Why Georgia is losing its chances for a NATO residence permit

MOSCOW, 22 Dec 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

After the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official statement calling on NATO to officially disavow the decision of the 2008 Bucharest NATO summit – that “Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO members” – appeared, certain circles in Tbilisi came into a state of political vibration.

Closely watching the development of the acute international intrigue in the West-Ukraine-Russia triangle, in which the “card” of Russia’s alleged armed invasion of Ukraine was played, Georgia waited, thinking about the possibilities of its participation in the operation for the “second NATO breakthrough to the East”. At the same time, a motivational “home preparation” was also prepared, so that, in case of some event, together with the so-called “Ukrainian issue”, to indicate their presence on the agenda too.

To do this, it was necessary to declare the consultations with Russia in Geneva “failed and unpromising” (something remotely similar to the Minsk process in Ukraine), accuse Russia of “continuing the policy of absorbing the occupied regions of Georgia” and in seeking “forceful change of sovereign state borders in Europe” (a variant of Lugansk and Donetsk). They counted on the fact that under certain circumstances, in the proposed US-Russia dialogue, the problems of Ukraine and Georgia would be presented in a “single package”. Because after all, the United States provides Georgia, as well as Ukraine, with military assistance, and recently Washington announced the launch of a new program designed to strengthen Georgia’s defence capability.

For Russia, the proposed political and geopolitical duel, as stated by former Georgian ambassador to Russia Valery Chechelashvili, meant a test for the recognition or non-recognition of it as a “participant in the highest world political league”. The match, if to name the negotiations of the presidents of Russia and the United States Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden as such, took place. Its results were unexpected for many.

In a broad sense, such processes have been launched in world politics that have not existed since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. For the first time after the collapse of the USSR, the question was raised about “the possibilities of developing measures to reduce tension on the eastern flank”.

In a “narrow” sense, the “umbrella” of cover from the North Atlantic Alliance or the deployment of foreign bases on its territory is being removed from Ukraine. And although Georgia was not mentioned at the Putin-Biden talks, it became clear to everyone that it was also included in the description of the situation, although more recently at the NATO foreign ministers’ summit in Riga it was said about support for Georgia and Ukraine’s accession to NATO.

Now Georgian experts are arguing about the policy of Tbilisi, which, drifting towards NATO, tried to build a bloc policy with Ukraine. At the same time, Tbilisi was either getting closer to Kiev or moving away from it. However, the two countries, for various reasons, have stagnated on the “sidelines” of the West, believing that local nationalism, Russophobia and a declared pro-Western orientation will become a coveted pass to the West.

But the West was also changing. Firstly, it was satisfied with the position of Russophobia, with which it sought to weaken Russia’s influence in the post-Soviet space. But then, as the National Interest writes, “Ukraine and Georgia found themselves on the lists of “unstable countries” that are on the border with Russia”. According to this thesis, the admission of Kiev and Tbilisi to NATO expands the alliance’s zone of problems, not security.

“The United States should enter into military alliances only if it is necessary to ensure its own security,” this publication writes. “And membership in the NATO alliance should be granted only to those countries whose presence can have a positive impact on US national security. Granting NATO membership to Georgia – or Ukraine, as some are calling for – will not help US security in any way and will undoubtedly increase the number of strategic risks for the United States.”

It is exactly in this that the meaning of another acute intrigue consists in. There was a time when political instability in Georgia was considered by the West as one of the important means of “containing Russia”. Now such instability is qualified as a “potential threat to US national security”. That is, the former policy of the West in Transcaucasia turns into a kind of boomerang for it.

It is no coincidence that Georgia has not yet been allowed to participate in the NATO Membership Action Plan, a program of assistance to countries that plan to become members of the alliance. Even though the country has achieved some success in meeting the criteria for membership in NATO and even surpassed such alliance members as Bulgaria, Romania and even Turkey in some ways.

“Georgians have become a victim of their own geostrategic situation,” says Carlo Masala, a professor teaching Bundeswehr military servicemen. “When the Baltic states joined the alliance, Russia was weak, the situation was different. Today, no one in NATO is ready to give their lives for Tbilisi. The mere beginning of negotiations on Georgia’s accession to NATO may provoke Russia to carry out actions with unpredictable consequences.”

Thus Georgia finds itself in a “suspended” state, beginning to dash from side to side in search of an external “solid” patron. One of the top Ukrainian diplomats once described the style of communication of Georgian diplomats with NATO officials as a strategy of constant self-reminder, waiting for the alliance to be ready to talk with Tbilisi in order to achieve maximum practical integration with NATO, and then, when the political situation changes, quickly move towards membership.

However, after the US election, which was won by Joe Biden, the chances for a quick solution for Tbilisi were lost. In case if now the new “American rule” prepared by Putin and Biden works for Ukraine, it can be applied to Georgia as well. There isn’t long to wait.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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