Georgia reaches out to Turkey on energy, US on defense

Georgia has accused Russia of violating its airspace as it discusses ramping up work on a railway project with Turkey and lobbies for the US to store weapons inside its borders. Its Ministry of Defense stated on December 10 that a Russian military helicopter had crossed the border with South Ossetia, calling the incident “provocative.” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week during a visit to Turkmenistan, where the two leaders discussed a variety of issues including the acceleration of implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project. In a visit to Washington last week, Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli requested that the US consider storing weaponry in Georgia in case of an attack by Russia.

The US Army announced a plan to store vehicles and arms in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, and Khidasheli is requesting Georgia also be considered. A Newsweek analysis stated that NATO is not likely to expand to Georgia, as in the event of Russian agression, the country would be too difficult to defend. Former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who now serves as the governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region and was stripped of his citizenship on December 5, said in an interview with RFE/RL that Russian animosity towards Georgia was driven by jealousy over reforms that had benefited the country, reforms including those towards free media that are now under question as Margvelashvili’s purportedly more Russian-leaning regime consolidates power.

In his meeting with Erdogan, Margvelashvili mentioned furthering cooperation between Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the latter three of which have discussed pledging to supply Turkey with energy in case Russia cuts gas supplies over the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey. Erdogan also professed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity, decrying Russian advances into South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia has reportedly recently ramped up advances into the former, using tactics including moving Russian border posts further into the Georgian province. The region is close to a pipeline that carries gas from the Caspian to the Black Sea.

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News Briefs:

  • Reuters published a report citing sources within a Western energy company that while Russia has contracted a Chinese company to help build an energy bridge to Crimea from its mainland, the peninsula is a long way away from full energy security. While Russia’s Ministry of Energy has reported that the bridge will be built by December 20, 2015, the source said that the oversea bridge would take months and costly resources to fully build. Russia has purportedly contracted the Chinese company due to sanctions banning contracts with Western energy companies. Ukraine has restored one of the four power lines downed at the end of November, but Crimea has not yet regained full power, which the source said is still vulnerable to cutoffs again as activists demand concessions from Russia on the rights of minorities inside Crimea.
  • Leaders of Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Turkmenistan broke ground on the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline. The Turkmen and Afghan presidents were joined by Pakistan’s prime minister and India’s vice president for the ceremony in Turkmenistan’s southeast Karakum desert. The pipeline is predicted to hit costs of at least $10 billion, and is hoped to reduce energy deficits in the region. It is slated to carry 33 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Turkmenistan to the India-Pakistan border.
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