The first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine looms, and reports of the Kremlin preparing a major offensive abound. The war continues to reshape global geopolitics. The Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) reviewed its previous assessments concerning the potential short-term scenarios and offers insights into the possible impact each of them may have on Georgia.
The full version of the scenarios paper is available through the GIP website here. This is the collaborative summary by the Civil.ge team based on the GIP product. We identify the scenarios of the “War of Attrition” and “Conflict (re)frozen” as the most likely in the short-term, although Ukraine’s victory is also probable. Press the scenario title tab to view content.
Under this scenario, the Western countries would continue to revamp their military assistance to Kyiv while the Ukraine military gains the momentum to achieve full de-occupation of its territories (including the Crimean Peninsula).
- Ukraine, already viewed as a de facto member of the alliance, could get fast-track membership in NATO, possibly followed by Moldova. Georgia, whose military is well on its way toward interoperability with the Alliance, may get the chance to fast-track membership.
- Russia’s defeat and retreat from the region will also make Georgia’s European integration irreversible.
- The prospect of a peaceful resolution of the question of Georgia’s territorial integrity becomes realistic.
- Georgia is left behind as the government continues its policy of disassociating with Ukraine and augments departure from the Western camp.
- Regime change in Russia leads to instability in the already volatile North Caucasus, creating a range of migration, security, and economic challenges on the northern border of Georgia.
- Reeling from its defeat in Ukraine, the Kremlin tries to show its citizens success in Georgia and attacks from the occupied provinces.
Likelihood in 1-2 year perspective: Probable
Spring offensives fail to reach breakthroughs for either of the sides, leading to massive casualties and a standstill. Both Russia and Ukraine could reach the point of exhaustion, and public opinion follows. Political shift in the U.S. puts Washington D.C. pushes Ukraine toward compromise.
- A pause in hostilities gives Ukraine an opportunity to restore some of its infrastructure and seek ways to anchor itself into the EU and, possibly, NATO.
- European partners use the opportunity to bolster the defenses of Moldova and Georgia.
- The Georgian government’s cautious stance on Ukraine is vindicated, leading to stronger political cohesion.
- “New reset” with the West: as a package deal, the Kremlin gets the White House to agree on taking NATO membership off the table for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.
- Russia undertakes “silent mobilization” for a new offensive in Ukraine, increasing migration pressures on Georgia.
- Enthusiasm for EU expansion fades in Western Europe.
- Russia leverages Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the fact of shifted stance in the U.S. and the EU, to entice Georgian voters.
- Feeling vindicated in its wartime choices, Tbilisi aligns itself with Moscow.
Likelihood in 1-2 year perspective: Possible
War of Attrition
Similarly to the previous scenario, the two sides are at a relative standstill, but keep their will and capacity to continue combats. Keeping Ukraine in this fight would require continuous significant investment from the European powers and the U.S.
- The war of attrition is a war of resources, this creates some opportunities for Georgia, with both in terms purely economic benefits (higher growth) and also, potentially, political dividends (EU candidacy):
- Its importance as a transit point for Azebaijani (and Central Asian) hydrocarbons and electricity towards Europe grows, anchoring Georgia stronger into Europe politically, which might ease the way towards the EU candidacy.
- Its importance as potential corridor for sanctioned goods and technologies for Russia, as well as illicit trade, also grows, putting pressure on the government.
- Bandwagoning by stealth with Russia will become increasingly untenable, forcing the government to make its choice.
- EU’s leniency on candidacy, caused by economic and geopolitical consideration, may enchaing further drift towards authoritarianism as the ruling party wins 2024 parliamentary elections and consolidates power.
Likelihood in 1-2 year perspective: Very likely
Russia achieves a successful breakthrough in the upcoming major battles. Ukraine is forced to concede, recognizing occupied territories as part of Russia and the end of Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Change of the government in Kyiv following the elections.
- Russia recognizes Tbilisi’s loyalty to the conflict and agrees to a “velvet reincorporation” without violence and escalation.
- Moscow pushes puppet regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali into a confederative alliance with now-docile Tbilisi, perhaps in a broader South Caucasus scheme.
- Georgia’s European perspective fades for good.
- Tbilisi undertakes the pivot towards the Russian sphere of influence, with the Kremlin getting the influence over the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route.
- Potential armed resistance in Georgia, especially if Russia demands Tbilisi to recognize the Russian-occupied territories as independent.
- Repression is followed by the outflow of pro-democracy activists, civil society, and media professionals, as well as businesses.
Likelihood in 1-2 year perspective: Unlikely
After a successful counteroffensive, Ukraine starts military operations to free the Crimean peninsula. Successful attacks on Crimea and/or deeper into Russia lead to hardline criticism of Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin escalates by armed strikes on NATO members (Poland, Baltic states) or uses a nuclear charge in Ukraine, triggering Article 5 response.
- Georgia’s geopolitical importance grows as Black Sea region gains strategic significance, and as its location on the East-West trade route becomes important for accessing hydrocarbons.
- Europe-wide conflagration presents existential risks to Georgia, as its growing importance is also attracting the attention of the belligerents. Russia, though its presence in occupied regions, is better pre-positioned to exploit its advantage.
Likelihood in 1-2 year perspective: Highly unlikely.