Georgia has been a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PFP) since 1994 and since 1999 in the Council of Europe and seeks NATO membership with pronounced opposition from the Russian Federation. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that GEO stands for Georgia.
The defense, based on general military duty with 18 months of first service, was reorganized during the 00s and consists (2013) of 20,650 men in an army of 17,750 men with 2 brigades and an air force of 1,300 men with 12 fighter aircraft and 6 attack helicopters. The material is semi-modern and mainly from the Soviet era. The former navy merged in 2009 with the Coast Guard. Semi-military security forces amount to 11,700 men.
In the early 1990s, Georgia effectively lost control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, protected by Russian peacekeeping forces. In August 2008, a brief war was fought over South Ossetia, with large Russian allies penetrating Georgia. Following ceasefire agreements, the Russian bandages were withdrawn from Georgia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia proclaimed themselves sovereign states (which did not receive general international recognition) and at the same time invited the Russian Federation to establish permanent bases. The Russian Federation is estimated to have about 7,000 men in Abkhazia (2013), while the Abkhazian army amounts to about 3,000 men. South Ossetia’s army amounts to about 2,500 men.
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Georgia participates in the UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan (ISAF). Defense costs decreased in 1996-2012 from 3.4 percent to 2.9 percent of GDP (see State Condition and Policy).
In 2009, Georgia sent 1,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight NATO forces. By 2011, the country had lost 10 soldiers and wounded 38.
In July 2010, Georgian investigative journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze was granted political asylum in Switzerland following threats from the Georgian authorities.
Unemployment in Georgia is the highest in the former Soviet republics. In cities it is 26-30% and in Tblisi 40-50%. In 2009, GDP also fell by 4.9% due to the 2008 war and the global economic crisis. This exposes the Saakashvili regime to a constant high social pressure.
In October 2010, the Constitution was amended on a number of key points. It was a shift in power from president to prime minister to be elected by parliament after a parliamentary election. At the same time, Parliament would be permanently relocated from Tblisi to the country’s second largest city of Kutaisi. Parliament would be elected on the basis of a combination of constituencies and proportionality to guarantee the representation of the smaller parties in Parliament. The constitutional amendments would be fully implemented following the election of the next president in the fall of 2013.
In May 2011, new demonstrations broke out in Tbilisi demanding Saakashvili’s departure and political reform. On May 26, security forces attacked the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. It put an end to the demonstrations that cost a few kills. In May 2012, new demonstrations were carried out against the president, without any new clashes with the security forces.
In October 2012, the first parliamentary elections were held after the constitutional amendment. In October 2011, multi-billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili made his entrance on the political scene and declared he will form a new party. There was, however, a coalition, Georgia’s Dream, formed in April 2012. There was a rally of 6 quite different political parties, all of which were on the right: conservative, liberal, xenophobic nationalists and former supporters of Saakashvili. The multi-billionaire led the coalition, winning the election by 55.0% of the vote against ENM’s 40.3%. For 6 months up to the election, the regime had otherwise done everything to intimidate the opposition through the media and through violence. In vain. For Saakashvili’s party, there was almost a halving. The two parties were the only ones represented in parliament.
In January 2013, Parliament decided to grant amnesty to 190 political prisoners.
In October 2013, presidential elections were held. Saakashvili was constitutionally barred from participating. Giorgi Margvelashvili from Georgia’s Dream was elected already in the first round with 62.1% of the vote. Saakashvili refused to be present at Margvelashvili’s presidential inauguration. He believed that the new president had shown disrespect to the former president and the ENM. Margvelashvili failed to move into the luxury presidential palace Saakashvili had built in Tbilisi and instead moved into less flashy surroundings in the State Chancellor’s Office. The new president declared that he would work to deepen relations with the EU, but at the same time work to reduce tensions with Russia.
The country’s Muslim population is routinely subjected to persecution and harassment by Christians. Often with police as passive spectators, but sometimes also as active participants. Likewise, LGBT people are subjected to persecution and harassment. Despite international protests, the authorities neither seek to solve the crimes nor prevent them. The Gay Pride parade in Tblisi in May 2014 was attacked by 1,000 thugs who taunted parade participants while police watched passively. 17 were injured.