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Lisbon Summit: Georgian expectations

By Messenger Staff
Monday, November 15
As the Lisbon Summit approaches there is more and more speculation about it here in Georgia. The ideas are quite pragmatic. Nobody expects any kind of breakthrough, nobody dreams of Georgia entering NATO. Not at all. Most concerns are due to the recent warming of NATO-Russia relations, which could be creating a new situation and change Georgia’s role.

The overwhelming enthusiasm for NATO among the Georgian public in 2008 was first diluted by the Bucharest Summit, when even though NATO’s doors were kept open for Georgia, the country was not invited to join. However this was not the only frustration. The disaster was Russia’s invasion of Georgia. Here in Georgia many doubt that the country can solve its problems through NATO. If we trust polling results, then although support for NATO has decreased, the majority of Georgians still want the country to pursue entry to the organisation. Indeed the opposition as well as the ruling party still wants this enthusiasm to be maintained and so far this is the case. Short-term expectations have been replaced by long term ones and from this point of view NATO’s open doors look attractive and impressive. On occasion there even appears to be extra optimistic enthusiasts who suggest that the Lisbon Summit might offer more than just open doors. “However the real picture whether nice or not is what we have: there will be no surprises and most probably it will be once again repeated that NATO’s doors are still open,” thinks analyst Zurab Abashidze.

Realistically it will be more interesting to analyse the meetings that follow the NATO summit, in particular that of the Russian-NATO council. It appears that NATO desperately needs Russia, in particular since it is stuck in Afghanistan. Maybe the deal for the purchase of several dozen Russian military helicopters for the Afghan army will be concluded in Lisbon, but most important is the transit of NATO cargo to and from Afghanistan through Russia. This will be a very beneficial deal financially for Russia.

The Russian political establishment is rather pleased with the developments. There are even voices considering Russia entering NATO. Of course in this case Russia will bargain serious beneficial conditions for itself, presumably NATO's recognition of the spheres of influence which Russia wants desperately to be acknowledged. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov stated “For Russia NATO is not a threat. The threat is NATO’s expansion towards the East.” This is a crucial point for Georgia. If NATO follows Russian conditions and promises to stop expansion to the east, the open doors will be closed. However, Georgian analysts still hope that NATO will not compromise in this direction and will not renege on its promise to Georgia.