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More criticism of Georgia’s NATO aspirations

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, March 19
NATO should not accept Georgia and Ukraine as members without the agreement of Russia, stated French Defence Minister Herve Morin on March 17.

"These are things that cannot be decided without speaking to our Russian neighbour," Morin said. "(Europe's) security architecture must be built with Russia," he added, as quoted by the Associated Press. On March 5 the North Atlantic Alliance decided to reinstitute high-level contact with Russia within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council after a long period of suspension following NATO’s strong criticism of Russia’s actions in the August conflict in Georgia.

France was one of the twelve NATO founding states, however in 1966 its President, Charles de Gaulle, decided that the country should leave the NATO military command. However the country formally retained its membership of the Alliance and has actively participated in NATO operations in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. On March 11 current French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially stated that after more than 40 years France is now willing to resume executive functions within NATO. "Both France and Europe are interested in the country's returning fully to the Alliance," Sarkozy said at a meeting of military experts in Paris, as quoted by the BBC.

The French Defence Minster’s statement is the second to emerge from influential Western politicians in a week criticizing Georgia’s and Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO. On March 16 a group of US political experts presented a report advising President Obama to stop encouraging Georgia and Ukraine’s NATO aspirations and propose some other kinds of partnership to these countries. The report said this would help the new American administration improve relations with the Kremlin. According to popular Russian newspaper Kommersant, the report of the American experts has “made an extremely good impression on the Russian side.”

“This kind of attitude of the West has two reasons behind it; the first is of course the will of the USA and Europe to normalize relationships with Russia,” stated Shalva Pichkhadze, Georgian political expert and the head of the Georgia for NATO non-Governmental organization, speaking to The Messenger on March 18. However he thinks that it’s unlikely that the West will completely refuse to support Georgia due to Russian pressure. “The second reason is Georgia itself. We have failed to fulfil many of the NATO demands listed in the partnership programme, and that’s why many influential NATO officials don’t consider Georgia to be a trustworthy partner,” said Pichkhadze.

Despite these statements NATO continues to cooperate with Georgian forces. On March 18 the Georgian Defence Ministry announced that NATO experts were visiting Georgia. The experts will prepare recommendations for the development of the Georgian Army.

“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will render assistance to the Georgian Armed Forces in the field of training process improvement. For this purpose, a fifteen-person NATO delegation is presently visiting Georgia. NATO representatives have held meetings with the leadership of the Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces and become acquainted with education processes and training trends in the Army,” says the statement.