National public ballot was held in 2008 in Georgia – do you agree on Georgia’s joining the NATO? 1,982,318 voters turned out with 77% agreeing that Georgia has to join NATO.
ONCE IN FOUR MONTHS
The referendum was held I njanuary 2008, 4 months before the historic NATO Buchurest Summit. Gerogia was in need of the firm argument to persuade the NATO member states to grant MAP. According to this referendum, this argument was obvious.
However, despite the firm will of the nation and multiple bilateral and multilateral formats Georgian government has been engaged in to succeed in gaining MAP, there still are sceptic member states which reject not only granting MAP to Georgia but also NATO’s Eastern expansion, with Germany being one of such states in the avant-gard. Germany is Russia’s biggest trade partner.
Besides other important issues, NATO Buchurest Summit decided that Ukraine and Georgia would become its members once they met certain criteria necessary for the membership. By stipulating this paragraph NATO confirmed that it is loyal to “open doors” policy, not only for Georgia and Ukraine but any other state wishing to become its member.
Are results of the ballot and the record historical?
Did this record (that Georgia will become a NATO member) trigger the August 2008 war with Russia in exactly 4 months after the Summit? Was it worth it?
In fact, this record also concerns Ukraine on the same level, where no such national voting was held.
It is also a fact that after electing pro-Russian Yanukovich, Ukraine ignored this record and completely stopped relations with NATO. Besides, the country declared actual neutrality, the status outside the military bloc.
However in Gerogia, things unfolded vice versa – besides the nation’s clear aspiration to the Alliance, the new government also clearly declared the loyalty to the European values and firm desire to join it.
Therefore, the results of the ballot together with number of further quantitative researches in place are circles of one historical chain.
For this specific and historical record of the Summit, none of the member states including sceptics as well will ever disapprove Georgia’s membership sooner or later, unless Georgia itself does so (but it cannot as the results of the national ballot are for join ing NATO)
At the same time, this Summit was historical for other reasons as well – this was the first gathering of the world leaders after WWII, where they openly declared different opinions on the future strategy of the Alliance.
Germany and other European states were against the expansion trying to achieve closing of the doors, at least temporarily. George Bush’s fair and well-argumented opinion that none of the States should have the right of indirect veto stripped Angela Merkel’s desire to kill the Eastern expansion perspective together with other Eurpoean leaders.
Does Merkel have such argument today? There is no obvious answer to that as Georgia was not given MAP in Buchurest; however, leaders of 28 States agreed to discuss this matter in December the same year (4 months after the August war with Russia) in the fomat of Foregin Affairs Ministerial. It is important that Merkel herself signed the declaration confirming loyalty to open-door policy. So, we could consider Merkel lost this round as she became indirect hostage to her own signature.
Did the US lose? President Bush in those days would say that it was the maximum achievable result in that period. On one hand, the US managed to persuade sceptics to record the phrase: Georgia will become the NATO member, and on the other hand the issue was postponed for December forum when there was a high probability of Georgia receiving MAP. At the same time, the US foreign policy failed not to have envisaged the scale of Russia’s reaction – Medvedev will then admit that if not for Russia’s full-fledged intervention then in Georgia, the latter would have been the NATO member. Of course Medvedev exaggerates but Georgia was totally able to receive MAP in that year. By the way Macedonia has had MAP for 16th year now. The West has problem with only one issue concerning Macedonia’s membership – its name which this Balkan state does not want to give up. The West could have had more serious “argument” than this against Georgia’s final membership which is the country’s territorial problems, and thus could have limited itself to only granting MAP in April or December and extended Georgia’s final membership for years. NATO must have speeded up the events and the US must have made more efforts to talk sceptic member states out of refusing MAP to Georgia, that this would prevent Russia from daring intervention in Georgia.
As it appeared Moscow had its own strategy – it is difficult to say now whether or not Russia would go for intervention of Georgia within 4 months after April (in case Georgia had received MAP), however it is true that Moscow was irritated by the advance given to Georgia that it would receive MAP in December Ministerial. Hence, Moscow carried out its plan of aggression before that Forum.
