How NATO is trying not to alienate Tbilisi and not to anger Moscow
Recently the NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, invited Georgian journalists from the First Channel to make some interesting statements not about relations between Tbilisi and Brussels, but about the summit which will take place in Warsaw this year. Ahead of this, the first female Defense Minister of Georgia, Tina Khidasheli, demanded from NATO to issue Tbilisi a plan of action on its membership of the alliance at the Warsaw summit. “If the summit doesn’t make a positive decision, pro-Russian forces will win the parliamentary elections in 2016; Russia will have a free hand; and Georgia may disappear from the political map of the world,” the Defense Minister warned; in the moderate government of the professional banker, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, she represents the ultra-radical pro-Western Republican Party which consists of dissidents of the Soviet era of the liberal faithful and fans of John Locke.
NATO had to react to such tough statements. So the Canadian of Indian origin, James Appathurai, appeared on Georgian TV and directly, without European diplomatic tricks, stated: “Georgia won’t get a roadmap on entering the alliance at the Warsaw NATO summit.”
The most interesting thing is how the alliance’s Special Representative justified the final decision: “If I was from an aspirant country, it would be important for me to join NATO rather than to get a MAP.” It is a surprising argument. It seems Appathurai believes that the authorities and experts of Georgia are all fools who wouldn’t wonder: “Then why did another aspirant country, Macedonia, become a member of NATO only after receiving a MAP?” Why didn’t any state avoid issuing a MAP before an invitation to NATO during the last 20 years of the alliance’s expansion?
In fact, a MAP is an institutional tool which is required by NATO's regulating documents. It means that a state which gets a roadmap officially becomes a candidate to be a member of the alliance. It requires mutual responsibility ahead of full membership, that will be considered by the main opponent of NATO’s expansion, Russia, in a corresponding way.
Brussels knows this very well. It doesn’t want to give Tbilisi candidate status in order to avoid Moscow’s anger over trifles (in the context of huge problems with Syria and Ukraine). James Appathurai stated directly for the first time in many years: “Some members of NATO fear that issuing a MAP to Georgia without security guarantees will increase the risks to Georgia itself.”
This can be interpreted in the following way: “By issuing Georgia.a MAP, we will take a responsibility for the fate of the country; and we can’t and don’t want to take responsibility in the context of possible responsive measures by Russia (its troops are located 35 km from Tbilisi), so it is more reasonable to make a negative decision.”
However, NATO doesn’t want to alienate Georgia either. The alliance doesn’t have many faithful allies near the explosive region. Georgia takes first place among non-members of NATO in the number of soldiers who have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan during the military campaigns there. About 20 Georgians were killed and hundreds of them became disabled people forever; but the Georgian governments (including the current one) continue sending new contingents on various NATO missions, hoping for a future rapprochement with the alliance. Apparently, Appathurai decided to sugar-coat a bitter truth, promising another “powerful statement” at the Warsaw NATO summit and concluding: “A MAP is a political decision, and someday the time for political decisions will come.” This translates into an Eastern proverb – “when either the donkey or the shah dies.”