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Spinning the MAP

By M. Alkhazashvili
Translated by Diana Dundua
Monday, April 7
Georgia left Bucharest without a MAP, but with a promise for eventual entry into NATO. Back home, Tbilisiís campaign for NATO integration swiftly morphed into a spin war.

The Saakashvili administration exuberantly touted the NATO affirmation of eventual Georgian membership as a watershed moment, while the political opposition rained blows on the government for failing to bring home the bacon.

How voters perceive the results of Bucharest will be important, with parliamentary elections weeks away (and watched carefully by the military alliance, the NATO statement said).

Saakashvili took his message to television, narrating an epic battle at the NATO conference: heads of state from chivalric America and the plucky Baltics clashing full-on with dour Germany and the coquettish France, all for the sake of damsels-in-distress Georgia and Ukraine.

What resulted, the president declared, was even better than a MAP (now rhetorically downgraded to a nettlesome technical hoop). NATO said Georgia will be a member, one day, something practically unprecedented, according to Saakashvili, who before the summit compared withholding a MAP to Europe appeasing Germany in the 1930s.

The change in plans, Saakashvili acknowledged, was due to Russian pressure. The winterís domestic political turmoil had nothing to do with it, he insisted.

Opposition politicians, meanwhile, say Georgia fell on its face in Bucharest with the Saakashvili administration to blame.

The governmentís failure to meet rule of law and democracy benchmarks, they say, provided an easy rationale for a Russo-wary Germany to trip up Georgiaís membership campaign.

Georgian voters are skeptical of both sidesí stories, but cautiously optimistic about eventual NATO membership. The same mood would be appropriate for the keenly-watched May parliamentary elections.