Historic NATO Summit for Georgia

NATO 60The NATO Jubilee Summit on April 3-4 was historic and the document it adopted is also of historic importance, Georgian state officials have said.

“The Summit was quite successful and it has proven the strength of the Alliance and the unity of NATO member countries within the Alliance,” Georgian Vice Prime Minister and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze said on April 4, as the NATO Heads of State at the 60th Jubilee NATO Summit in Strasbourg/Kehl issued a joint statement in which, among other things, they reaffirmed that “Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO” and stated that “the NATO-Georgia relationship has deepened substantially in the past year,” as well as reiterating their “continued support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.”

State Minister Baramidze said that Georgia will base its future actions on the statement of the NATO officials. “It gives us more enthusiasm, and more hope that, despite many difficulties, Georgia will overcome all obstacles and will certainly join NATO,” Baramidze noted, adding that this would be a guarantee of Georgia’s security and democratic development and the establishing of normal civilized relations with all Georgia’s neighbours, including Russia.

“Our relations [between Georgia and NATO] have moved from the cooperation stage to pre-integration, as Georgia has received an Annual Action Plan, which is the main component of the MAP (Membership Action Plan). We have already started working on the document and it will probably be approved by the end of April,” Baramidze said.

In their joint statement, the NATO leaders have “strongly encouraged” Georgia to “continue implementing all necessary reforms,” in particular democratic, electoral and judicial ones, in order to achieve its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. According to the statement, NATO is “maximizing its advice, assistance and support,” for Georgia and Ukraine’s efforts to carry out reforms. “Without prejudice to further decisions which must be taken about MAP, the development of Annual National Programmes will help Georgia and Ukraine in advancing their reforms,” the document states.

The communique adopted on April 4 also urged Russia to meet its commitments under the August 12, 2008 6-point agreement and condemned Russia’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions as independent states.

“The Alliance continues to call on Russia to reverse its recognition [of Abkhazia and South Ossetia] which contravenes the founding values and principles of the NATO-Georgia Council, the OSCE principles on which the security of Europe is based, and the United Nations Security Council resolution regarding Georgia’s territorial integrity, which Russia endorsed,” the communique reads. “In addition, the build-up of Russia’s military presence in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the consent of the Government of Georgia is of particular concern,” it continues. However, the NATO leaders state that “despite our current disagreements, Russia is of particular importance to us as a partner and neighbour.”

Russian officials have expressed their discontent with the document. Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said the Alliance is making “cynical accusations.” Rogozin noted that this “forces Russia to lead the discussion in a more harsh manner.” According to Rogozin, the NATO statement pays more attention to security issues on CIS territory than in the rest of the world. “The US considers that the whole world is its sphere of interest, but when Russia speaks about the spheres of its own influence, many in the West get heart attacks,” Interfax news agency quoted Rogozin as saying.

Russia’s representative to NATO has also criticized the Alliance for its assessment of the August events and said it will defer resuming “full-format” cooperation with NATO. “What else has to happen? Who else does Saakashvili have to attack, Turkey or the US, before NATO makes a more adequate evaluation of his [Saakashvili’s] regime and what happened in South Ossetia?” Rogozin asked, adding that the statements made by NATO officials will certainly influence the tone of discussions at the NATO-Russia Council.

While Russia says that Georgia and Ukraine are further away from NATO membership now than they were 5-6 years ago, Georgian officials say that discussion about Georgia joining the Alliance in return for losing its territories has come to an end. Commenting on the statement of NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that Georgia will join the Alliance with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as integral parts of it, Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze said that this was a very important statement which “ends all kinds of political discussions about whether joining NATO is related to restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity or not. This theme has been discussed very actively by our Russian colleagues over the last few years. They have been saying that giving up our territory is the price we would inevitably have to pay to join NATO. Scheffer’s statement has now shed light on NATO’s position on this issue,” Bakradze noted.

Some political analysts have downplayed Tbilisi’s evaluation of the document as “historic”, saying that it is an “interesting” document, but of a more “supportive character” than a historic one. Political commentator Mamuka Areshidze said the communique adopted at the Summit is a bit “illusory” and lacks specificity. “I think the historic document will be the one which outlines the specific mechanisms for Georgia’s NATO integration. Officials of the Alliance have said Georgia will join NATO with its breakway regions as part of it, however it does not say how exactly this will happen,” Areshidze told The Messenger.

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