Is The Door To NATO Really Open For Georgia?

By Aivaras Bagdonas, VU TSPMI doktorantas

During the visit to Tbilisi on 30 September – 1 October, NATO Secretary General A.F.Rasmussen said that the door of the Alliance remains open to Georgia and that the decision made during the Bucharest NATO Summit in 2008 is still in force. However, this statement could hardly be considered as an introduction to fast Georgia‘s integration into Alliance. It could first of all be based on several examples reflecting the dialogue between Georgia and NATO (or, to be more exact, the state of relations close to stagnation) during the recent years.

The words about the open door of NATO to Georgia are not a novelty. These words were already heard before and during the Bucharest Summit, however, representatives of the Alliance didn’t dare to take active measures concerning Georgia‘s integration to NATO. The Alliance decided not to offer Georgia and Ukraine a MAP because of it was afraid that this decision would anger Russia.  This plan has not yet been offered to Georgia, thus the process of its integration to NATO is still of a declarative nature.

> Map Of Georgia
The NATO – Georgia Commission which was established two years ago as one of the main forums for Georgia‘s preparation for integration is just a formal institution. The establishment of a NATO Liaison Office in Tbilisi at the beginning of October 2010 could also be considered as a political formality. The decision on the Liaison Office was made in December 2008, thus the delay of opening demonstrates that it was set only in order to make Tbilisi more patient in this very bumpy road to NATO.

Every year Tbilisi develops an Annual National Program (ANP) for membership in NATO, which has replaced the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) in spring 2009.  However, this program is only an abstract selection of mandatory reforms without any specific guidelines for integration to the Alliance. Thus, it should be considered only as an intermediate measure which in reality does not foresee Georgia‘s membership in the Alliance.

Vague dialogue between Georgia and NATO could be explained by geopolitical goals of NATO and open disagreements of allies on this issue: first of all by NATO’s efforts to improve relations with Russia, the fear to irritate Russia on such a sensitive issue as possible Georgia‘s membership in NATO.

Although two years have passed after Russian-Georgian war, many problems are still unsolved: the withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied Georgian territories, (non)recognition of (in)dependence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and many other issues. Thus a clear decision on Georgia‘s membership in NATO could without any doubt prevent the Alliance from seeking its strategic goals in Caucasus, increase tension between the allies etc. NATO which is pursuing internal reforms cannot take the liberty of doing that. However retention of status quo in the relations with Georgia today is very important for the Alliance.

France and Germany are against Georgia‘s integration in NATO. According to experts of London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the U.S. makes use of Georgia‘s membership in NATO as a means of solving own problems. Finally, Italy and some other states have declared that they would support NAP for Georgia only if territorial disputes concerning Abkhazia and South Ossetia are solved. Thus, even if Georgian issue is considered during the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November (2010) there is not a single chance that decisions on the acceleration of Georgia‘s integration in NATO will be made.

Of course, the above „doors to the Alliance“ are not and will never be closed for Georgia. However, the problem is that Georgia is not able to enter this door alone.

Tbilisi has done a lot in order to be accepted by NATO. As a participant of PfP program Georgia is one of the most active supporters of the Alliance forces in Afghanistan; it supports its anti-terrorist operations in the Mediterranean Sea, is active member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council etc. Despite Tbilisi‘s efforts the Alliance pursuing long-term objectives is still inflexible with regard to Georgia‘s integration and seems not to be willing to change its position. Therefore even after the Lisbon summit  in November the process of Georgia‘s accession to NATO might be delayed.