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Georgians put NATO hopes into the hands of Washington and Moscow

By M. Alkhazashvili (Translated by Diana Dundua)
Monday, March 24
Top of the agenda for last week’s meeting between Saakashvili and Bush was NATO, and Georgia’s hopes for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the April 2–4 Bucharest summit.

Local punditry, which is uniformly rooting for NATO accession, was not thrilled with what they heard. While America’s president praised Mikheil Saakashvili’s works and administration, there were no comforting words on Georgia’s odds at the Bucharest summit beyond the expected reiteration of US support for eventual Georgian membership.

And local pundits were looking for assurances.

Analyst Ramaz Klimiashvili complained to Rezonasni that “nothing concrete” was announced after the two presidents met.

Hamlet Chipashvili told the tabloid Alia that Moscow and Washington must have struck a deal to leave Georgia and Ukraine out in April in return for cooperation on Iran.

Other pointed to the lack of public Ukrainian support for NATO accession, worrisome in the light of the Estonian foreign minister’s recent remark that Tbilisi and Kiev ought to get a MAP together or not at all.

The uniting thread in Georgian analysis is the supposition that if Georgia does not get a MAP in Bucharest, the snarling Russian bear is to blame. Western European capitals have been cowed into submission by energy blackmail and other political interests, the line goes.

Few, if any, point out that Georgia’s democratic reforms fall well short of NATO membership criteria. The government has modernized the army, but failed to institute rule of law. Blaming Russia for delaying NATO membership only gives the Saakashvili administration a free pass for its disappointments in domestic reform.