NATO: Georgia "Getting Closer" To The Alliance
NATO's special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia has praised Georgia's cooperation with the alliance, continuing a recent pattern that suggests Georgia will take some sort of step forward at the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago. The official, James Appathurai, gave an interview to the magazine Tabula (video in English), summarized by Civil.ge:
NATO "took a decision in Bucharest [in 2008] that Georgia will become a NATO member if it still wants to and when it meets the standards of course," he said... "[Georgia] still wants to and based on popular support in Georgia I expect that to stay the same and Georgia is working to meet the standards. We have not changed our view. We continue to work towards that step when Georgia will become a NATO member and Georgia is taking the steps as well and in fact, as the Secretary General said, we are getting closer together."
"We've just agreed the package of measures to, as we call it, enhance Georgia's connectivity to NATO. Over the past few years, including since 2008, Georgia has taken steps at bringing closer links, closer ties, closer connections to NATO. We will take a note of that as [Georgia's] National Security Advisor [Giga Bokeria] is here and when President Saakashvili comes in few weeks to meet with North Atlantic Council again," said Appathurai, who is also the Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy.
The NATO-Georgia commission also met this week, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the cooperation would be "reinforced further":
“We welcome the remarkable contribution your country is making to the ISAF operation, notably the battalion in Helmand. We also appreciate your decision to almost double your contribution.”, the Secretary General said. “Today we also have an opportunity to reinforce further the cooperation between NATO and Georgia through supporting Georgia’s reforms”.
Appathurai said that what sort of step Georgia might take at the NATO summit in May was "very much an open topic," though he emphasized accession would not be on the agenda.
Admiral James Stavridis, the military commander of NATO, testified March 1 in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his comments (pdf) only briefly touched on Georgia's NATO aspirations, nothing that Tbilisi was "diligently working to achieve NATO standardization." But he also discussed at some length the growing contribution that Georgia was making in Afghanistan, which is growing from one to two battalions per rotation.
Below are Admiral Stavridis's full comments pertaining to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Caspian.
UPDATE: U.S. Senator Richard Lugar has introduced the "NATO Enhancement Act" into Congress, which would boost efforts to get Georgia, as well as three Balkan countries, into NATO. Among its provisions, according to a press release from Lugar:
-- Declares for the first time in U.S. legislation that all four nations currently seeking accession to NATO (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro) are to be considered NATO “aspirants.”
-- Designates Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro as eligible to receive U.S. assistance geared towards NATO accession under the 1994 NATO Participation Act and reauthorizes assistance under the 1994 NATO Participation Act for Georgia and Macedonia.
-- Urges President Obama to provide a clear roadmap for the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro to NATO at the Chicago Summit in May 2012....
-- Requires a report to Congress on U.S. efforts underway to facilitate further NATO enlargement; on the readiness of Bosnia, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro to join NATO; and on U.S. policies to uphold Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Anyway, Admiral Stavridis's testimony below:
In support of nationally directed theater strategic end states, Marine Forces Europe leads European Command’s joint mission to train the Georgian Armed Forces. Executing this mission since 2010, Marine Forces Europe has developed and implemented a program that has trained and deployed a total of four Georgian battalions to conduct full-spectrum counterinsurgency operations in support of ISAF. This program, the first of its kind in scale and scope, increased the Georgian Armed Forces’ capacity to train and prepare their own forces for coalition operations, gradually decreasing U.S. Marine Corps instructor requirements by 60%.
After working closely and building trust with the Marines through pre-deployment training and exercises—many conducted at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Germany—Georgia has extended its commitment to support U.S. Marine Corps operations in Regional CommandSouthwest for another two years and, notably, expanded its ISAF contribution from one to two battalion rotations every six months, deploying a total of nine battalions during these two years for continued full-spectrum support to ISAF operations.
In light of this program’s success and efficiency in moving toward partner self-sufficiency, the U.S. has accepted Georgia’s offer. The Joint Staff has directed European Command to expand and extend the program to 2014. This spring, Marine Forces Europe is leading the simultaneous training of two Georgian battalions for deployment to ISAF...
The Caucasus. Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the Caspian Sea present important strategic issues in our theater, including logistical access to Afghanistan, participation in coalition stability operations, hydrocarbon infrastructure security, and rising humanitarian concerns. The region also possesses a high degree of potential instability due to the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the Russia-Georgia clash over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. European Command’s engagement with these nations seeks to promote security and stability in a sensitive region, promote maritime security cooperation in the Caspian, and improve partner nation interoperability with U.S. forces.
Georgia. Georgia remains a dedicated and capable partner, maintaining a thriving military engagement program with the U.S. and providing robust ISAF support. The Georgian government is committed to defense reform, seeks to inculcate a Western approach to civil-military relations, and is diligently working to achieve NATO standardization. Through this partnership, European Command buttresses U.S. policy supporting Georgian territorial integrity, and works to find peaceful resolutions to the frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Armenia. The U.S. continues to pursue a wide-ranging program of security engagement with the Republic of Armenia. Current emphasis is focused on defense reform, professional military education, international and NATO peacekeeping operations, expeditionary medical capabilities, and humanitarian de-mining as Armenia strives to become a security provider, rather than a security consumer, in the international community.
Azerbaijan. The U.S. relationship with the Republic of Azerbaijan remains strong. Azerbaijan continues to support ISAF through the Northern Distribution Network’s logistical air and ground corridors, and with fuel supplies and a troop contribution. Additionally, U.S.-Azerbaijani efforts continue to improve critical energy infrastructure protection, enhance maritime security, increase NATO interoperability, develop strategic defense reform, and work toward the goal of regional stability and security.
The Caspian. The Caspian Sea is both an extension of the South Caucasus and a bridge to Central Asia. European Command continues its close cooperation with U.S. Central Command in order to coordinate security cooperation across the Caspian to develop regional capabilities and respond to maritime transnational threats. Maritime security cooperation helps our partners bolster their independence and contributes to regional stability.