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Prospects for entering NATO

By Messenger Staff
Friday, April 5
Entering NATO is permanently on Georgia's political agenda and is a hot topic of debate for the country's political parties. However, it seems that the Georgian public's enthusiasm for joining NATO has declined recently. Expectations are low that Georgia will become part of the alliance in the near future because Russia is against Georgia’s joining the organization and NATO is reluctant to upset Russia.

NATO's door is still wide open for Georgia as has been repeated many times since the Bucharest Summit in 2008. In one respect the current Georgian Dream government is in agreement with the former UNM government: Georgia must join NATO.

Everyone reiterates that Georgia’s future is Euro-Atlantic integration. Georgia has been nominated for NATO membership along with three Balkan countries: Bosnia-Herzegovina; Macedonia and Montenegro. There is a significant difference between Georgia and the three Balkan states: while the latter were offered Membership Action Plans (MAP) some time ago, Georgia did not have such an option. The population of Montenegro rejected the idea of joining NATO and has been excluded from the list.

NATO officials are reluctant to admit it but Georgia's membership in NATO very much depends on Russia. Some analysts in Georgia think that not granting Georgia a Membership Action Plan at the Bucharest NATO Summit on April 2008 encouraged Russia to begin aggression against Georgia in August of the same year.

Russia is not going to retreat and suddenly agree with Georgia’s integration into NATO. Russia still considers Georgia to be in its sphere of interest and does not want NATO to enter the South Caucasus.

Georgia’s current government on the one hand claims it is committed to continue the country's strive towards NATO but at the same time wants to normalize relations with Russia. To achieve both simultaneously seems an impossible task.

It is against the NATO Charter for a country with unresolved territorial conflicts to join the alliance. As Russia currently occupies 20% of Georgian territory it is currently impossible for Georgia to join NATO. Moreover any conflict endangering the territorial integrity of a NATO member state is considered an endangerment to all NATO member states.

There are two ways Georgia can join NATO: either NATO has to change its charter, or Georgia has to give up its claim on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. No Georgian government will ever sign a document giving up the country’s territorial integrity. As for NATO, it seems doubtful that it would change its charter just to allow Georgia to become a member. The final decision is up to NATO member countries.