At the NATO summit in Warsaw in July the alliance is planning to offer Tbilisi and Kiev a newly devised status: “associate partnership”, as well as a closer cooperation in the Black Sea. Any attempts of rapprochement between NATO and the former USSR republics, according to analysts, will make Moscow nervous and even more unpredictable.
Georgia, which was hoping to receive the Membership Acting Plan (MAP) this year in Warsaw, does not conceal its dissatisfaction. However, Tbilisi acknowledges that considering present political realities, the new status of associate partnership will be an important step towards its path to NATO.
“At present we are in the third stage of the integration process- an intensive dialogue, followed by the implementation in Georgia in 2016 of the Partnership for Peace and by an individual partnership. The fourth step will be granting Georgia a MAP,” says Vakhtang Maisaya, who previously chaired the department on Georgia-NATO relationships.
Although the association membership status was established in Brussels recently as a sort of a consolation prize for Georgia instead of the promised MAP, according to Maisaya, it is not just a symbolic step coming from NATO.
In February, James Appathurai, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia during his trip to Georgia said there was no common consent in NATO regarding granting Tbilisi an MAP. However, the representative underlined that “a strong declaration” would be offered to Georgia” at the NATO summit in Warsaw.
According to the Georgian newspaper Rezonansi, the alliance is also planning to offer Kiev and Tbilisi a “28+2” cooperation in the Black Sea, a formula previously tested with Finland and Sweden, which are not NATO members. The idea was previously articulated by Alexander Vershbow, the current Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, in the course of the Conference on Security in Kiev in April. According to Vershbow, Georgia and Ukraine have also to join this format of cooperation because the “Russian possible plans to station nuclear weapons in the Black sea region will undermine the balance of power”.
The experts argue that if Tbilisi and Kiev will join “28+2”, this would lead to further isolation of Russia in the Black sea, as three other countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are already members of NATO.
At present, both Georgia and Ukraine are members of NATO’s programme Partnership for Peace, launched in 1994 and aimed at building relationships with partners through military-to-military cooperation.