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NATO stalemate

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 18
Georgia’s NATO membership has been a consistently hot topic for the last 12 years. However, regular NATO summits have failed to meet Georgia's expectations. Most recently, at the Bucharest summit in 2008, the much-anticipated MAP (membership action plan) was not granted. Georgia is trying to temper its hopes this year for the Chicago summit, but there are some voices questioning whether or not Georgia needs NATO membership at all.

NATO leadership, although constant in their praise for and support of Georgia, have made it clear that the country will not receive a MAP at Chicago. Some analysts believe that the problem is not Georgia, but Russia. NATO members do not want to irritate Moscow by bringing Georgia – Russia's "backyard" – further into the North Atlantic sphere of influence. It is interesting to note how German Chancellor Angela Merkel explained NATO’s position, by saying that the country could become a NATO member when its membership does not decrease NATO security, but increases it. NATO is understandably more committed to cooperation, rather than confrontation, with Russia.

There are other important challenges for NATO, such as Iran's nuclear program, civil war in Syria, anti-missile systems in Europe, and completing operations in Afghanistan. With these, NATO is actively communicating with Moscow. The occupation of Georgia’s territories by Russia is not of vital importance to the alliance, and it is not willing to damage relations with Moscow because of Georgia. This position is a realistic one. Some romantic Georgians believe it cynical and humiliating for the country to see the doors of NATO open to it, but not be allowed in. But this is the sentimental bleating of politicians, not geopolitical common sense.

Is there any alternative for Georgia, apart from continuing its efforts to join NATO? Will the country receive more security if it returns to Russian protection? What will be a guarantee of territorial integrity and de-occupation of the breakaway regions? These questions unfortunately have no good answer for Georgia, if any answer at all. Russia has not made its intentions clear if Georgia were to adopt a more neutral policy; there could be no guarantees of security or sovereignty in that situation. As it stands today, NATO membership at least provides some certainty.

There is also a belief that, if NATO does not change its policy and admit a country with territorial programs to join the alliance, then Georgia must relinquish its claims to the disputed territories and enter NATO without them. Both of these positions seem unrealistic – so can it be any wonder that Georgia remains on the threshold of the alliance, looking in but never entering?