NATO: No Shortcuts to Georgian Membership
The Crimea crisis has inspired hopes for a speedier ride for Georgia to NATO membership, but the Alliance appears to be sticking to an adagio pace for now. “Georgia is not there yet,” James Appathurai, the NATO secretary general’s special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, commented to EurasiaNet.org.
While noting "a positive dynamic in Georgia's democratic development," he suggested staying focused on ongoing reforms that “will enable Georgia to live up to the duties resulting from the membership.”
“There cannot be shortcuts and Georgia is not seeking them,” he said.
Tbilisi, though, believes it's done the necessary homework. “Georgia is ready and deserves to move to a qualitatively higher level [of] cooperation with NATO that will be a next logical step forward in [the] NATO membership process,” Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania told EurasiaNet.org.
He argues that the country, with a change of power by election behind it, has matured politically, made an impressive contribution to the Afghanistan campaign and achieved a high level of interoperability with NATO.
From Tbilisi’s perspective, at this stage, it is all about whether NATO is ready for Georgia; not the other way round.
Fingers are crossed here in hopes to get the coveted Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the NATO summit this September in Wales in the United Kingdom. Apart from securing the long-wanted deterrent against Russian pressure, receiving a MAP alongside closer ties with the EU would be a major foreign policy success for the current administration.
Observers, though, believe that much will depend on whether the West-Russia standoff over Ukraine gets to the point when the West consensually decides that it is time for decisive action to keep Russia within its own borders.
Citing unnamed State Department sources, Russia's Kommersant daily reported on March 12 that Georgia would get a MAP if Russia moves to annex Crimea. Some, however, still worry about the potential consequences from Russia for Georgia. The 2008 Russia-Georgia war followed a NATO promise of eventual membership for Georgia and Ukraine. For now, NATO says it is aware of the current “geopolitical context,” but asks to take things in stride. “It is too early to speculate on what will be decided at the Summit, with regard to MAP,” said Appathurai.