The Georgian parliament unanimously voted for thecountry's accession to NATO. The U.S. Congress was the first among other NATO members to approve Georgia's admission to the North Atlantic alliance (all NATO member countries are to vote on the admission of aspiring members: the final decision is based on consensus). What is in store for Georgia as a NATO member - that is, of course, if all NATO member states vote for its admission? To answer this question, it is essential, first of all, to look at the changes that have been occurring within NATO.
First, contrary to widespread predictions, following the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the Cold War, NATO has failed to become a political organization. Furthermore, the military component of the North Atlantic alliance has become even more pronounced. Second, since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been increasingly evolving from an alliance designed to ensure the security of its member states into an organization operating outside their national borders, with the aim of enforcing order (the way it is understood by the United States) on the global scale. This is becoming the principal line of NATO's military activity.
Third, there is reason to believe that the United States is seeking to turn the new NATO members into a "forward edge of the battle area" at the approaches to Russia and China. Consider the deployment of missiledefense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, and plans to deploy such systems in the South Caucasus. If no consensus is reached on the problem, without jeopardizing Russian security - and this is not at all an easy task - newly admitted NATO members will be instantly drawn into a confrontation with Russia. It is not ruled out that Moscow might have to pull out of the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty so that it can effectively target these missile-defense systems.
Fourth, there is no longer a direct linkage between two previously interconnected processes - admission to NATO and accession to the EU. Earlier, many states strove to join NATO, on the assumption that this provided a shortcut to EU membership. The situation changed after a number of EU member countries refused to adopt a new constitution, and voted against the EU enlargement. Today, this process has in effect been reduced to negotiations with only those states that have already been declared candidate members.
Therefore, it is becoming obvious that joining the Western civilization and joining NATO are two different things. Incidentally, such prosperous countries as Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland are not NATO members, nor are they interested in joining the alliance. Another non-NATO state is Finland, which has managed to attain spectacular successes in the economic, scientific, technical, and social sectors within a relatively short period of time.
So, what exactly would Georgia gain from its NATO membership?
I understand that many in Georgia see admission to this organization as a way of restoring the country's territorial integrity - in other words, bringing the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold. But it is naive to hope the North Atlantic alliance will use military force to restore Georgia's Soviet-era administrative borders.
Incidentally, one outcome of NATO'S reluctance to assume responsibility for territorial disputes between aspiring members was that, for example, Romania and Hungary, who abandoned all territorial claims prior to admission. If the ongoing territorial disputes prevent Georgia's admission to the North Atlantic alliance, NATO's position on the territorial problems of its member states will not change. It is clear this alliance is not designed to fight separatism: Consider its position on the Kosovo problem, among other things. It is equally futile to hope that once Georgia is admitted to NATO, the organization will be able to play a peacekeeping role, sending its forces into conflict areas. Such missions require the approval of not just one but two parties involved in a conflict, whereas the positions of Abkhazia or South Ossetia are unlikely to soften after Georgia becomes a NATO member.
At the same time, its membership in the North Atlantic alliance will do little to improve Georgia's relationship with Russia, which is bound to affect the situation in general.
I realize, of course, that no one can prohibit Georgia from choosing in favor of NATO. But I believe such a choice would be a mistake.
Tbilisi's relations with Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, as well as Georgian-Russian relations should be rectified through negotiations, leading to solutions acceptable to all sides concerned. Any unilateral actions should be precluded. This is the only way to restarting the peace process.
I am convinced that the key to the future, for Russia and Georgia alike, is in establishing and advancing partnership relations. Recent events have shown that Georgia can somehow live without Russia, while Russia can certainly live without Georgia. But in the final analysis, it is better for the Georgians and Russians to live without a NATO barrier separating them.
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