression against Georgia, the war of Ukraine, the direct annexation of its territories, the creeping ongoing occupation of Georgia, attempts to absorb the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia in various forms and shapes, should be combined, thought through and put in one context.

This context implies the creation of something new on the territory of the former Soviet Union, with its internal mechanisms and structure. This structure, it seems, should not repeat the Soviet Union itself, first and foremost ideologically, rather create and later cement the so-called "new reality" that is only acceptable to Russia. In my opinion, this is what drives all the processes in Russia and around it today. This is especially true for countries neighboring Russia, which are institutionally still closely related to the Russian Federation.

The situation on the Ukrainian front, of course, corrects all efforts towards the “area in question” with regard to the existing plans. But, it should also be noted that Russia's huge state machinery that was launched to achieve these goals still continues to operate its way.

In addition to Ukraine, this is reflected in the example of the processes developed in the occupied territories of Georgia. This becomes obvious, when observing intensified contacts of the representatives of de-facto, unlawful authorities of the so-called Abkhazia and mutual visits to the relevant state agencies and officials of the Russian Federation.

Aslan Bzhania recently visited President Putin, where many issues were discussed that related to economic as well as military and security spheres. These processes are reflected in Russia's internal political discourse and the occupied territories of Georgia are represented as an integral part of this vast space with constant pretext of being allies in the ongoing struggle...

Interestingly, when talking about events in the Middle East and earlier in Ukraine, we should make no mistake, the separatist regions are carrying out sharp anti-Western rhetoric and actions.

For example, the so-called "official" military units of Abkhazia, as well as the fighters from the so-called South Ossetia, are actively participating in the war against Ukraine on a rotation basis.

It should be also noted that in the Israeli-Hamas confrontation, the unlawful separatist authorities of Abkhazia openly support the terrorist organization and hence, logically, the crimes committed by Hamas.

I would also like to remind you that the August 2008, when after Russia’s recognition of the "independence" of Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia, the two terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah simultaneously and openly recognized the "independence" of these two occupied territories of Georgia.

Interestingly, in the case of heightened tensions in the Middle East, and based on the experience regarding Ukraine, as well as the close ties between the illegal authorities of Abkhazia and the Assad regime in Syria, in addition to “brotherly relations” with the terrorist organizations operating in the region, should we expect the appearance of Abkhaz fighters among the ranks of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups?

Given the current situation, and in the wake of active military preparations that has been intensified and is still underway for the last several months in the occupied territory of Abkhazia, nothing can be excluded.


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