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To MAP or not to MAP

Wednesday, October 8
NATO’s doors are wide open to Georgia (!) but it seems that the country has little chance, if any, of receiving a Membership Action Plan this coming December. So Georgia has to find a solution to the current situation on its own and search for alternative ways of securing its safety.

The administration should address this challenge in the near future when it adopts a new national security concept. This has not yet been elaborated, but there are indications of what it might contain. Of course, it will be about Russia as much as Georgia. Former Soviet countries are very careful to adopt policies which do not confront Moscow, so as not to irritate the wild northern bear. This stance has been proven correct by the August events.

Former President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze used to engage in such politics. During his rule he never distinctly fixed the country’s security concept in case he had to then clearly identify both the ally and the enemy. The White Fox (his nickname) knew Russia’s anger potential. Through his balancing act, he managed to persuade both parties to sign a document on the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia in 1999 and submit an application for NATO membership in 2002.

The Rose Revolution administration declared the politics of balance an error and started to make accelerated moves towards integration with European and NATO structures. Later the quick EU membership drive was abandoned but the NATO aspiration remained. Consequently, after the Bucharest summit’s refusal to grant Georgia a MAP Russia became more arrogant and started openly harassing Georgian interests in the separatist-controlled conflict zones. Having put all its eggs in this basket, Georgia found that defeat in Bucharest meant defeat in much wider terms too.

Today, some politicians and analysts grumble openly that the MAP refusal encouraged Russia and even accelerated its direct attack on Georgia. They think MAP would have protected country from the Russian aggression. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that Georgia should try even harder to join NATO now the war has won it so many influential friends. For some it seemed obvious that NATO would be very keen to get Georgia on board as soon as possible simply to show its support for the country. These optimists however got a nasty shock when the German Chancellor reported to the Russian President that Georgia and Ukraine do not appear to be ready for MAP at this time.

Some analysts see much logic in Chancellor Merkel’s assessment. Tornike Sharashenidze thinks as do many others, that Georgia is further away from NATO now than it was after the Bucharest summit. Zurab Abashidze considers that NATO will not take responsibility for the security of a country with secessionist problems and Russian armed forces on its territory. NATO does not want to get involved in a military confrontation with Russia because of the irresponsible conduct of one of its members. Ramaz Sakvarelidze recalls that NATO member countries were warning the Georgian leadership not to get trapped by Russian provocations, but still the conflict was not avoided.

A new MAP refusal will definitely give the opposition a reason to unleash further severe criticism of the administration, blaming it for Georgia’s shortcomings as a prospective NATO candidate. But country needs solutions, not confrontations, if it is going to ensure its safety.

Some think that under the present circumstances bilateral contacts and agreements with the USA will help. But the US has its own problems and is busy with its forthcoming elections. The solutions need to come from within, not without, so that Georgia can demonstrate it is more likely to give to an international alliance than beg from it.

Georgia’s NATO dreams are frustrated for the time being, planting once again a sense of disappointment in the population. But they may be reignited, unstoppably, if Georgia shows the rest of the world it has judgment and capabilities that other countries would want to take advantage of.