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Georgia and MAP: A waiting game

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 5
Is talk of NATO and MAP a cruel joke? What are the major challenges Georgia will face if it receives MAP or is rejected once again? These are the topics the Messenger discussed with Lincoln Mitchell, an American expert on politics and business in post-Soviet states.

NATO chairman Fogh Rasmussen has stated that NATO will maintain its enlargement policy despite various statements against the process. Will NATO make any decisions at the Wales summit that might be unacceptable for Russia?

At the Wales summit, NATO will almost inevitably make some decisions, or at least statements, that Russia will not like. NATO needs to do this for a variety of reasons, not least is the need to indicate that NATO is not going to be cowed by Russia. However, it is also important for NATO members to understand that these statements put aspirant countries like Georgia in difficult situations. Russia has demonstrated it will respond to potential NATO expansion in places like Georgia, and participants in the NATO summit cannot ignore this either.

Will Georgia get MAP at the Wales Summit?

According to Angela Merkel, the answer is no. We donít know whether or not Merkel speaks for all of NATO, or whether she can be persuaded to change her mind. At this point, statements about Georgia as a potential NATO member that are not accompanied by MAP are not helpful for Georgia. In fact, they are kind of destructive, as they provoke Russia without providing backup for Georgia. For this reason, I suspect that many of Georgiaís allies will push hard to get Georgia MAP status.

If Georgia does receive MAP, what threats might Georgia face?

If Georgia receives MAP, Georgia will be entering a dangerous period, but that period is finite. The challenge for Georgia will be to get from MAP to NATO as quickly as possible, because having MAP will push Russia to act more quickly to destabilize or otherwise create problems for Georgia. The threats could be military or non-military, based on hard or soft power, or even economic in nature. Russia has a lot of cards to play in Georgia and the region.

How might the problem of territorial integrity be resolved in the case of Georgia getting MAP?

If NATO gives Georgia MAP and says membership is contingent on territorial integrity, it will be a cruel joke. The issue is unlikely to be resolved in the near future and NATO knows that.

If Georgia does not get MAP, how will Georgiaís efforts to meet NATO expectations be appreciated?

If Georgia does not receive MAP, they will get kind words, but with kind words and 60 tetri, I can buy a loaf of bread in Tbilisi.

What kind of new threats will arise if MAP is rejected again?

The threats will remain the same because Georgia will still be perceived by Russia as on an eventual course towards NATO.

How adequate are the steps being taken by the Georgian government in terms of NATO and Russia?

The government is doing most of the right things. In foreign policy this is very clear. Domestically, the government would benefit from a stronger and more visible commitment to democracy. Visibly disassembling the instruments of the previous governmentís less democratic tendencies, while addressing all issues related to democratic progress more clearly would help.