May 28, 2010
During a visit to the region lasting from May 1 to May 9, a delegation of JINSA officers and members of the Board of Directors engaged in dialogue with officials of the governments of Ukraine and Georgia. In both Kiev and Tbilisi, meetings with senior representatives of the Defense and Foreign Ministries were held. Furthermore, the JINSA group conferred with U.S. Embassy officials in each country. A fuller report will be published on the JINSA web site.
Key issues of discussion in both countries were markedly different and the JINSA delegation emerged with a better understanding of the the effective role the organization can play in furthering bilateral relations with both. Not surprisingly, Russia figured heavily in any discussion in both capitals.
In Ukraine, the country's future, especially its economic and political independence, rests on a carefully calibrated policy toward Russia. Kiev's challenge is to reduce official corruption and to more fully define a vision for its future so that potential partners in Europe and North America can work more closely to achieve mutually held goals. In the short term, issues such as Ukraine joining the EU or NATO, which are bitterly opposed by Russia, can be substituted by a range of lesser, but no less important, mechanisms and compacts. Progress in these areas can provide time and space to more fully develop Ukraine's foreign relations.
In Georgia, while the strategic situation is dire, citizens enjoy freedoms engendered by the famous Rose Revolution of 2003 that are unprecedented in countries that emerged from the Soviet empire outside of the Warsaw Pact countries of central Europe. As a result of aggressive wars it launched in 1992 and in 2008, Russia occupies twenty percent of Georgia territory in defiance of international law. Furthermore, Moscow continues to threaten to take over the rest of the country due to the Tbilisi government's expressed desire to move further away from Russian influence and to continue its bold moves toward Western norms, chief among them a desire to eventually become part of the European Union and to join NATO.
Since his first election in 2004 and subsequent reelection in 2008, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has led the implementation of strong anti-corruption laws that have led to a boom in business opportunities. In fact, the World Bank's 2010 “Ease of Doing Business Index” ranks Georgia at number 11 out of 183 countries surveyed putting it above Japan, Germany, South Korea and Sweden. It is a remarkable achievement for a country that 10 years earlier was considered hopelessly corrupt. For comparison's sake, today Russia is ranked 120 and Ukraine is 142.