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Miracles of training: Georgia guesses NATO’s wishes

09.02.2011  |  22:08

13307.jpegSpeaking at an international meeting in Munich Mikheil Saakashvili reiterated Georgia's readiness to send additional military contingent to Afghanistan to help Kabul with the police and economic reforms. The leader of the Caucasian republic still hopes that after some thinking the alliance will admit Georgia with joy. Probably, this slavish obedience will arouse NATO's pity and sense of responsibility. But will Saakashvili pass the NATO admission test? GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed this question with expert Soso Tsiskarishvili.


Mikheil Saakashvili stops short at nothing trying to attract NATO's attention. Afghanistan is a very convenient place to express his love for the bloc. Georgia continues to send battalions of soldiers called to perform their peacekeeping mission in this unquiet region. In Lisbon where NATO summit was held in November 2010, the Georgian leader came forward with a proposal to use his country as a transit point for cargos destined for the Afghan territory. He is also ready to send Georgian military instructors to coach local army.

In an interview with GeorgiaTimes Soso Tsiskarishvili, an expert, explained that involvement of Georgian units in anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan is probably the only instrument to attract NATO.

"There has been no significant progress in pursuit of democracy and economic growth in Georgia. Members of the bloc never miss a chance to praise Georgia's mission to Afghanistan, which certainly sounds reassuring to the country's president who believes that his political future depends on the number of military operations he will organize. He stated in Munich that Georgia is not only a consumer but also a provider of security. These are quite ambitious words for a small country. I don't think these initiatives have been premeditated by the Security Council or other bodies. Saakashvili has repeatedly offered the territory of Georgia for transportation of military cargos to Afghanistan, but his suggestions have always been neglected. This time too he will not be heard".

No doubt, zeal that the Georgian president demonstrates was caused by compliments from NATO admiral Giampaolo Di Paola who visited Krtsanisi training center near Tbilisi in October 2010 to study prospects of Georgia's cooperation with the bloc. The admiral remarked then that the Caucasian republic would definitely be admitted into the alliance but it had to work hard on it. Basically this is what Mikheil Saakashvili does when free from implementation of his liberal reforms.

On February 2 Batumi was hosting a conference on defense and security in Georgia attended by most important and indispensible people - representatives of NATO headquarters, accredited diplomatic corps, international and local organizations as well as officials of Georgia's defense ministry and General Staff. The agenda was the same: global security issues and NATO's ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

"Here we deal with increased effort and our more active involvement. This is not military, civil, economic or any other cooperation. The initiative was presented by the country leader with details to be discussed separately. At this stage it's impossible to have a definite reply", - Georgian deputy defense minister David Jalagania said afterwards.

Some experts evaluate Georgia's pains as positive. They are sure that active moves on the Afghan issue might serve as the key to help official Tbilisi open the alliance doors. On one hand this mission will allow Georgian troops to enhance their professional level in field conditions and on the other hand Georgia will have more chances to be integrated into NATO taking part in the most large-scale peacekeeping operation.

The idea looks logical recalling Saint-Exupery's words: "We are responsible, forever, for what we have tamed". Even if the alliance did not want this obsessive loyalty from Tbilisi, it's too late to back-pedal. Georgian leaders have provided so much gratuitous help to the alliance that the bloc just can't leave the favor unanswered.

However, Tsiskarishvili's outlook is not optimistic. He is skeptical about the idea to use Georgia as a transit territory for the alliance's cargos going to Afghanistan. Besides, Georgia's numerous contingent does not guarantee successful result of talks with NATO. And lastly, Western colleagues don't like Mikheil Saakashvili's false democracy he constantly boasts of.

"Polite people work in NATO. They use mellifluous diplomatic terms but reality is different. Mr. Sarkozy made an unambiguous statement in Lisbon that the bloc was not going to import problems of other countries also mentioning Georgia's near-border issues that require resolution before the country knocks on NATO doors. He also called Russia to pull out troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and revoke recognition of these republics. In practice, the alliance handed the keys to the doors that Georgia wants to enter, to Russia. Interpretation is this: if Russia pulls the troops out Georgia will become an alliance member. No pull-out - no membership. As a result, the summit has destroyed Georgia's hopes for NATO membership as long as Russia has the status of "an occupant" to Georgia", - the expert explained.

Only time will show if the war in another country (in Afghanistan - in this case) will help Tbilisi achieve its goal. Still, one thing is clear now: trying to avoid international isolation Mikheil Saakashvili is ready to go to any length. It's all right sacrificing lives of his soldiers in exchange for a nomination without guarantees.

Ilona Raskolnikova

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