Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 5

President Eduard Shevardnadze has defined Georgia’s policy as one of “knocking at NATO’s door” with a view to applying by 2005 for membership. Russia’s current political and military pressures on Georgia (see the Monitor, October 5-6, 21, November 8, 12, December 2, 13, 21; Fortnight in Review, October 22, November 19, December 3, 1999) aim to derail the country’s pro-Western policies, including its military and security cooperation with NATO countries. The Russian pressures seem to be having a twofold effect on Tbilisi’s stance toward NATO, as evidenced by the latest Georgian pronouncements. On a tactical level, Georgian leaders display due caution in discussing the scope and, particularly, the pace of the rapprochement with NATO. On a political strategy level, however, the pronouncements suggest that Moscow has managed to cement Tbilisi’s conviction that only NATO countries can guarantee Georgia’s security.

Briefing the press on December 27, Shevardnadze stated that the “current tension with Russia is not causing Georgia to seek a faster admission to NATO” but added that “further developments will determine whether Georgia will apply before or after 2005 for membership”–a clear indication that while the goal of membership is hard and fast, the timeframe can be extended by Russian moderation or shortened if Russia fuels tensions. On the following day, Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili made three interrelated points to a seminar of political scientists and journalists. First, that neutrality is an option which may legitimately be discussed but which looks impracticable; second, that “the CIS has long ago forfeited the role of providing security to member countries;” and, third, that “there is in practice no alternative to Georgia’s policy of deepening its relations with NATO.” That corollary and its wording presuppose an incremental pace toward a firmly set goal of joining the alliance.

On January 4, reviewing Georgia’s policies in the year just past, Menagarishvili listed cooperation with NATO as part of a set of “top priorities,” along with: developing relations with the European Union and other Western organizations, hosting the TRACECA transport corridor from Western Europe to Central Asia, and providing transit for Caspian oil and gas to Turkey and international markets. That economic and political context, in fact, puts the issue of Georgia’s relationship with NATO in the proper perspective. In its short-sighted attempts to thwart Georgia’s economic and political relations with the West, Moscow resorts to threats which in turn leave Georgia no choice but to look to NATO countries for security (Prime-News, Kavkasia-Press, Tbilisi radio, December 27, 29, 1999; January 4-5).