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Russian aggression brings Georgia closer to NATO

By M. Alkhazashvili
Thursday, August 21
Russia has sought to suppress Georgia’s drive towards NATO membership with its action. The result however has been quite the contrary. Russian aggression has now brought Georgia closer to the NATO alliance.

Many times the Russian leadership warned Georgia that it would not permit our country’s accession into NATO and demanded from this sovereign country at least neutrality. What has been the consequence of Russia’s behaviour? Has Russia managed to stop Georgia’s accession or has it forced the alliance to refuse Georgia’s application? It has done nothing of the sort. Russia’s aggression has merely speeded up the process put temporarily on hold at the Bucharest summit in April.

Today many political analysts are recalling that summit. Then Russia managed to blackmail other European countries and several of them, including France and Germany, refused to grant Georgia a MAP- Membership Action Plan - explaining that the Russian factor influenced their decision. Some think that if Georgia had been given the MAP Russia would have thought twice before launching an attack on Georgia. Analysts maintain that MAP refusal was understood by Russia as a signal that the West is not prepared to protect Georgia.

Russia slowly tested the limits of Western tolerance. First it established official relations with the separatist regimes, then introduced extra armed forces into the conflict zone under the ‘peacekeeping’ umbrella, who entered Georgia on tanks - offensive weapons not usually part of the arsenal of peacekeepers. Then it brought in troops it called ‘engineers’ to reconstruct railway lines in the separatist areas then began military training exercises in the north Caucasus where Russian soldiers were told that their virtual enemy was the ‘Saakashists.’ Then it sent its military planes over Georgian territory, admitting it was doping so to teach Georgia a lesson, and so on and so forth.

The West responded very politely to Russian arrogance although Georgia’s diplomats and politicians, and its President, repeatedly pointed out the threat the country was facing. Such situation gave Russia confidence that the West would not do much to support Georgia and that 1921 could be repeated. The Russian monster set out to swallow little Georgia whole, install a puppet government and separate it from Europe, NATO and the US. It did not matter whether Georgia started to restore constitutional order in the separatist controlled territory or whether “wedding fireworks” would provoke the Russian leadership to launch an attack on Georgia, occupy Tbilisi to find pro-Russian people there and end Georgian sovereignty.

For the West the scale and speed of the Russian aggression were so unexpected and shocking that even those countries with cordial and friendly relations with Russia launched immediate protests. They should not come so far out of the blue for Western eyes. Georgia has been under Russian aggression ever since it regained its independence in the early nineties of the last century. Even separatist conflicts were not based on ethnic divisions but wrapped in them to disguise what was really going on. They were the product of wickedly plotted Russian plans to get hold of Georgia again. In those days Russia won the information war and Europe and the US knew very little, if anything, of what was really going on in Georgia. Luckily for Georgia, this has now changed. Suddenly, and unexpectedly for Russia, the world has been almost unanimous in expressing its indignation at Russia’s behaviour, with if I am not mistaken, only Cuba Venezuela, Syria and Belarus declaring support for Russia.

Under these circumstances it has become inevitable to guarantee Georgia’s accession to NATO. All countries are warning Russia to behave in an adequate and civilized manner. No sanctions have so far been taken against it but they could be if necessary. The world still gives Russia the opportunity to display at least a semblance of decency. Russia should feel that if it does not follow the rules of civilization’s game it will be isolated together with Cuba and Belarus.

It looks, as always, as if Russia does not have a clear cut strategy of what to do next .Its leaders are at a loss. Georgia has received unexpectedly strong support. The Russian Foreign Minister is rather aggressive whereas President Medvedev is more balanced. Meanwhile NATO foreign ministers confirm their support for Georgia and say they will welcome it into NATO although not specifying when.

In the January 5 plebiscite the Georgian population expressed its wish to enter NATO. Today this feeling is confirmed once again as the population can clearly see NATO’s commitment to Georgia. Despite the damage the Georgian armed forces infrastructure received from Russia the army will be rebuilt again. Georgia will join NATO, and the myth that only Russia is responsible for security in the Caucasus will be shown to be a Russian bluff.