Moscow surely knows that MAP does not already mean collective security, however it is their higly important strategic task to oppose to the integration process on each and every level. This is somehow caused by their historic memories of strong US during Regean presidency and the West in general which dismantled USSR in several years. Moscow is still annoyed that it was the result of Eltsin’s soft policy that already in Putin’s period NATO expanded at the expense of Baltic States, the former Soviet republics.
Russia had been preparing for 2008 war for long. Entrance of their 58th army was planned way before the aggression. This army had several trainings for this purpose as well.
Russia had a feeling and information, too that well-trained with Western standards and experienced in Iraqi and Afghan operations, Georgia would severely fight back.
Russia kept on provoking Georgia to create the situation with the war, as the only way out of it.
In the beginning, escalation of war was expected towards Apkhazeti but the then leader Sergei Bagapshi was allegedly opposed to expanding his jurisdiction over Kodori arguing that Tbilisi could have launched mighty attack on Sokhumi in response which would devastate poor Apkhazian tourism economy. Moscow tried to persuade Bagaphis in the opposite but separatist leader had his arguments.
Moscow needed formal basis to launch the intervention, for example ethnical clash. Bagapshi did not agree on that as he wanted to avoid another bloodshed and he also had less trust in Moscow as by his and many Apkhazians’ opinion Moscow could have dealt with weak Georgian army in early 90s conflict but expanded war for 13 months.
Moscow had alterantive plan – Tskhinvali. The only difference between Bagapshi and Kokoiti, if any is that for Kokoiti Tskhinvali together with its people were not worth a penny, and agreed to serve as such “formal basis” for Russia to start its aggression and turnd his region into a battlefield.
Eventually, Kokoiti was rewarded for this loyalty, enjoying his “retirement” and running big illegal business, however we cannot say the same for Bagaphi who died shortly after these events. In case the latter was killed, the reason could be that he did not follow Moscow’s instructions.
Of these two scenarios the one with Apkhazia was more preferable for Moscow because Tbilisi would face the difficulties to manage Western front. Kremlin was confident of finishing off the war with Tbilisi pretty soon.
”Tskhinvali version” came alive only after receiving apparent refusal from Sokhumi to provoke Tbilisi. Kremlin elaborated on the idea to attack Tbilisi after Tskhinvali.
Despite numerous examples of bravery and heroism of the Georgian army in this war, Georgia was defeated due to quantitative advantage of Russia’s 58th army which invaded in its full force.
Several factors are important while reviewing these days’ chronicles:
- The US decision to carry out “humanitarian mission” in Georgia. George W. Bush ordered his defense secretary to be the head of the US military 6th fleet based in the Mediterranean.
- On August 13, 2008 President Bush announced that US military planes would land for humanitarian puposes in Tbilisi airport. Bush required from Moscow to clean land, maritme and air communication channels.
- White House was discussing to launch air attack towards Roki tunnel.
- Six European leaders made quick decision to go to Tbilisi.
- US required form Turkey to open Bosphorus channel to have enabled its 6th fleet to cross Black Sea in the shortest time.
- Tbilisi was not attacked because of these 5 reaso
Paragraph 3 is mostly significant as the US was discussing open participation in the conflict.
Ukraine and Aremnia
It was no obstacle for Russia to invade two territories of Ukraine no matter Yanukovich declared neutrality (the status being valid even in Poroshchenko’s presidency). Russia leads covert war in the South-East of Ukraine and easily carried out annexation of Crimea (annexation – the highest manifestation of aggression). It is vividly observed that neutrality is no barrier for Russia to instigate conflicts and launch wars. The Ukraine conflicts formally started when Yanukovich refused trade relations with EU causing public protests against his government. Russia made clever use of Meidan results; however it does not mean that ousting Yanukovich was a mistake despite the severe conseuquences.
Stereotyped post-soviet mentality wants welfare right here, right now. In the long-term, the wounds of Crimea and Donbass are barely healable (the same can be said regarding Georgia – ApkhazeTi and Tskhnvali region). However, there are some countries which historical mission was to fight for tomorrow, for future rather than for “right here and right now”. Georgia was in the list of such countries very often and so now is Ukraine; Baltic States managed to make a breakthrough in the civilized world which took them 40 years of permamnent and uncompromised fight. Therefore, it is critical for future generations what path governments of Ukraine and Georgia choose today.
