The ongoing saga of Israeli-Russian rapprochement has produced an intruiging subplot: the deterioration of Israel’s bond with the Republic of Georgia.Once upon a time, Georgia saw Israel as a model and an inspiration, another small country who had survived a struggle for statehood in the face of overwhelming hostility from its neighbors. Israel, in turn, was happy to send tourists, armaments, and defense contracts.But ever since 2008—when the Israelis began selling arms to Russia at the start of its summer war with Georgia—relations between the Knesset and Tbilisi have become strained.Israel views Russia as a key bulwark against an Iranian bomb and has decided to pursue both economic and political conciliation. This has meant dropping most of the friendly arms sales and contracts to Russia’s tiny but noisy and persistent adversary. Unsurprisingly, Georgia has not appreciated the realpolitik of its former fellow-underdog.Now, Michael Cecire draws attention to Georgia’s drift toward Iran:
Meanwhile, Georgia has been busily cultivating its own ties to Iran, expanding trade, dropping visa requirements and even defending Iran’s right to nuclear energy. To the surprise of many, Georgia also recently insisted on inviting Iranian observers to joint U.S.-Georgian military exercises.Should Georgia’s interests continue to diverge from those of Israel, there is little doubt over which side the U.S. would choose, no matter how much that reality is masked by the rhetoric in Washington regarding Georgia.
Georgia’s geopolitical shuffle is a strange case. We at Via Meadia have been watching for states like Greece and Serbia to drift east as western Europe struggles, as well as for eastern nations to turn west as the U.S. rebalances in Asia. But Georgia seems to be navigating a very unique and tenuous course: between east and west, toward Iran.The Iranian fan club may not the most popular outfit to be joining at the moment, but in these unfamiliar times, some states—especially the smaller ones—will do what it takes to stay afloat. For Georgia, that means courting the nemesis of an old friend.