The developments that have taken place in the Euro-Atlantic space in the past several years create a suitable geostrategic environment for accelerating Georgia’s NATO membership. At the 2014 Warsaw Summit, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine, the Alliance changed the status of Russia from a partner to a threat. The perception of Russian revanchism as a major threat endangering the security and stability of the entire Euro-Atlantic space was reinforced.
Significant changes were also made to NATO’s military strategy, in accordance with which the Alliance created new command posts and deployed military units to the countries of Eastern Europe to contain Russia. The capabilities of the NATO response force are developing consistently, and large-scale military drills are also held regularly to ensure swift and effective response to possible aggression.
The US and the EU have imposed and are consistently toughening sanctions against Russia. Intelligence agencies of the Western countries have, in fact, confirmed that Russia is waging hybrid warfare against the US, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and other countries. After the poisoning of a UK citizen, Skripal, and his daughter by Russian special services, the vast majority of the countries of NATO and the EU showed solidarity against Russia that was unprecedented for the post-Cold War period and expelled Russian diplomats who had pursued subversive policies of the Kremlin from their countries.
Official documents adopted by the US Congress, EU structures, and NATO contain increasingly strict assessments of Russia’s aggressive actions. To develop the defensive capabilities of Georgia and Ukraine, the US has launched large-scale training programs for army battalions and sold the Javelin anti-tank missiles to these countries.
The civilized world already acknowledges that making concessions in Eastern Europe would pose a threat to the security of the entire Europe, which was also confirmed by a recent statement by the German Chancellor which says that she considers it inadmissible to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany if this would diminish the function of Ukraine as a gas transit country.
The focus of the agenda of Euro-Atlantic security has shifted towards the south and south-east of Europe, which has prioritized the issues of the security of the Black Sea (especially as a result of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and military engagement in Syria). In this context, the role of Georgia in the security agenda of the Alliance may increase to a considerable degree.
At the same time, NATO retains an open door policy, which was confirmed by Montenegro’s accession to the Alliance in 2017 and by the launching of membership talks with Macedonia at the Brussels Summit of NATO in 2018.
And this shows that a suitable geostrategic environment is being created for acceleration of Georgia’s membership in NATO.
In spite of this, no significant breakthrough has taken place in terms of Georgia’s membership in NATO at the Brussels Summit of NATO in 2018. This indicates that the Georgian government does not have a clearly defined strategy for accelerating Georgia’s membership in NATO. The steps taken by the government and the diplomatic activities in this direction are fragmentary, unstructured, and ineffective.
It seems that the point of departure of the Georgian government’s policy towards NATO membership is to cause less irritation of Russia. However, the practice of the Baltic countries’ accession to NATO and of the failure of CIS countries to become NATO members demonstrates that such an approach is absolutely counter-productive.
Despite Russia’s threats, including a nuclear threat, as a result of activation of the process of accession to NATO – in particular, full implementation of internal democratic reforms and constant diplomatic activity – the Baltic countries managed to reach a consensus among NATO allies, which was followed by their smooth accession to NATO and establishment of stable relations with Russia.
On the other hand, neutral Moldova, Ukraine that has adopted a law on the "blocless status”, and Belarus and Armenia that are allies of Russia still face constant pressure and open or covert aggression from Moscow.
While the government pursues a passive policy, Georgia also remains outside the security umbrella of NATO, which makes her quite vulnerable to Russia’s aggressive actions. Such a policy allows Moscow to make a well-founded assumption that it is possible to remove Georgia from the path to Western integration and to turn her into a zone of Russia’s exclusive influence by means of constant pressure and consistent small-scale aggressive actions and large-scale propaganda.
In this situation, NATO membership remains the only way for the country to strengthen her independence and ensure her irreversible democratic development. In order to activate the issue, it is extremely important that the Georgian government pursue an active, consistent policy both on the diplomatic arena and in terms of implementation of democratic reforms.
To achieve the desirable result, it is necessary that the government have a clearly formulated and coordinated strategy, which must include:
- Acceleration of internal reforms, especially those of the judicial and security sectors, and maximum participation of NATO and EU countries in them;
- Clear formulation of Georgia’s position and demands for the next NATO summit;
- Intensive and coordinated consultations with supporting countries and groups;
- Conducting more and, what is most important, correct, result-oriented, consultations with skeptical countries, in order to provide them with arguments in favor of Georgia’s NATO membership;
- Communication and implementation of joint programs with non-governmental, academic, and media circles of NATO member countries, in order to discuss issues that support our arguments and time-frames related to Georgia’s NATO membership;
- Taking effective steps to combat anti-Western propaganda, including through intensive, coordinated, and consistent strategic communication.
The Georgian government should exercise much more seriousness and responsibility in relation to the issue of NATO membership, which is the most effective means of ensuring the country’s security.
Implementation of democratic reforms and development of effective governance and democratic institutions, on the one hand, and pursuing an active, clearly formulated and well-coordinated foreign and security policy, on the other, is going to have a decisive importance for achieving progress in terms of becoming a member of the Alliance at the next NATO summit.
The Economic Policy Research Center
In-Depth Reporting and Advocacy Center
Media Development Foundation
UN Association of Georgia
Transparency International Georgia
Atlantic Council of Georgia
Georgian Democracy Initiative
Georgian Institute of Politics
Georgia’s Reforms Associates (GRASS)
Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies
Georgian Farmers Association
Voice from Georgia