View of Georgia's capital Tbilisi from the fortress Narikala

Individual leaders and their relationships have great impact on international politics

To understand Georgia's strained geopolitical position, one must be aware of the differences in how various political elites within and outside the country view Georgia. Natia Gamkrelidze has examined these differences in a new dissertation by interviewing 102 individuals in a position of power from the U.S., NATO, the EU, Russia, and Georgia.

Images of Georgia vary between countries as well as over time. And changes in the thoughts and perceptions of internal and external political elites can explain how politics has varied. This is shown in a new dissertation from Linnaeus University by Natia Gamkrelidze.

“My study shows, among other things, that three main images of Georgia have emerged over time from the perspective of the EU and EU leaders: Georgia as a willing partner to the EU, Georgia as a political partner to the EU, and Georgia as a close political and economic partner to the EU”, Gamkrelidze explains.

Perceptions of the political elite over 30 years

In the thesis, Natia Gamkrelidze examined how the perceptions of the political elite about Georgia varied from the country's independence in 1991 to 2020. Previous research, mostly conducted during the Cold War, has been theoretical. Gamkrelidze has instead interviewed 102 presidents, prime ministers, ministers, secretaries-general, and experts on foreign policy from the United States, NATO, the European Union, Russia, and Georgia.

"I want to emphasise the importance of studying the impact that individual leaders have. Leaders' personalities and personal relationships between leaders can have a significant impact on the geopolitical situation", Gamkrelidze continues.

"This must be taken into account when researching relations between countries. Leaders' personalities and friendships can increase the importance of how a country is perceived as the basis for the political elite's decisions. For example, my study reveals how important Eduard Shevardnadze's personality was in influencing the engagement of the United States, NATO, and the EU in Georgia", says Gamkrelidze.

From transit country to pioneering country

Georgians' perception of themselves has also changed over time, as evidenced by Gamkrelidze's thesis.

"The results show how Georgia's self-image has evolved from a transit country to a beacon of freedom and finally to one of the leading countries for the EU's Eastern Partnership", says Gamkrelidze.

As Gamkrelidze's study spans over 30 years, it is a valuable source of data for researchers interested in the foreign policy motivations of the US, NATO, EU, and Russia in relation to Georgia and the South Caucasus region in general, as well as Georgia's own political motivations during this time.

The study can also be used by policymakers in foreign policy to consider how images of other countries are formed and how these images can affect political decisions. By understanding the importance of how images are perceived in decision-making, political leaders can be more strategic in their communication and engagement with other countries.

Learn more

View of Georgia's capital Tbilisi from the fortress Narikala
Images: View of Georgia's capital Tbilisi from the fortress Narikala.