Georgia and the Baltic states have a long-standing track record of partnership and kinship that has become even more important following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The ensuing war is still ongoing two months later without a clear resolution in sight.
This Russian aggression has left both Georgia and the Baltic states deeply concerned over the potential for future incursions against their own nations. In such uncertain times, an alliance of like minded countries is more vital than ever before.
The Belt of Freedom and Democracy
The foundation for the current cooperation between the Baltic states and Georgia is derived from their common history as former Soviet Republics. The nations stand strongly opposed to Russian aggression, expansion, and oppression, having suffered acutely from these in the past.
The opposition of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, along with Georgia and Ukraine, against Russia has led to the nations being referred to as a belt of freedom and democracy. These nations separate Russia from both the rest of Europe and Turkey and would be of the highest strategic importance in any large-scale conflict with Russia.
That belt is already under attack at a key point, Ukraine. While there has been a near-universal international outcry against the Russian invasion, the condemnation from Georgia and the Baltic states bears a particular severity and immediacy, given the nature of their continuing alliance.
Official denunciation came immediately following the Russian invasion on February 24th, with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania putting out a joint statement from their foreign ministers. The statement stressed that the aggression against a peaceful neighbor is unacceptable and counter to the principles of democracy. A similar response from the Georgian President called for the halt of military operations and reaffirmed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
Georgia’s History With Russian Aggression
The Georgian people understand the potential impact of Russian aggression all too well after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war that saw hundreds of civilian casualties and over 200,000 displaced from their homes. To this day, the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied by Russia, which has declared them independent territories, although this is not recognized and roundly condemned by the international community.
This occupation set a precedent for further Russian aggression after the international response failed to prevent or remedy the situation. The 2014 annexation of Crimea followed a similar pattern, and many believe that Russia intends to occupy the Eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in the same way it has Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Baltic states showed support for Georgia during its war with Russia, issuing declarations condemning the aggression and calling on the international community to respond. Estonia further stated that the attacks were a prime example of why Georgia and Ukraine should both be included in NATO, a prospect that would have likely avoided Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine.
Freedom of the Press Now More Important Than Ever
The war in Ukraine has drawn further focus onto the importance of the free press. The Baltic states enjoy high levels of freedom of the press. While no nation is without its concerns in this area, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are consistently given high rankings by independent media watchdogs such as Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House. This freedom from censorship makes the Baltic states strong and preserves their ability to resist Russian aggression in the form of propaganda and politics.
The state of media freedom in Georgia is a stark contrast, with notable examples of ruling party rhetoric pushing violent groups towards attacks on journalists. Regulations have been introduced or changed to provide greater authority over independent media, and there have been several cases against independent media that are widely believed to be purely political.
The use of courts as a political tool has escalated with the attempt by the ruling party to silence the private TV station FormulaTV by imposing personal legal pressure on the owner of the channel, Davit Kezerashvili. Similar efforts through the courts saw the ownership of Rustavi 2 forcibly change hands to a new owner with links to the ruling party. The increasing frequency of these events gives the Georgian people reason to be concerned about their access to information from free press sources.
A Continuing Alliance Into an Uncertain Future
The events of the past two months have highlighted how far Russian aggression can go. Other nations within the region must now stand together with solidarity. The Baltic states and Georgia are prime examples of how countries can do so, and their alliance could now be more important than ever, given Russia’s current course of action.