As the world looks to Sochi and the 2014 Olympic Games, the Fletcher community gathered for a timely discussion on regional geopolitics and the outlook for former Soviet countries, including the current crisis in Ukraine.
Speaking to an audience of faculty, staff and students at The Fletcher School’s ASEAN Auditorium on January 28, 2014, the former President of the Republic of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili gave remarks in his new role as Senior Statesman at The Fletcher School. In conjunction with his inaugural lecture, “A Region at a Crossroads: The Challenges to Democracy and Western Integration in Eastern Europe,” the former President also joined Fletcher’s dean, Admiral James Stavridis, for a one-on-one interview about regional geopolitics and diplomacy in the 21st century.
Drawing on his experiences in Georgia—first as the leader of the bloodless “Rose Revolution” that ousted his predecessor, President Eduard Shevardnadze, and later as the youngest national president elected in Europe—Saakashvili described the the impressive list of accomplishments his country has witnessed through sweeping reformation in recent years. Among them are: the lowest corruption rate in Europe, the lowest crime rate in Europe, and a top ten business climate in the world according to The World Bank.
According to Saakashvili, these benchmarks make the small former Soviet country an inspiration for the entire region. “These are all compelling examples. All the other nations started to think the same way: If they could make it, why we cannot make it?”
Speaking about the current crisis in the Ukraine, Saakashvili described the situation as a “very captivating, historic process indeed … people are there not just for the individual leaders or parties, basically I think they don’t care about them too much.” He continued, “They think they should be a part of the European Union… In that way, it’s the first geopolitical revolution of the 21st century.”
Saakashvili went on to discuss the decline of the ruling elites in democratized countries, as social tools give voice and power to average individuals. “You have democracy that is daily democracy, through Facebook, so it makes politicians so much more miserable because they have to fight for daily survival.”
“I’ve known a number of foreign ministers who are good friends who do most of their diplomacy with Twitter. That’s much more power than whatever we get at places like Davos, where you sit behind closed doors with somebody and talk to them.”
President Saakasvhili was named Senior Statesman at The Fletcher School for the spring 2014 semester. The role is intended to give students and faculty the opportunity to interact with internationally-known leaders and practitioners. In addition to President Saakashvili, the School will be joined this spring by Dr. Mowaffak Baker al Rubaie (Senior Statesman in Residence), and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei (Nobel-Laureate-in-Residence) will join the school in fall 2014.