Eurasianet.org published Joshua Kucera’s recent article on internal developments in Georgia.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says that NATO was ready to offer his country the long-coveted Membership Action Plan to join the alliance but that “events of recent months” have scuttled those hopes. That seems to contradict statements made a day earlier by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in which he said there were never any such plans.
Saakashvili was speaking to Georgian journalists in Warsaw, on the way back to Georgia from NATO meetings in Brussels, reports Civil.ge:
“We were permanently making progress in respect of NATO [integration]. At Bucharest summit [in April 2008] we failed to get MAP, but we got a direct declaration that Georgia will become a NATO member and it was a real geopolitical breakthrough. Then NATO-Georgia Commission was established [in September, 2008]… Then we received a status of an aspirant state [December, 2011]… Then there was a statement at the NATO Chicago summit [in May, 2012] that at the next summit NATO should expand and that Georgia was one of the major candidates,” Saakashvili said….
“Yesterday [December 5] NATO-Georgia Commission meeting was held in Brussels. After the elections we had a chance of receiving MAP, because at the time discussions were ongoing that because elections were held so well and because we had a consensus between the new [government] and the President about NATO membership, there was a chance of at last getting this MAP by December – I was personally told about it at the very highest level,” Saakashvili said….
“Unfortunately, events of recent months – and I am saying it with great regret – did not allow us [to get MAP].”
“Yesterday’s [NATO-Georgia Commission] meeting was held actually without having new institutional progress [with NATO],” Saakashvili said.
The “events” Saakashvili alluded to no doubt refer to his party’s loss in recent parliamentary elections and the ensuing rollup of several former government officials, about which Rasmussen has voiced some concern.
As the report in Civil.ge pointed out, Rasmussen had said something different the day before:
“We have never planned to have discussions on Membership Action Plan or any other steps at the NATO-Georgia Commission meeting tomorrow,” the NATO Secretary General said.
So whom to believe? Georgia appeared to have been moving further away, rather than toward, MAP even before these elections, so an imminent MAP offer seems implausible. It seems most likely that Saakashvili misread some vaguely worded NATO promises of “progress.” But who knows. About the only thing we can say with confidence is that this ongoing drama is going to last a very long time before it’s resolved.