Interview on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration with Dr. Khatuna Burkadze, a researcher of “Geocase”
On February 12-13, NATO Defense Ministerial was held at NATO HQ in Brussels. Defense Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili participated in the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels.
How do you evaluate the results of Georgia’s involvement in the meetings of NATO member and partner countries at NATO HQ in Brussels?
- Within the NATO Defense Ministerial, Irakli Garibashvili’s visit to Brussels will have a positive impact on Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process. The Georgian Defense Minister had important meetings with NATO Secretary-General, NATO Deputy Secretary-General, and counterparts of NATO member and partner states. In the framework of “Resolute Support Mission” (RSM), Defense Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili attended the session of the North Atlantic Council. Strengthening NATO-Georgia cooperation, progress achieved within the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package (SNGP), Georgia’s role in enhancing the Black Sea security architecture, defense transformation, and Georgia’s contribution in international missions were discussed by the parties. This agenda indicates the important dynamics of NATO-Georgia cooperation.
How do you assess the dynamics of NATO-Georgia cooperation? How does NATO evaluate the implementation of the Georgian Annual National Program?
- In years Georgia aspires to become a member of the North Atlantic Alliance. On the Euro-Atlantic path, through the support of international partners, Georgia made reforms in the areas of democracy, economy, security, and defense. Overall, the NATO headquarters positively assessed the implementation of the Georgian Annual National Program.
In this regard, on January 23, 2020, the implementation of the Georgian Annual National Program was positively assessed by the Allies at the session of the NATO-Georgia Commission in Brussels. The Allies underlined that the North Atlantic Alliance stands by its decision on Georgia taken at the Bucharest Summit. As well, they paid attention that Georgia has all practical instruments for the integration into NATO.
These positive messages coming from Brussels are significant for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. However, Georgia deserves more because Georgia, as a non-member country among member states of the Alliance, made a distinguished contribution to the Transatlantic security. Our brave soldiers together with the partners are maintaining international peace and security.
Almost twelve years' promise of the Bucharest Summit should be delivered. Georgia deserves membership in NATO.
- In your opinion, to what extent is it possible to implement the decision of the 2008 Bucharest Summit?
- In this regard, Luke Coffey, the Director of the Foreign Policy Center at The Heritage Foundation, highlights: “The only question remaining is if leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have the political will and the creativity required to make NATO membership possible for Georgia”. “It is time for the Alliance to make progress on this issue of membership”- he emphasized.
In my opinion, Georgia will make progress on its Euro-Atlantic path by enhancing international support and by accentuating Georgia’s strategic importance.
In the context of Georgia’s membership in NATO, it is significant to analyze the founding document of the Alliance – North Atlantic Treaty.
Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty defines issues related to the process of NATO enlargement. According to Article 10: “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty”.
Based on this Treaty, that is a binding document for member states of NATO, we can say that Georgia affirmed that it is committed to the principles of the Alliance. It substantially contributed to Euro-Atlantic security.
Furthermore, because of the strategic location of Georgia, NATO can effectively enhance the Black Sea security architecture together with Georgia.
Georgia deserves membership in NATO and key for achieving this strategic goal is in the capitals of member states of the Alliance.
NATO unites sovereign states that granted membership to European countries several times, including former republics of the Soviet Union – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Member states of the Alliance reached a consensus when they invited the Baltic states to NATO. They should give such a historical opportunity to Georgia as well.
Among NATO member states Georgia-U.S. defense and security cooperation highlights, particularly, in 2019, the parties signed the U.S.-Georgia Security Cooperation Framework. It aims to develop readiness and sustainable capabilities as well as modernization of the Georgian Defense Forces. The Fiscal Year 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act of the United States increased the funds for the assistance of Georgia with 22 million USD as well.
- You mentioned that it is important to increase efforts to accentuate Georgia’s strategic significance. What do you mean?
- In terms of strengthening the Black Sea security architecture, we need to increase our efforts to highlight Georgia’s strategic significance. It would be helpful if NATO pays more attention to the role of Georgia in the Black Sea region at the 2021 NATO Summit. In this regard, it is essential to increase the efforts of the Georgian diplomats and support of the Allies. For example, it is possible to develop the NATO-Georgia Package on the Black Sea Security along with the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package. It will assist to emphasize Georgia’s role on the Euro-Atlantic map. Furthermore, highlighting Georgia’s strategic role will give us more opportunities to convince member states of the Alliance that Georgia, as the Black Sea littoral state, significantly contributes to Euro-Atlantic security.
- At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated: “I don’t understand why we have not invited Georgia, or we haven’t activated the action plan for Georgia to become a member. Georgia needs us, and we need an ally like Georgia. So, we need enlargement, and Georgia should be made a member.”
On the one hand, how do you evaluate the Turkish Foreign Minister’s statement, and on the other hand, what do you say about the possibility of accelerating Georgia’s integration into NATO?
- Turkey expressed its support towards Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations once again. It will have a positive impact on Georgia’s integration into NATO.
In the context of accelerating Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, Luke Coffey, the Director of the Foreign Policy Center at The Heritage Foundation, called on NATO member states to follow Turkey’s advice and make Georgia a member.
In this regard, a year ago, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commander of the US Army in Europe, mentioned: “Georgia should be a member of the Alliance right now.” Georgia has all practical instruments for integration into NATO that were mentioned by high-level representatives of the Alliance, including NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Furthermore, at the NATO London meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized: "There is now more NATO in Georgia than ever before.“ International positive messages and the dynamics of NATO-Georgia cooperation indicate that Georgia’s integration into NATO should be accelerated.