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NATO boss Stoltenberg tells Georgia to ‘prepare for membership’ – influential Russian senator says it’s a ‘signal’ to Moscow

NATO boss Stoltenberg tells Georgia to ‘prepare for membership’ – influential Russian senator says it’s a ‘signal’ to Moscow
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Georgia to prepare to become a member of the US-led military bloc. On Tuesday, the premier of the former Soviet state Giorgi Gakharia was in Brussels to discuss closer cooperation.

Georgia’s effort to join NATO began in 2005, just six years after it left the Russian-dominated CSTO. The integration of the Caucasus nation is seen by NATO leaders as having substantial strategic benefits, including extra Black Sea ports close to Russia. Earlier this year, an agreement between Tblisi and the bloc included joint exercises in the Black Sea and the sharing of more traffic radar data.

“I urge [Georgia] to continue making full use of all the opportunities for coming closer to NATO and to prepare for membership,” Stoltenberg said, in a press conference. “This is important for Georgia, and for NATO."

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The secretary-general also noted that the bloc “supports Georgia’s territorial integrity,” calling on northern neighbor Russia to “end its recognition of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Abkhazia and South Ossetia are two de-facto states, recognized by most of the world as part of Georgia. According to Tbilisi, the two regions are actually occupied by Moscow.

Speaking to RT, veteran Russian senator Aleksey Pushkov said that the potential induction of Georgia as a member means that NATO sees Russia as its main opponent. Pushkov, a member of the pro-Putin United Russia party, is the former chairman of the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee and is widely considered to be close to the Kremlin.

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“In 2008, Paris and Berlin were against Georgia's accession. But the situation has since changed, and it might be that the advocates for Georgia inside NATO now have the upper hand,” he explained. “It is also a signal to Russia: the alliance sees it as the main and actually the sole adversary.”

In 2008, then-US President George W. Bush pushed for Georgia to join the Membership Action Plan, a mechanism that allows for a continuous review of aspiring members, providing feedback and advice. However, Bush was defeated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was concerned that admitting Georgia would increase tensions with Russia.

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