The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili was to convene the National Security Council in April, but he could only find time yesterday, June 23. By law, the council is required to discuss ongoing events of the country once every three months, although it was summoned 8 months late after October 2020 i.e. two sessions were omitted.
The Security Council is the deliberative body of the Prime Minister, which is responsible for our national security and the management of crisis situations. And we cannot complain about the number of crisis situations at all.
The council has eight permanent members, including the Prime Minister. Other permanent members include the Ministers of the Interior, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Finance, the Heads of State Security and Intelligence, and the Commander-in-Chief.
The Security Council ought to look into the dangers posed against the national interests, whether it is related to terrorism, ethnic or religious minorities, the occupation zone, information security, disasters, and more. It should identify possible scenarios of events, assess the risks, threats and submit recommendations to the Prime Minister for the prevention of these threats.
However, Batu Kutelia, the director of the Atlantic Council in Georgia, believes that the Security Council does not really exist because no political decisions are made there: “In times of crisis, a political decision is to be made first, and this was clear in the hacking of government websites and in Gareji case. No one is responsible, they point fingers at each other and are in the mode of responding. The country is not governed by institutions. They do not trust institutions. This is the problem with informal governance. “Ivanishvili’s regime does not need a council, it is a system on paper, for telling the foreigners that we have this body.”
The existence of the Council is not guaranteed by the Constitution and its abolishment is simple legal procedure.
“The council does not exist constitutionally. It is a legally created body, the existence of which depends on their mood. It is very weak in essence and is the deliberative body of the Prime Minister and nothing more. This is a bit absurd, the Prime Minister already has this body, it is called the government, and these people are already included there,” said Tina Khidasheli, a former Defense Minister and chairman of the NGO Civic IDEA.
It is up to the Security Council to manage the pandemic, but for some reason, the then Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, set up a new interagency coordination council to fight the covid-19 pandemic in February 2020, under his own leadership.
Neither the pandemic nor other events, such as the relocation of the occupation line by Russia, the Gareji issue, the events of June 20, the mass cyberattack on government websites, received proper attention from the Council.
Lasha Dzebisashvili, co-founder of the Georgian Center for Strategic Studies and an associate professor at the University of Georgia, recalls that the creation of a Security Council was criticized among field experts. “The Security Council is more of a salary body. Because it is an advisory body in which people work in different directions, like natural disasters or so on. They have no function, they work on open sources or they might receive a report from different agencies once a week or once a month, ” – said Dzebisashvili.
Amidst these assessments of the security experts, the Council’s budget is still growing. This year, their upkeeping will cost the budget 2.7 million GEL.
The council was formed in 2019 and was convened six times since. The first session was held by Mamuka Bakhtadze, the rest by Giorgi Gakharia. The first and second meetings were held in May and November 2019, where council members received some assignments and discussed security challenges in the country. The next two sessions were held on March 16 and 19, 2020, and discussed the challenges of the pandemic. The next meeting was held in October 2020, regarding the next military confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia. And then they gathered only yesterday. However, Gakharia was to have one meeting and Irakli Garibashvili one.
The Council has not discussed the controversy in Dmanisi in the recent past. They have not analyzed its causes, nor have they discussed ways of prevention. The story of the relocation of the occupation line in Chorchana did not become the subject of the Council’s interest either.
Lasha Dzebisashvili thinks that the country needs prior readiness to avoid the threat of Chorchana. “You don’t know at that moment that any tension will remain a limited tension if it means war is about to break out.”
Batu Kutelia believes that the inaction of the Council and the Government on the issues of occupation raises suspicions among the people that the state is not functioning, which is the main task of the Russian hybrid war – the public no longer believes in the state. Georgia’s strategy towards the occupied territories has not been updated since 2010.
We could only study the activities of the Security Council through its Facebook page. The website was created in January 2021. We can see the posts about online meetings on Facebook, which were mainly about meeting with delegations from different countries, discussing the reforms to be carried out in the field of cybersecurity. From time to time, they also talk about hybrid warfare. Periodically, they have meetings to update the National Security Concept document. However, we do not have a new version of the document so far. The latest version is dated 2011.
The “National Security Concept” expired in 2018. The country should not be left without a document of the national security concept. This document is intended to operate in exactly the same way as the Constitution, the only difference being that normatively it is all spelled out in the Constitution and strategically in the national security concept. “- says Tina Khidasheli.
The threat assessment document is also expired, where the threats facing Georgia are identified, whet it is military, foreign or domestic political, socio-economic, and others. Also, possible scenarios for their realization and analysis of the results. We are promised that it will be renewed.
According to Lasha Dzebisashvili, other strategic documents are also to be approved, such as the National Military Strategy, the Cyber Security Document, the Hybrid Threat Response Strategy, the Information Warfare, and the Strategic Communications Strategy.
We have 13 such documents in total. Only one of them, Georgia’s foreign policy strategy, is valid until 2022. The rest were written before the Security Council was formed and thus, they are expired.
The administration of the Security Council refused to give us any kind of an interview, nor did they agree to a meeting, telephone, or written communication. We were going to ask them when these strategic documents will be updated, which is important for the security of the country.