Georgia needs a National Security Council (NSC). Why? Because an NSC is an organ of national government that identifies threats to the national security and plans to protect the national interests of the nation. The first charge of the NSC is to work with the Parliament to identify the national interests. These interests are not just military power, but instead they span the gamut of national goals from defending the nation physically to protecting its heritage, language and religion – all areas that define Georgia as a nation and differentiate it from other nations – items that make it unique.
Many people think of national interests only in terms of military defense. Certainly, that is an important aspect of protecting the nation, but it is not the only aspect, and in the absence of clear and present specific military threats to the nation, military defense is not the most important interest. In Georgia, previous National Security Concepts identify several non-military related interests which, if damaged by an unfriendly power will diminish the security of the nation. Those interests include territorial integrity, democracy, rule of law and stable government, regional stability, economic freedom, protection of the environment, and as mentioned above, preservation of the Georgian language, its history, and the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The Parliament, as representatives of the Georgian people, identifies the national interests of Georgia. The NSC should then examine each of the national interests and identify threats to those interests. The NSC staff should research and plan ways to protect those interests and identify the necessary means – money, personnel and equipment – needed to protect them. Large nations, such as the United States, have national security councils that employ dozens, or even hundreds of researchers, to answer these demanding questions.
The current proposed changes to the Georgian Constitution, as reported, sound very much like the 1977 Soviet Union Constitution, which provided in Article 121, that the Presidium would function as a defense council in wartime. The USSR leaders, however, did not wait for wartime to plan its defenses or its operations; it used many government organizations to perform these functions. This worked because the Soviet Government was large enough to plan for war while conducting it. Georgia does not have that luxury.
The Georgian government is small by comparison to the United States, Russia or the former USSR, and therefore it needs a top-level government body to continuously analyze and evaluate threats to its national interests. Based on the conclusions, and in the absence of a constitutional definition of powers between the President and the Prime Minister, its plan should be reported to the President as the Commander of the Georgian Armed Forces, and to the head of Government, the Prime Minister. Those two are charged with determining how to provide the assets necessary to carry out the planned protection of the Georgian national interests. Again, this is not just the military assets – protecting the national language or religion is not the job of the military – it is the job of all ministries of government who should be working uniformly off one nationally approved plan.
Without a functioning NSC, Georgia will always be in response mode and never able to proactively protect its national interests – and in time of national military crisis, the Georgian government will play ‘catch up’ in organizing to protect its interests, as happened during the 2008 Russian invasion.
Current debates on revising the Georgian Constitution appear to take backward steps that will not protect the nation. As reported, the NSC will be abolished and a Defense Council will be created in wartime – sounds like a reversion to the USSR schema! And who will plan and coordinate the defense of the nation? The military? If so, how and when will the military plan to carry out plans to defend the nation? The military should most effectively function by developing courses of action to carry out an already approved national plan. In wartime the military will not have the luxury to assemble assets, train and deploy troops and fight a war while planning it. It just doesn’t work that way.
The conclusion that I draw is that the Constitution should continue to provide for a National Security Council, and until the President and Prime Minister can resolve their conflicting responsibilities, the NSC should report to the President. The NSC should be developing plans to protect the nation, and the Parliament should provide the needed monies to support the national plan. Bottom line? Georgia needs a National Security Council.
Ronald S. Mangum, Brigadier General (Retired) U.S. Army, commanded at all levels of military command up to the level of Theater Component Special Operations commander. After military retirement, he led a team of senior retired U.S. military officers in the Defense Reform Program at the Ministry of Defense in Georgia from 2005 until 2011. From 2011 to 2013, he served as Chief of Party/County Director for the American Bar Association Rule of Law initiative in Yerevan, Armenia, consulting to the Ministry of Justice. He is currently a professor of National Security Studies at American Military University, Charles Town, West Virginia and a lecturer on national security issues at Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia. He has published numerous articles and frequently lectures at international conferences on Georgia and national security issues.