Various

Russian and Pro-Russian Actors against Georgia’s Deep Sea Ports and TBC Bank Case

13 March, 2019

Over the past two months, pro-Russian actors have been continuously raising the issue of construction of deep sea ports in Georgia that may be linked to several issues.  

  1. After the Prosecutor’s Office publicly announced on January 9 about the ongoing investigation against TBC Bank, the leading Georgian banking company, the issue of the Anaklia deep sea port project was again put on the agenda. The pro-Russian actors seized the opportunity and raised the issue of ports as the subject of possible confrontation between Georgia and Russia. For example, Sakinformi wrote on January 21, 2019 that the Anaklia deep sea port being built by TBC Bank and its founder, Mamuka Khazaradze, may be used by the United States as its military base.
  2. Another important development that was strongly criticized by Russia’s pro-governmental media is related to the port call made by the U.S. Navy ship in Batumi on January 21. Almost a month later, on February 19, the same ship again approached the Black Sea, triggering concerns from Russian militaries and Kremlin media. Their threats and messages, according to which the United States was fueling up tensions in the Black Sea region that was unacceptable for Russia, were soon echoed by Kremlin’s Georgian-language satellite media outlets ( Sakinformi, Obieqtivi).
  3. A threat made by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin against Georgia on February 28, 2019 that increased number of messages voiced by Georgian politicians on NATO membership might increase problems in future is just related to a new wave of such messages.

Grigory Karasin: “They are talking about accelerating membership to NATO, so called “Russian threat to European democracy” and so on… It is clear that if NATO military activities intensify in the South Caucasus, sooner or later, it will cause problems. We all remember how Ukraine’s problems began and the situation will be the same now.”

In response to Karasin’s threats, Nino Burjanadze, leader of the pro-Russian Democratic Movement party said in the interview with Rustavi 2 TV on March 3 that the construction of the Anaklia deep sea port will be unacceptable for Russia, because the port will have the infrastructure necessary for the entry of American submarines.

Who frightens us and how with the deep sea port projects in Georgia?

Over the past two months, the issue of the Poti and Anaklia deep sea ports was most frequently raised by Arno Khidirbegishvili, chief editor of pro-Russian news agency Sakinformi. The issue was also covered by Obieqtivi TV for several times and besides the program host, Nino Ratishvili, the deep sea ports were denounced as “the U.S. project” and “a threat” by the guests of the program, among them Mamuka Areshidze, political analyst, Guram Nikolaishvili, Georgian retired general, and Nana Devdariani, head of the Global Research Center.

The following messages were voiced against the Anaklia and Poti deep sea ports:

  • The Anaklia and Poti ports are unacceptable for Russia and it will not allow their construction

Nino Burjanadze, Democratic Movement – United Georgia, February 28: “I do not think that Russia will demand it. There may be some talks about not using the Anaklia port by submarines and naval ships of the non-Black Sea states. That will be an absolutely fair and logical demand on their part.”

Nino Burjanadze: “The Sea near Anaklia is extremely deep and it enables the entry of submarines into the port in case of building appropriate infrastructure. Naturally, if Russia doubts that this port may be used for NATO or American submarines, it will be absolutely unacceptable for Russia and the country will not allow it.”

Asaval-Dasavali, March 4-10
Lado Sadgobelashvili: “The construction of Anaklia port will be equal to Georgia’s accession to NATO and Moscow will not allow it.”

Nino Ratishvili, Obieqtivi TV, February 26: “NATO – a threat or security and Anaklia – a threat of security, I wonder?”

Nana Devdariani, Global Research Center, February 26: “In order for NATO to use the Anaklia port, it should first have to reach it and it will never be allowed to reach it in the current situation. God save us from such open confrontation in the Black Sea. No matter whether Anaklia will be built or not, we will get punched in the neck.”

  • Anaklia and Poti ports are actually designed for U.S. and NATO military bases

Arno Khidirbegishvili, Sakinformi, February 19: “The Black Sea security: why does Georgia need three deep sea ports if not for the U.S. and NATO navies?”

Arno Khidirbegishvili, Sakinformi, February 21: “As known, [former PM Giorgi] Kvirikashvili incorporated Khazaradze’s TBC Bank into the Georgian-American Consortium, which is building the Anaklia deep sea port, after completion of which it may become a regional hub for maritime transportation, the most expensive business facility in Georgia, which may be used by the United States as a naval base, including for its submarines.”

  • From economic point of view, Georgia does not need deep sea ports; they only have military-political importance.

Mamuka Areshidze, expert, February 26, Obieqtivi TV: “The Anaklia port… is more important from political rather than economic point of view. A lot of things are quite obscure. First, a small country like Georgia does not need two large ports… Transformation of the Poti Port into a deep sea port is associated with large expenses.”

Arno Khidirbegishvili, Sakinformi, February 19: “Will there be three Black Sea deep sea ports in Georgia located some tens of kilometers away from each other? And what is most important – will the attracted freights be enough to ensure profitable operation of not one or two, but three deep sea ports? There is no clear answer to this question so far.”

Real facts about Anaklia and Poti deep sea ports:

  • The construction of deep sea ports in Anaklia and Poti aims at increasing freight turnover and the both are economic projects. These projects are commercial and none of them is a military project. They are being implemented by logistic and freight transportation companies.
  • Deep sea ports are very important in terms of Georgia’s transit function, as they connect European and Asian continents and help the country increase its transport, financial, industrial or tourist potential. Moreover, Georgia is the only country in the Black Sea region, which does not have a deep sea port that significantly hampers the use of transit potential by the country.
  • There is no ground for the deployment of NATO and U.S. navies in Georgia. A naval base created for the U.S. Navy should meet various technical criteria and the construction of such base for the U.S. Navy should be based on an interstate agreement. There is no such agreement between the two countries. Moreover, the alliance has no military bases on the territories of non-member states.

Prepared by Ana Chitaladze and Sopho Gelava