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Is Georgia’s foreign policy course at risk?

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 20
The statement made by Georgia’s Special Envoy to Russia Zurab Abashidze that Georgia’s cooperation with NATO does not aim at the deployment of alliance’s military infrastructure in Georgia, has caused large-scaled controversy within the Georgian political arena.

In response to the Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements that Georgia is being dragged into NATO, Abashidze said that “immediate membership in NATO was not on the agenda.”

However, the diplomat emphasized that “Georgia is an independent state, therefore it has the right to cooperate with any international organization, including NATO.”

The opposition Free Democrats dedicated a special briefing to the statement, warning that Georgia’s European choice was under serious threat.

The party called upon the Georgian President to reveal his position regarding this issue, as well as to the Foreign and Euro-Integration Ministries and asked them to confirm their devoutness to Georgia’s current foreign policy orientation.

The opposition United National Movement assessed the statement as one more attempt of Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili to please Russia.

“This government is doing everything to please Russia and these remarks by Abashidze are a signal and a message to Russia that Georgia will not take a step towards NATO. This is very damaging for our country and a very negative signal for our partners,” UNM MP Sergo Ratiani said.

The Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration represents the country’s foreign policy priority, which is based on an unwavering will and the free choice of the majority of the Georgian population.

“Georgia’s NATO membership depends on ongoing dialogue between Georgia and the Alliance and decision of its member states. Therefore third country will have no influence over this process,” Georgia’s Foreign Ministry stated.

Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze asserted that a Georgian-NATO training and evaluation center will be located in Georgia and it will be focused only on training, having nothing in common with a NATO base or NATO offensives.

The majority MP Eka Beselia has said that Georgia is following the European course. However, Abashidze was right when he said that Georgia’s NATO membership will not take place in the near future.

Analyst Gia Khukhashvili states that Abashidze sincerely voiced the attitudes that are expressed by NATO representatives when they meet with Georgian officials. “All who knows the situation can guess that Georgia’s NATO membership will be a very long journey,” Khukhashvili said.

Analyst Kakha Gogolashvili believes that Georgia should be stronger and more principled in its statements.

“Each threatening statement from Russia should be responded to very clearly: that Georgia’s foreign orientation is the red line Russia must not cross. Our officials should constantly state that Georgia’s NATO membership is irreversible and a non-stop process,” Gogolashvili said.