What can Georgia expect from the US under President Trump?

On one hand US Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Georgia, on the other hand we have quite unpredictable Donald Trump in the White House. What would you say Georgia could expect from the US, do you think Georgia should somehow change, adjust its policies towards the US (the West)? Read few comments.

Exercise Noble Partner: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks before a crowd of U.S. Soldiers and Georgian soldiers. Credit: http://www.eur.army.mil, Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Konrad Zasztowt, Lecturer, Department of European Islam Studies, University of Warsaw

In my opinion, for Georgians as well as for Ukrainians most important question was whether the new US president’s administration will be ready for a “big deal” with Russia. Obviously Putin was hoping for such a big deal, Russian offer for the West should be help in solving Middle Eastern issues, first of all, annihilation of ISIS, Russia’s gain should be at least acceptance by the US of Russian annexation of Crimea and turning blind eye by the West on Donbas as well as occupied territories of Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These Russia’s expectations were ignored by the White House. The fact that president Trump has so many internal problems related to Russian interference in the US politics last year is also pushing him towards more assertive policies in case of Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia. At least due to the fact, Trump wants to show himself as independent from Russian influence. To sum up, Georgia never had and still doesn’t have any security guarantees from the US, but after Crimea and Donbass (unlike after August 2008 war in Georgia) Russia already knows the price it has to pay for aggressive policies in Post-Soviet area. The US Congress is perceiving Russia’s actions in Ukraine as similar to Russia’s actions in Georgia, so any aggressive Russian policies towards Russia will be not only closely watched but also will meet with American response.

Florent ParmentierAdjunct Professor in Sciences Po, Director of EurAsia Prospective

The American President has been weakened by recent scandals and press campaign. Paradoxically, his main weakness is also an asset: the anti-establishment movement is quite strong now in many States in the USA. The political mood is divided between an anti-Russian bias in Washington and a somehow more pro-Putin (as a White nationalist) movement in the region. The contradiction remains and may last until the Presidency. Grassroots nationalist movements are still dedicated to the President.

So far however, the establishment has marginalized the President, which now is in a position of leading an unclear foreign policy; still claiming to cooperate with Russia, and imposing sanctions on Russia. In this context, Georgia should trust Mike Pence, unless a big change prevails (for instance, a breakthrough in the relations with Russia on North Korea, Syria or another international stake).

Neil MacFarlane, Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Relations, Oxford University

As you say, the Trump administration is somewhat unpredictable. So it is hard to say what we should expect.

As for me, two issues are relevant. One is the Trump administration’s intentions on cutting the foreign assistance budget. If that happens, Georgia, like other aid recipients, will face reduction in assistance. That is not too serious.

On the defence and security side, I think we can say that the Trump romance with the Russians is over, not least because the Russians understand Trump can’t deliver a reset.

On Georgia specifically, Mr. Pence declared that the US viewed Georgia as a partner, and reaffirmed the US commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity and to Georgia’s bid for NATO membership. Same as GW Bush and also the Obama administration.

On whether Georgia should change its policy “towards the US (the West)”, whether or not they should, I don’t think they will. The political elite is deeply supportive of Georgia’s westward orientation. So is the general public. Changing course would be potentially suicidal for the incumbent government.

Also, what would the adjustment be? There is no obvious alternative other than a deal with Russia. But it is not clear what that deal might be. And trying to cut that deal would be very difficult for Georgia’s government, given the record of relations between the two countries.

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