- On February 14-15, NATO defense ministers met in Brussels to discuss deterring Russia, strengthening NATO defense and supporting Ukraine. There was also the ninth meeting in Ramstein format. How would you assess the outcomes of the NATO Defense Ministerial and the Ramstein-9?
- Meetings of NATO defense ministers and the U.S. – led Contact Group for Ukraine in Ramstein indicate that the priority of defenders of a rules-based international order is to provide supplies of heavy weapons, more advanced air-defense systems and ammunition to Ukraine, which will bring groundbreaking changes to the battlefield and enable Ukraine to successfully complete its counterattack operations. Furthermore, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg believes that "Speed will save lives." This means prompt delivery of weapons, ammunition, spare parts and fuel to Kyiv without delay. Today is the time not only to make extraordinary, strong decisions, but also to take immediate actions.
In the context of increased assistance to Ukraine, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin mentioned that countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany, Poland, Portugal, Canada, Norway, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands had started preparations for sending Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine. In addition, the United States, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands will jointly deliver more than 90 T-72 tanks to Ukraine. The United States will supply Ukraine with Bradley and Abrams tanks, while Kyiv will receive Challenger tanks from Great Britain.
Significantly increased military aid and political, financial, and humanitarian support create more opportunities for Ukraine to win. The future of the international security system depends on this victory. As our Western partners underlined “Ukraine’s fight is our fight”.
Ukraine's victory should be the basis for the development of deterrent, preventive mechanisms and the creation of a global architecture of modern security, where the territorial integrity of sovereign states will be protected and borders will not be changed by force. Transformation of the international system is inevitable for proper protection of international law, otherwise we will continue to witness the pursuit of aggressive actions.
The U.S. President Joe Biden made surprise visit to Kyiv and reaffirmed unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. President Biden announced a half-billion dollars in new assistance. This package includes more military equipment. Ukraine will win through the support of the U.S. and other Western allies.
- The NATO ministerial and Ramstein-9 were preceded by an Austin-Burchuladze meeting in Washington, allocation of $33 million by the United States to Georgia, also a visit by a parliamentary delegation to NATO headquarters. Presumably, how did the NATO Defense Ministerial end for Georgia?
- As you mentioned, before the NATO Defense Ministerial, the Defense Minister of Georgia met with the Secretary of Defense of the United States in Washington. The initiation of allocation of $33 million for Georgia's security by the U.S. Department of Defense once again demonstrates that the United States is not only a partner, but also a strategic ally of Georgia in the defense and security sphere. The U.S. decision to increase military assistance to Georgia will contribute to Georgia's defense and deterrence, which aims to strengthen Georgia's defense capabilities, bring its defense forces even closer to the North Atlantic Alliance standards, and effectively implement a deterrence policy that includes developing capabilities to avoid threats.
As for the NATO Defense Ministerial, the Alliance will continue to assist Georgia to develop its defense capabilities, especially in the face of increasing aggression by the Russian Federation. Russia's large-scale aggressive actions against Ukraine have shown that timely decisions need to be made. NATO members agree to deepen cooperation with Georgia, including in the areas of cyber security, crisis management and secure communications. Therefore, NATO is increasing its support for the target countries of Russian intervention.
It should be noted that a delegation from the Georgian Ministry of Defence took part in a meeting of the Contact Group for Ukraine in Ramstein Format organized by the Department of Defense of the United States at NATO headquarters. This format is both politically and practically important and gives us an opportunity to engage with our partners in the process of ensuring security in the region.
- What does it mean for us to help in cybersecurity, crisis management and secure communications?
- Against the backdrop of Russia's growing aggression, cyber defense capabilities must be developed, technical and organizational standards for the security of communication channels must be improved, and a much more effective, coordinated crisis management mechanism must be implemented to ensure the country's security. At the NATO Defense Ministerial, member states expressed their readiness to assist Georgia in these priority areas, which could mean making appropriate changes to documents of strategic importance, developing a new conceptual vision, especially in terms of crisis management, and implementing institutional reforms.
- Presumably, why aren't we getting more help from NATO than is possible in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine?
- Georgia has all the practical tools for cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO-Georgia Commission, Annual National Program, Refreshed Substantial NATO-Georgia Package). However, from a political point of view, it is important to adopt a decision at the 2023 Vilnius Summit that will help develop new roadmap to accelerate Georgia's Euro-Atlantic integration process and lead to greater improvement in our defense capabilities. Following growing security challenges, Georgia, as an aspirant country, needs a clear political instrument to implement the political promise made years ago at the Bucharest Summit for Georgia's membership in the Alliance. This type of political change could strengthen the country's defense and security policy. At the same time, we need to improve channels of strategic communication with partners and proactively offer more initiatives that will enable us to deepen relations with member states of the Alliance. By initiatives, I mean proposing such recommendations to the member states of the North Atlantic Alliance, which will contribute to establishing joint institutional mechanisms with their participation, especially in the context of the security of the Black Sea region. It would increase our role and importance in the region and stress the need for the country even more.
- In a situation where European countries have closed airspace to Russia, if direct flights between Russia and Georgia are restored, how will our Western partners, for example partners in the European Union and NATO, perceive this?
- The U.S. State Department has made a clear statement regarding the resumption of flights with Russia. In particular, the resumption of flights between Georgia and Russia will pose a threat of sanctions for companies that would serve Russian companies at Georgian airports. According to the U.S. diplomatic service, now is not the time to increase engagement with Russia.
- We cannot ignore another matter directly and indirectly related to the issue of Georgia's foreign policy. The People's Power has registered the draft law "On Foreign Agents" in the Parliament. How would you assess the draft law registered in the Parliament and, in your opinion, to what extent does it meet the requirements of our European partners?
- For the process of Georgia's European integration, we should not implement such initiatives that will become obstacles to the country's European future. We should focus on 12 priorities for obtaining the EU candidate status.
In addition, it should be noted that according to the changes implemented in 2017 and 2018, the European future of the country is enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia. Pursuant to Article 78 of the Constitution of Georgia, constitutional bodies within their competences must take all measures to ensure Georgia's full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Thus, any legislative initiative hindering the process of European or Euro-Atlantic integration contradicts the Supreme Law of Georgia and is invalid.
By continuing respective legislative and institutional reforms, implementing the 12 priorities and demonstrating unity, we will be able to obtain the EU candidate status. For the European future of the country, it is necessary that all parties involved in political processes analyze their share of responsibility and engage in the process of European integration of Georgia, which will create more opportunities for more approximation with European standards. This is our civilizational choice, supported by the population of Georgia and upheld by the Constitution of Georgia, and represents the historical choice of our ancestors.