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Georgia and NATO: Prospects

By Messenger Staff
Monday, October 17
The Georgian-NATO relationship since the 2008 Bucharest summit has been based on the formula: “The doors are open, but do not come in.” The Georgian leadership keeps repeating that NATO integration is the ultimate will of the Georgian people. NATO for its part states that a strategic decision on Georgia’s entry into the organization has been made although no precise date has been named. There are some very vague preconditions and Georgia has to fulfill them all and every NATO member countries must consent to Georgia’s entry.

Regardless, the Georgian people are in favour of entry into NATO. Recent NDI polling repeatedly confirmed this position. Of those questioned in the polls, 74% support the idea. The Georgian population understands however that the country will not be accepted into NATO because of the Russian position which is against such a move and can pressure NATO members into dissenting against Georgia's entry. The situation is very controversial then, the country wants to enter NATO, it does whatever is possible to comply with demands, it participates in all NATO operations very diligently, it receives official encouragement, but the result appears to be frustration. Yet recently there has been speculation about the possible granting of MAP to Georgia. MAP is a membership action plan which is the last step before an official invitation for NATO membership. This possible move would be as reciprocation for Georgia’s commitments and its reliable support in securing peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Shevardnadze-period foreign minister Irakli Menagarishvili thinks that most NATO countries support granting Georgia a MAP. According to him, Georgia has successfully fulfilled all the tasks envisaged by the Bucharest summit. In reality the program which Georgia is fulfilling currently is a MAP-type of program though it does not have that name. One of the major supporters of Georgia’s NATO ambitions is the US, however although the forthcoming NATO summit will be held in Chicago in 2012 it is unlikely that there would be major breakthrough in the country’s drive towards NATO. The previous Bucharest summit was very dramatic if not tragic for Georgia. Many here think that not granting MAP for Georgia in 2008 encouraged Russia to launch its military attack on Georgia. Yet a repeat of the Bucharest summit looks likely as Russia continues to hold sway over certain NATO members. How enthusiastic the Georgian people and leadership will be about NATO in the face of another knock back remains to be seen. Disappointment in 2012 will have a big impact on the country's future development and orientations.