NATO's doors are still closed to Tbilisi

Jens Stoltenberg made clear that the balance of power in the region is not changing
Jens Stoltenberg made clear that the balance of power in the region is not changing

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, together with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, just opened the 'Joint Training Centre' for military training, and Georgian media reported that two Russian military helicopters allegedly flew into Georgian territory from South Ossetia. This information has not been confirmed by the EU observer mission in the conflict zone, and was later disproved by the State Security Service of Georgia. But the spread of panic information itself, with the stamp "Help!" is no accident – these days Tbilisi only talks about the possible reaction of Moscow to the opening of the Training Center. Tbilisi for some reason thinks that in Russia, this center is considered to be a big threat and we intend to oppose it, that we might even close the central Tbilisi-Poti Highway, linking eastern Georgia to the Black Sea ports, which is just 450 meters from the border with South Ossetia.

But Russia and its allies are in no hurry to act so radically. The Joint Training Center itself, despite loud PR, is clearly not worth it. Garibashvili himself confirmed this, speaking at a joint press conference with Stoltenberg. The Prime Minister stressed that this center is not directed against Russia, and there is nothing new in its operation, since the country already has a similar facility – the shooters training base located in Sachkhere. It was founded six years ago with the help of France. Troops from neighboring states are also trained there, but Moscow the treated Sachkhere base calmly. Moreover, unlike the newly opened Krtsanisi Center, the Sachkhere base is located in the immediate vicinity of South Ossetia.

Of course, the corresponding structures in Russia have closely followed the visit of NATO Secretary General to Georgia, taking into account all the complexity of relations between Russia and the alliance. Knowing this, Jens Stoltenberg used diplomatic gestures to make it clear to Russian colleagues that his visit and the very opening of the Joining Training Center in Krtsanisi do not change the balance of power in the region. Already being in Georgia and negotiating with the Georgian Prime Minister, the Norwegian suddenly changed the program of the visit, cutting it short for a meeting with the parents of 16-year-old Tamta Liparteliani, who died at the hands of the maniac Andreas Breivik during the terrible tragedy on the Norwegian island of Utoya. In this way Stoltenberg made it clear that his visit is largely symbolic. In any case, nothing more serious than a meeting with the parents of a girl who died in Norway happened during the visit to Georgia.

How important is the functioning of a joint training center in Georgia from the military political point of view? It was created by the decision of the NATO summit in Wales under the 'enhanced cooperation package'. The package itself is designed to compensate Tbilisi for the refusal of the alliance to provide Georgia with a roadmap for joining NATO. In addition to the opening of the center, the package includes regular exercises involving troops from NATO member states and strengthening of the 'connected office' of the alliance in Tbilisi.

The Training Center is located at a 'training center' of the Ministry of Defence of Georgia that has existed for a long time, that is, it's not a brand-new facility. In addition, Georgian leaders themselves, including the prime minister and his special envoy for the settlement of relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, have repeatedly stressed that the Center "is not a military base, but only a learning facility."

Only a few trainers from NATO countries will work, who for all those years were working at the educational center of the Ministry of Defense in Krtsanisi or at the base for preparation of shooters in Sachkhere.

There is another interesting aspect, indicating that all the major players are skillfully lead their sides along the famous principle of 'do not harm', while using biased figures: the statements of Garibashvili (who has the real power in the country) and Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli (representing the pro-Western Republican Party) significantly differ in their degrees of radicalism. Khidasheli once again demanded that Jens Stoltenberg "fix the position on the issue of providing Georgia with a Membership Action Plan already during the Warsaw Summit." But the head of the government has never mentioned a 'roadmap' or the Warsaw Summit, thus making it clear that he understands the rules of the game established in the Brussels-Moscow-Tbilisi 'Triangle', where the first two 'corners' and their relationships are crucial. In other words, Garibashvili realizes the futility of the question about the 'roadmap' (taking into account the counteractions of Moscow) and sees no point in 'putting on pressure' with such caution that he is earning the respect of NATO leaders, who always appreciate politicians who know and adequately assess the location, resources, real meaning and role of their countries in the modern world.

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