It has been twenty five years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of fifteen new countries, and the end to the global struggle between the two nuclear superpowers and their allies. The global march of open societies in the 1990s, the expansion of NATO and the European Union (EU) to include most of the Warsaw Pact nations, the sharp increase in international trade and investment, and the Information Revolution led to an explosion of wealth not seen in human existence since the Neolithic Revolution.
These extraordinary gains in freedom, wealth, and global integration produced their own contradictions: disintegration in some states, the rise of powerful, extremist sub-state entities, and the appearance of revisionist actors. Over the past several years these contradictions have waxed, posing new challenges for the transatlantic community. The great promise of the Arab Spring has been realized only (and not fully) in Tunisia. Elsewhere it has led to state disintegration and civil war. Disorder in the Middle East and North Africa has created a vast refugee flow to Europe, threatening the unity of the EU and perhaps the visa-free arrangements of the Schengen zone.
NATO and the EU face the dangers of a revanchist Kremlin, which has challenged the post-Cold War peace in Europe, first with its war on Georgia in 2008 and, since 2014, its war on Ukraine. Moscow’s ongoing occupation of Georgia, as well as seizure and militarization of Crimea have greatly complicated the security picture in the Black Sea. Moreover since last September, Moscow has demonstrated its out of area capabilities with its intervention in Syria. While designed to protect the weak regime of President Assad, Moscow’s military campaign of concentrated bombing of the Western-supported militias and surrounding civilian population is displacing hundreds of thousands of Syrians and exacerbating Europe’s refugee crisis. The intervention in Syria has also led to new tensions between Turkey and Russia. And in the Far East, the “peaceful rise” of China has been accompanied by an aggressive assertion of maritime rights in waters far from its coasts.
Managing these new challenges is no simple matter, but the solidarity of the transatlantic community and the creative talents and cooperation of its members is central.
It is with this in mind that the Ministry of Defence of Georgia in partnership with the Atlantic Council of the United States will host the tenth annual Georgia Defence and Security Conference May 24-25. Every year, around 300 guests gather at GDSC to discuss the threats and opportunities facing the transatlantic and global community and put forward strategies to tackle such challenges. This year, participants will convene at a strategic moment in advance of NATO’s Warsaw Summit.
GDSC will bring together decision-makers, thought leaders, and civil society representatives to exchange views through interactive and thought-provoking plenary sessions and breakout discussions designed to stimulate original and constructive insights about the greatest challenges facing the international order today. The conference will engage high-level participants in creative and bespoke discussions and constructive debates on wide-ranging security-related issues, with a special focus on the road to the 2016 NATO Warsaw Summit.
The conference agenda will include conversations with Georgia’s highest political leadership and leaders of Georgia’s parliamentary factions. The President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Parliament, and other political leaders will interactively engage with the participants of the conference to address the foreign policy and security challenges facing Georgia and the Black Sea region. These leaders will also elaborate on Georgia’s commitment to deeper Euro-Atlantic integration and the imperative of progress towards this goal.
The conference will spotlight four interactive themes. Day one will be dedicated to NATO, with the special view on the upcoming Warsaw summit. Our discussions will focus on the main items on the Summit agenda. Day two will focus on three themes most relevant to contemporary security challenges: security in the wider Black Sea region as an indispensable part of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture; threats to the international order and its implications for small states; and unconventional dimensions of warfare—wars with neither battlefields nor warriors.
Each main topic will kick off with parallel sessions in which participants will be engaged in open discussions and present their arguments. The positions generated within these separate discussions will later inform conversations among all panelists and moderators of each session in joint mind-clash and wrap-up plenaries. Each theme/session will have a prominent host organization, which will make a significant contribution to organizing the content and layout of discussions.
In addition to various networking and side events, participants are encouraged to join preselected thematic dinners to conclude day one (upon separate invitations). These dinners will set the scene for interactive conversations for the following day. The informal natural of all of these discussions is designed to combine business with pleasure and a heavy touch of Georgian culture.
This year, GDSC falls on the 25th anniversary of the Independence of Georgia so guests are kindly invited to also join the special celebratory events on May 26.