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Have Georgia's NATO prospects been pre-determined?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 8
During the recent NATO seminar held in Tbilisi, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili mentioned in his speech that the Georgian government plans to receive MAP during the NATO summit in 2014. Though Ivanishvili stated this with the utmost confidence, some experts doubt that this will be the case.

Much depends on how events develop. If the PM’s hopes come to fruition, it will once again prove that he is a man of promise. Otherwise, if Georgia does not receive MAP, this will be a serious blow for those forces supporting Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and it will by all means decrease the enthusiasm of the population towards the country's integration with NATO.

At the NATO Bucharest Summit in April of 2008, a very controversial situation appeared between Georgia and NATO. The alliance repeatedly assured Georgia that its door was open. However, it did not receive the next stage invitation to enter the organization. Not even an approximate date has been specified. The popular explanation is that NATO does not want to upset Russia.

NATO-related issue remains among the hottest topics of the country’s domestic policy. When the current government was in the opposition, it used to blame the United National Movement (UNM), for being the main factor of delays in terms of entering NATO.

After winning the parliamentary elections, the now opposition UNM is blaming the Georgian Dream coalition for Georgia's NATO problems because some of the Russia sentiment that exists within the Georgian Dream leadership.

Maybe Ivanishvili is gambling as the businessman that he is, and his statement is a chance to influence NATO on its decision.

Some Georgian analysts– mainly pro-UNM– have criticized the PM's statement as unrealistic. According to them, Georgia’s wish and initiative does not mean much to the alliance.

The main factor pointed out by skeptics is of course Russia. Moscow is categorically against Georgia’s joining the alliance. Some key members of NATO consider Moscow’s position.

This issue is closely connected with another factor which is Georgia’s lost territories. According to NATO statute, Georgia has to first regulate its territorial problems and only afterwards can it think of joining the alliance.

Ordinary people in Georgia explain the country’s ambition to join NATO as a means to protect Georgia from Russian aggression. However, Russia is already occupying 20% of Georgian territories.

So what is the need of entering NATO if the Georgian territories are already occupied by Russia? Certain pro-Russian forces are promoting the idea of not irritating Moscow, give up NATO aspiration and try to regulate territorial problems directly with Russia.

There is an opinion disseminated by the pro-Russian forces in Georgia that NATO and Russia have already made a secret deal that Georgia will not ever receive NATO membership.