Georgia’s Intention To Join NATO Is Also Boosted By On-Going Domestic Protests

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 1 July 2019
Georgia’s Intention To Join NATO Is Also Boosted By On-Going Domestic Protests

Protests in Georgian capital Tbilisi are continuing with demands by the protesters in the March of Freedom for the resignation of Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia.

The anti-government protests in Georgia, seeking a NATO membership, are an extra boost to accelerate the process as the phase of worsening relations with the Kremlin will go ahead. The protests in Tbilisi were fueled by Russian Duma MP Sergei Gavrilov's visit as chair of the general assembly of Orthodox MPs.

The government dispersed demonstrators protesting against Gavrilov's appearance in the Georgian parliament on the night of 20-21 June and aggravated the situation and bettered the arguments of those who seek a NATO membership.

Georgia intends to strengthen cooperation with NATO and Defense Minister Levan Izoria met James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Naval Forces Africa and commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, to discuss deepening of the military ties with the military alliance.

They discussed partnerships and prospects for cooperation. “We will strengthen our cooperation to strengthen security in the Black Sea region,” said Izoria. He added that the parties intend to hold joint exercises and increase the number of visits to Georgia of the alliance ships.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, where he once again promised Georgia support in the matter of joining NATO. Donald Trump also supports Georgia’s desire to join NATO, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Also, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili stated that the country was already on the threshold of the alliance’s membership, despite the fact that it had not even been provided with the necessary Action Plan. Although Washington is interested in cooperation with Tbilisi, it is unlikely that an exception to the rule will be made for Georgia, experts say.

They are skeptical about the prospects for the accession of this Caucasus country to NATO and the EU because of unresolved territorial disputes. Against the backdrop of the crisis with Russia, the United States approves of the idea of giving Georgia membership in NATO. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this in Washington during a speech to Georgian journalists.

“Georgia’s efforts allow me to state with great confidence on behalf of President Trump and the entire American government that you will continue to enjoy the support of the United States in your quest to become a NATO member,” Pompeo stressed.

The lack of an Action Plan for NATO membership will not prevent Georgia from joining this alliance, as well as joining the EU, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said earlier.

During her visit to Switzerland, she gave an interview to AP. “I do not have an Action Plan for NATO membership, however, in my opinion, it is clear that Georgia will successfully complete its path to NATO and also to the EU - a little different, but in parallel mode,” said Zourabichvili.

The plan of action for NATO membership is a special program that must be followed by all candidates for membership in the alliance. Now two countries participate in it: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Northern Macedonia. At the end of 2008, Georgia officially requested that it be provided with an Action Plan for NATO membership. However, in the same year at the summit of the alliance in Bucharest, it was denied this.

The approach of NATO to the borders of Russia has always been perceived negatively by the Russian leadership. Now, against the background of a sharp deterioration in relations, such a move will almost certainly lead to the emergence of another point of tension in relations between Russia and the West, this time in the Caucasus.

Whether NATO is ready for this is not yet known. But there is an obvious obstacle on the way of Georgia to the alliance - unresolved territorial conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. NATO recognizes these regions as the territory of Georgia, but in the republics themselves they think differently.
And recent events have clearly shown that if Georgia joins NATO, another conflict in the region may well flare up.

On 30 May, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis and Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze discussed challenges in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea regions and defense cooperation. Both sides reaffirmed their intention to continue cooperation in military training, education and exercises, cyber security and strategic communication.

Karoblis reiterated Lithuania's commitment to strengthening and expanding the partnership between NATO and Georgia as a Lithuanian representative serves as a Nato Military Representative in Georgia and a Lithuanian advisor remains to serve with the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre.

As both countries' defense cooperation continues, Georgian military personnel will further be invited to study at the courses of the Lithuanian Armed Forces School, Gen Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, and the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL). Lithuanian soldiers are deployed to military exercises in Georgia and Georgian troops are training in exercises in Lithuania. Georgian soldiers will be training in Lithuania as soon as June at international Exercise Flaming Sword 2019.