Good example for this case is Armenia which chose “welfare right here, right now”, however unfortunately failed to solve its existential financial problems despite this country’s compromise to Russia to refuse to sign Association Agreement with EU.
NATO Wales Summit
Georgian and other intenational media had a full coverage of this event, so we will not go into details here in this article. It should be reiterated that the main result – “More NATO in Georgia” was reached: new training and evaluation centre of the Alliance will be opened soon (this is different from other analogue centres). This caused Russia’s concerns but these concerns should not serve as the basis of Georgia’s deviation from its strategic path.
There is also a symbolic significance as to this Summit – NATO flag will officially be raised in Gerogia for the first time. By practice and experience NATO never leaves the territory where its flag is once raised. In other words, once it is raised, it is raised forever.
Strategy of the Georgian government
NATO is often perceived as the military alliance; however it is equally a political coalition uniting 28 states. Membership process of Montenegro will start in December this year and in July next year in Warsaw this Balkan aspirant country will officially become 29th member state of NATO
Is it good or bad?
The fact that one of the four NATO aspirant country will no longer be in the group is “not acceptable”; this would be more acute if Georgia’s progress in this direction is not observed.
Georgian government openly announced that its goal was to receive MAP on Warsaw Summit. It is worth noting that MAP can be obtained within forums like Ministrials. Therefore, Georgian government shall aim at MAP and other advances on 2015 Ministerial and then make adeqaute preparations for Warsaw Summit. Georgian government should make significant corrections to its message in terms of internal communication as MAP is yet undecided for Georgia. The message should clearly show Georgia’s desire for MAP and at the same time the assumption shall be made that in case Georgia’s failure to receive MAP it will not be a tragedy (this will be hard to formulate, I admit).
Aspiration to MAP is the clear message to enable the West that it take relevant steps to keep its promise made in 2008 in Buchurest Summit. There shall also be an alternative plan B which could be even better than MAP (Macedonia has been having MAP for 16 years now and still is not the member; same way Georgia’s final membership could probably be prolonged after MAP due to its territorial problems. Therefore, the alternative concept must be thought through which will treat territorial conflicts as secondary).
Since 1999, it has been strictly set that MAP is a required tool for final NATO membership. At the same time, Georgia already posseses all the necessary tools which MAP actually implies. For example, NATO-Georgia Commission and Annual National Program; according to Wales Declaration all instruments as set by NATO are in force. So, notwithstanding the fact that Georgia does not have MAP, it has all sub-instruments as stipulated by MAP.
Therefore, 1999 Washington declaration can be revised by entering the clause at Warsaw Summit that MAP is not the only mandatory tool for final membership.
Key Message (Introduction)
Georgia’s territorial problems were mentioned above. There is an obvious example of East Germany automatically becoming NATO member after taking down the Belin Wall, however way stronger argument is required from Georiga to persuade the member states in its final acceptance in the Alliance.
What could be this argument?
Germany’s example is not “valid” as the nation was artificially divided and there was no rivalry between East and West Germans. Their integration was a simple process.
In Georgia we have a different problem. There are various ethnical groups residing on the other side of Enguri River now, after local Georgian population fled from the region due to the conflict. These groupsare not really fond of Georgia and will supposedly never be unless the rest of Georgia makes democratic and economic advance.
What is the way out?
Topic of Georgia’s signing non-invasion pact is still under discussion. According to this pact Tbilisi taks a vow that it will never attack Sokhumi. This argument could only be acceptable for Apkhazians, not for Russian aggressors.
Main argument (different from that of uniting Germany) while discussing with the Alliance shall be formed in the following sentence: Georgia will never export its internal problems to the West, i.e. will never require enacting 5th paragraph.
At the same time, separation of military and political issues is also possible – Georgia bcmes the member in political part, whereas postponing military part for future when Russia becomes relatively weaker, and sure it will.
That’s all I wanted to say in this long article.