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NATO and Georgia: dreams and reality30.01.2009 | 09:53
It was over Georgia's intention to join NATO that its relations with Russia were ruined definitively. Which in turn, to a certain extent, brought them to war.
Despite the fact that back in December Tbilisi received a consolatory partnership option rather than an accelerated Membership Action Plan (MAP) for joining the alliance, the topic of NATO and Georgia continues to provoke stormy debates within the international community.
Tbilisi officials are constantly trying to convince their fellow citizens that the country's failure to join the alliance is merely a deferment because of its domestic situation. The former White House administration backed up the Georgian president: the Strategic Partnership Charter signed on 9th January by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze noted that in terms of military cooperation the USA will do everything it can to ensure that Georgia fully meets NATO standards.
Moscow is not concealing its anxiety over this issue. Yesterday, on 28th January, high-ranking Russian diplomats discussed relations between the alliance and Georgia twice.
Despite the slight warming of relations that has become discernible with the alliance (on 26th January an informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council took place, which had halted its work at the organization's initiative during the war in South Ossetia), Russia's ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin once again gave quite a scathing assessment of the situation.
"Before building up strong military cooperation with NATO, Russia hopes to receive an explanation from the alliance regarding its position with respect to Georgia," the newspaper Vzglyad quotes Rogozin, who gave an interview to the newspaper Krasnaya zvezda.
He remarked that following the aggression against South Ossetia, the Georgian leadership's relations with NATO had undoubtedly worsened. "Yet nevertheless, clearly nobody in Brussels intends to reject and refuse to have anything to do with the previous plan. Georgia is important for NATO as something of an outpost in the Southern Caucasus, and nobody is revoking this," says Rogozin.
Part of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's speech yesterday to the Federation Council was also devoted to the Georgia-Russia-NATO triangle. According to his information, ITAR-TASS reports, NATO has given a lot of thought about how to deal with Georgia in the future.
At the same time, Lavrov reiterated that Bush's administration tried to drag Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance by a roundabout way, without resorting to giving them Membership Action Plans.
"I think that most NATO members don't share a desire to recreate these attempts," noted Lavrov. And concluded: "I hope that they won't be guided by artificially created geopolitical plans under the guise of security concerns."
How realistic is this hope? As we know, in May-June this year the "Cooperative Longbow/Cooperative Lancer 2009" NATO military exercises will take place in Georgia for the first time as part of the alliance's "Partnership for peace" programme.
Meanwhile, literally a few days ago Poland's Defence Minister Radosław Sikorski, one of the candidates for the post of NATO Secretary General, said that the organization was absolutely not seeking to expand further, and that the membership of Ukraine and Georgia is "quite a distant prospect".
"At the moment NATO has no desire to take in Ukraine and Georgia. There's only a desire to support them along the path towards reforming themselves. But I am sure that all our institutions - both the EU and NATO - are tired of expansion now," Sikorski told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, as RIA-Novosti reported.
Furthermore, in his opinion, NATO expansion is complicated by the consequences of the financial and economic crises that have erupted throughout the world.
The American political commentator Zbigniew Bzrezinski has a similar point of view, judging by his interview with the Ukrainian publication Dni, reported by the GHN news agency. (Incidentally, Brzezinski once worked as a security advisor to the US president, he is a respected doctor from Tbilisi State University, among other places). "There are serious problems over Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO in the near future," he remarked.
For the time being, Tbilisi is not officially commenting on the alliance's change in attitude towards it. It is a different matter with people outside the regime.
So, the expert on military issues Irakli Sesiashvili informed the GHN agency:
"The statement made by Poland's defence minister about Georgia's limited chance to join NATO does not alarm us, since we already know that there are serious problems. However, it's worth emphasizing that nobody knows how events will unfold. We would never have thought that the United States would sign a partnership charter with Georgia, but an agreement was signed. The question of joining NATO is just as obscure."
The former Georgian foreign minister, now director of the Centre for Strategic Research Irakli Menagarishvili remarked: