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NATO summit is over. What have we learned?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 23
Georgia’s leadership likes to promote its successes. During the Russian invasion in August 2008, the government attempted to turn a bad situation into something positive. At this week’s NATO summit in Chicago, Georgian officials were quick to underscore their successes as well. Georgia was named prominently among several NATO-aspirant countries (including Bosnia, Montenegro, and Macedonia), for its reforms and its dedicated participation in NATO’s ISAF operations in Afghanistan. These glowing acknowledgements were vocalized at the summit by none other than US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Predictably, President Saakashvili took this opportunity to predict that Georgia will be granted full accession into NATO when the next summit convenes in 2014. However, before reaching this goal, Georgia must overcome two very serious hurdles that include the upcoming parliamentary elections this autumn and the presidential elections the following year.

The eyes of the international community will be sharply focused on Georgia in the coming months. It has yet to be determined whether the upcoming elections will be implemented transparently, and in a fair and inclusive fashion. The current administration claims that Georgia will meet all of these requirements. If this is the case, it should open a lot of doors for the country. In some respects, these elections will act as a litmus test for Georgia’s ongoing reforms and could have a significant impact on its chances of full NATO membership.

Needless to say, the euphoria level remains high among Georgia’s leaders on the heels of the NATO summit, as acknowledgement of Georgia’s achievements by influential members of the international community is an extremely positive development. President Saakashvili believes that Georgia’s inclusion together with the Balkan countries suggests that NATO is looking at Georgia through the lenses of the West. However, Georgia was not granted MAP at this meeting. MAP is the final stage an aspirant state must fulfill before being granted membership. Thus, Georgia must fulfill the conditions set out under the Annual National Program (ANP) before MAP is discussed.

Other significant announcements at the summit included NATO’s reiteration of its support and commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. NATO leaders again asked Russia to rescind its recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions as independent states. In addition, officials at the summit expressed their concerns pertaining to the increase of Russian forces on Georgian territory, and called on Russia to allow international observers in the occupied territories.

In the end, the results of the NATO summit were fairly positive for Georgia. While there are still many hurdles ahead, the most important one remains Georgia’s upcoming elections and the various aspects in connection with these elections- mainly issues related to the distribution of power and the questions that revolve around President Saakashvili and his future role in Georgian politics.