Thursday, October 22, 2009

Several points from Georgian perspective on NATO integration and reforms for Georgia's admission

Notwithstanding the politically antagonist nature of political elite and main part of political opposition in Georgia - the desire to eventually join NATO, enjoys overwhelming popular support in Georgia and is one of the few points of agreement (!) among all the major political parties. And results of referendum held during the Presidential elections of 2008 say that 77% of voters stand for Georgian NATO membership.

The more Georgia becomes credible partner for NATO, the more questions arise how can it be a member with two frozen conflicts on its soil in South Ossetia and Abkhazia? In other words should West consider the solution of the conflicts as a pre-condition for acceptance of the country in NATO?

The resolution of these conflicts is not entirely in Georgia’s hands, as outside powers, especially Russia (who is a party of the conflict), wield great influence. To make resolution a precondition for NATO membership would give Russia an effective veto over possible Georgian membership and, in all likelihood, encourage Moscow in its current aggressive policies.

In the history of NATO there are obvious examples when countries become NATO members with unresolved territorial disputes. For most obvious example, ongoing tensions and conflict between Greece and Turkey — even though both have been members of the Alliance for half a century. Historical precedents simply underscore that NATO has been prepared, under different historical and strategic conditions, to bring in new members with unresolved conflicts on their soil.

Despite of the fact that Russia malignly influences both public opinion and political decisions in secessionist regions of Georgia, we should not deny the separatist leaders and their peoples’ feelings. Their resistance to accommodation and reintegration with Georgia reflects honestly felt fears and resentments (I met Abkhazians twice and I had “honour” to feel these disproportionate ethnic hatred as for Georgian), concerns for security, and ignorance of the options available to them. That’s why as a member of Youth Atlantic Community I am working with our friends from YATA to make a change in the informational flow to Abkhazians to inform them about the real values NATO stands for and not watch on the world though Russian prism.

Guaranteed energy security

The geopolitical importance of being energy security transit country facilitates Georgia’s relations with the West. On the Western side, NATO and EU share a common interest in South Caucasus security and the reliability and development of energy supplies. (Regional security is a fundamental issue, vigorously promoted by the European Union. Both NATO Allies and EU institutions have shown a growing interest in the energy security issue, and this region can play an important role as an energy security provider by becoming a major alternative transit route to the Russian pipeline system for the transport of Eurasian energy resources.

Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, following the success of these projects, an important agreement for the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and currently signed NABUCCO, in all of the projects Georgia plays important role. Georgian energy security and political stability directly affects Baku and Ankara and they are of fundamental importance for the future of the region. Regional stability and security are fundamental prerequisites for energy corridor effectiveness and Georgia’s commitment by continuing reforming institutions is of prime importance in order to achieve final goal – secured region by getting membership of NATO.

Economic benefit by energy projects

The East-West energy corridor has a clear geopolitical added value for Georgia: development, stability, reliability and relevance, if so perceived in western eyes, can result in further political and economic gains for Tbilisi. For Georgia the energy corridor means to foster its independence, stabilize the country and develop the national economy. Moreover, economic growth and the development of the transit corridor can improve stability by rendering local conflict resumption undesirable, for both economic and political reasons. On the one hand economic development exerts a strong attraction which is difficult to resist for Western allies, while on the other hand Moscow’s policy of restoring regional political control with every means including military acts as a deterrent.

At the present time energy security is a topical issue and some NATO members have openly shown their interest in the role that Georgia can play in this field, thanks to its geographical position, and have supported its accession. For Eastern European countries, support for Georgian accession can be understood both in historical terms and in terms of promoting stability in EU neighbourhood regions. Moreover it is reasonable to think that the prospect of membership and actual accession would accelerate democratization.

While for NATO energy security means new tasks and introduces new fields of coordination with its member and partner states, it can also be a stimulus to enhance regional cooperation and favour stability. It is in this context that Georgia’s role in regional energy security can be analyzed.

To conclude Georgian government needs knowledge to consolidate public choice and choose the correct political vector, strength to pass this way and faith not to be afraid of challenges.

No comments: