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Albright and Steinburg on Georgia - NATO relations

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, May 21
Georgian-NATO cooperation was the main issue of discussions at the Centre for Strategic Research in Washington on May 20. Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright introduced the audience to NATO’s new ideas and recommendations highlighting the importance of the Alliance’s open door policy. “The priorities for receiving NATO membership remain the same so that the NATO doors remain open for countries determined to become members of the alliance. I personally think that such countries should make their own contribution in strengthening the alliance as it is not a philanthropic but a military alliance with relevant responsibilities. I remember discussing the project “Partnership for Peace” with the General Shalikashvili in 1994 when we stressed the responsibilities which would follow joining NATO,” Madeleine Albright stated.

The former Secretary of State went on to present a report prepared by the group of experts, which lays out proposals for NATO’s strategic concept for next decade. Part of the report subtitled “Partnership with Georgia and Ukraine” stated that one of the major failures of NATO’s partnership structure was the August War between Russia and Georgia in 2008. The report stressed that NATO articulates its position to its partners and the more accurately it can assess their perceptions, the more adept the Allies will be at defusing crises and building trust

James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State spoke about the importance of cooperation with Russia. “It is obvious that we can’t deal with Russia on particular issues, which deters us from promoting our relations. But Russia is an important and critical player in the issues like Afghanistan, anti-terrorism and nuclear terrorism. It is in everyone’s interest to find ways of dealing with these issues, but it doesn’t mean at all that we will negotiate on all the other issues. We have different approaches about Georgia and the ways in which Russia rules over its society. But I doubt it can stop us from cooperating with each other. I think that the meetings of the US and Russian representatives may make particular changes in the existing situation,” said Steinberg explaining that there are no guarantees for anything but expressed his hope that the relations will be improved. Steinberg further appealed to the Kremlin to fulfill the international obligations imposed after the August War and withdraw the Russian army from Georgian territories.

The Messenger asked political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze to share his thoughts about Georgia’s chances to become united under the NATO umbrella in the near future. “Russia has highlighted the fact that it is obviously against NATO’s broadening. The “kind” changes in US and Russian cooperation during the last period were also reflected on this issue. NATO tries to find its own reason to oppose Georgia’s membership without the Russian plot. This is a natural consequence of the August War because the alliance has discovered relations with the instable country (referring to Georgia). It is in NATO’s interests to avoid membership of countries with their internal conflicts,” Sakvarelidze told us.

There have been discussions around the criterias for the countries aiming for NATO membership. NATO was established for particular reasons but nowadays there are many more questions around the issue. Foreign authorities want to know what NATO plans to do in order to broaden the alliance. They wonder whether the NATO strategy means to add new member countries in order to strengthen the alliance or simply unite them under one safe umbrella which will protect them.