NATO in no hurry to admit Georgia
“Despite the difficult situation we expect Georgia to firmly stay on the course of democracy and reform. Dedication to these fundamental values remains essential for Georgia on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration,” Jaap de Hoop Scheffer noted.
In NATO’s first ever session in Tbilisi, 26 envoys have gathered at a session in Georgia's capital. Assessing reconstruction needs after the recent hostilities is said to be one of the main goal of the visit.
NATO has been Georgia’s dream. From the moment Mikhail Saakashvili was put in power becoming part of the military alliance has stayed at the top of his Presidential agenda. He has repeatedly stated that “the most important for Georgia is to remain unprovoked”, and NATO membership is a tool for this.
NATO’s movements eastward, though, are provoking: Russia sees it as a threat to its national security. Many former Soviet states have become members. The latest NATO expansion saw Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania become part of the alliance in 2004. Since then preparations for Ukraine and Georgia to join have become more serious and more of a concern for Russia.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov has repeatedly voiced his country’s attitude towards NATO expansion: Moscow sees no real grounds for that and views the move as an infringement of European security, and a violation of obligations within the Russia-NATO Council.
Adding to Russia’s fear that most of its western border is becoming mainly NATO countries is Georgia’s close alliance with the U.S. and the rapid build-up and westernisation of its army under Saakashvili.
Back in 2007 Saakashvili said proudly that Georgian armed forces “were the first in the post-Soviet space to acquire Western weapons and adopt Western standards at such a pace. I couldn't even imagine that we would be able to do it, but we did it and we all do much more”.
In April NATO officially supported the membership applications of Ukraine and Georgia.
But if Georgia was part of the Alliance when they attacked South Ossetia in August of this year and Russia took military action to protect the republic, according to NATO’s rules, the alliance would have had to step in.
During the summer conflict, NATO condemned Russia but made it clear that Georgia was in it alone. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said then that “NATO is not seeking a military role in this in this conflict”.
Saakashvili is now trying to take advantage of the recent conflict to speed up Georgia’s NATO accession, warning the alliance against Russia.
“If NATO sends a sign of weakness, and clearly this invasion was intended to deter, to scare NATO away, if NATO gets scared away, then this will be a never-ending story,” he said.
A review of Georgia’s request for a road map to membership is scheduled for December. Many Georgians believe their country will gain from being part of the alliance.