The messenger logo

Rasmussen visit: new hopes

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 4
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s October 1 visit to Georgia was timely not only for Georgia but also for NATO.

Georgia’s hope and dreams regarding NATO were very seriously challenged by the Russian invasion of 08/08/08. NATO’s open door towards Georgia has become a matter of irony, in particular for Russia as well as for some people here in Georgia. When some time ago President Mikheil Saakashvili mentioned in an interview that entering NATO is not a fixed idea for Georgia, he did not mean there was a change in the NATO orientation of the country but that the in depth understanding and interpretation were different.

Two further events coinciding with Rasmussen’s visit indirectly touched Georgian-NATO claims. Just a few days before his visit, the Russian occupiers extended their occupied territory deeper into the Georgian side of the administrative border, seizing several dozen additional hectares, once again confirming that the Kremlin does not care about neglecting the rules of international law. Nor does it care about ignoring all the resolutions of the ceasefire agreement or the International organizations (including NATO) that have condemned the Kremlin’s behaviour.

A sad occurrence on the eve of Rasmussen’s visit was the death of four Georgian servicemen in Afghanistan, which has prompted different reactions here in Georgia. One question being spread among Georgians was ‘Why do Georgian soldiers die in Afghanistan when there is no peace in the homeland?’ While meeting Rasmussen, Saakashvili highlighted that Georgian soldiers are serving in Afghanistan to protect Georgia’s national interests. (It is interesting that in some churches in the UK you can see memorial tablets noting the names of the deceased British servicemen killed in Afghanistan in the 19th century defending the interest of Great Britain.) Georgians want to know, like the British probably did almost two centuries ago, what are the soldiers doing in Afghanistan and how are they protecting their country’s interests. However Saakashvili stated that it would be a great mistake to limit Georgia’s interests to simply those within Georgia’s borders. Not everyone however is so understanding about Georgian soldiers sacrificing their lives in Afghanistan. Many ordinary people doubt the necessity of sending soldiers to Afghanistan. However there are still some people who support this step and think that Georgia’s choice as well as the soldiers’ is their decision.

It would obviously be naive to think that Rasmussen’s visit will solve any of Georgia’s problems in the short term however analysts think that it is very important for two reasons. Firstly Rasmussen highlighted the necessity for democratic developments in Georgia so that it complies with NATO standards. Secondly from an international point of view, his visit to Georgia and the opening of a NATO liaison office as well as the invitation to Saakashvili to attend the Lisbon summit gave serious weight to the visit. Some of course became a little too optimistic even expressing the hope that some serious extra decisions might taken at Lisbon, but this should just be attributed to the exaggeration so characteristic of the Georgians. Rasmussen reiterated the decision of the Bucharest summit that Georgia will certainly become a NATO member; however the question remains, when? It is unlikely that Georgia will enter NATO unless its territories are de-occupied, and according to the Russian reaction this will never happen. So, there are two options - either Georgia has to give up its territories in return for NATO entry or NATO has to change its charter. Today, neither of those options looks likely.