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Georgia's NATO holding pattern

By Messenger Staff
Friday, April 6
From time to time, Georgia receives assurances from NATO that it would be allowed to join the organization. No exact date is ever named, however.

This time in Brussels, during the NATO-Georgia commission meeting, President Mikheil Saakashvili headed the delegation and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen hosted him. During a joint news conference, they made statements expressing the warmest of feelings for one another and confirmed once again the commitment of both sides. Rasmussen repeated the NATO promise that Georgia will become a member of the organization, while Saakashvili maintained his commitment to NATO military operations.

However, on the eve of the Chicago summit, the Georgian leadership is cautious about making any overly optimistic pronouncements. It looks like the current consensus will prevail, and no serious breakthrough is expected. There is some speculation that Georgia will be granted aspirant status in Chicago, although this does not necessarily mean it is any closer, tangibly, to membership.

Russia is, of course, attentively monitoring the process, making it well-known that it is against Georgia’s membership bid. Many suggest that Georgia wants to join NATO so as to be better protected from Russian expansion. But since Russia is occupying two Georgian regions, why does Georgia need NATO anymore?

The current situation only preserves the status quo – Georgia will receive more promises and praise at Chicago, and NATO will confirm that it does not recognize the breakaway regions and demand that Russia observe the 2008 Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement.

Domestically, both the government and the major opposition parties are committed to NATO integration, and those who criticize that goal are labeled "pro-Russian". At the press conference this week, Rasmussen expressed support for free and fair elections, which is the expected standard for NATO member countries. Saakashvili echoed this, and asked for international observers to monitor the process and prove to Georgia's Western allies that the country is living up to their expectations. The opposition, while skeptical of Saakashvili, agree that the international community should be involved.

Perhaps, if the fall elections are democratic, then NATO will take another look at Georgia's bid. But until then, it is unlikely that anything in our relationship with the alliance will change.