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NATO Support for Georgia Raises Lavrov's Ire

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, December 12
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared to panic after the final statement of a NATO ministerial meeting, held in Brussels on December 7, which named Georgia in their joint communique among “aspirant” countries. Lavrov criticized and issued an open “warning” to his counterparts in NATO that such statements might serve as an encouragement for President Saakashvili to undertake “an adventure similar to the one of August, 2008."

“I noticed that yesterday’s communique, which was adopted by the NATO foreign ministers, contains a term ‘aspirant countries’ and among them was named Georgia too. I openly warned our colleagues not to again push, wittingly or unwittingly, the current regime in Georgia towards repeating an adventure similar to the one of August, 2008… it was shortly after the [April, 2008 NATO] Bucharest summit, during which [NATO] imperatively stated, that Georgia will join NATO,” Lavrov said at a press conference on December 8.

Medvedev’s and Lavrov’s statements regarding the 2008 August War sound quite ambivalent. The former openly confessed the “genuine reason” – NATO expansion - for Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, whereas FM Lavrov continues to doubt Saakashvili’s mental health, attributing the conflict to his adventures.

“I have not the slightest doubt, taking into account Saakashvili’s psyche that it [the NATO Bucharest summit decision] played an important role in the insane and reckless decision which Saakashvili took. So I expressed hope that NATO will take a responsible approach towards encouraging such events that took place in 2008 in the region, which is strategic not only for the South Caucasus states, but for the Russian Federation too – our close allies and neighbors are living there. I hope I’ve been heard [by NATO],” the Russian Foreign Minister added.

“We applaud the significant operational support provided to NATO by our aspirant partners the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia”, NATO's final statement reads. Yet the NATO foreign ministers as usual did not forget to emphasize the “strategic importance” of co-operation with Russia. “Despite differences on specific issues, including on Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and Russia’s commitments of 2008, we share common security interests and face common challenges,” the statement reads.

They also did not forget to reaffirm NATO’s open door policy and “strong commitment to the Euro-Atlantic integration of our aspirant partners, in accordance with previous decisions taken at the Bucharest, Strasbourg-Kehl and Lisbon Summits."

“Democratic values, regional cooperation, and good neighbourly relations are important for lasting peace and stability. We welcome the progress aspirant countries have made and we encourage them to continue to implement the necessary decisions and reforms to advance their Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the NATO foreign ministers said.

Such statements sound encouraging for Georgian officials who consider this a great achievement and a step closer on the way to NATO integration.

The Georgian state minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration issues Giorgi Baramidze, welcomed the wording of the communique, saying it was “the first time when Georgia was named in an official NATO document as having the status of a NATO membership candidate country."

Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, said that it was natural that the NATO foreign ministers’ statement “triggered Russia’s terrible irritation”, which, he said, was reflected in the remarks of his Russian counterpart.

NATO’s encouraging statements are understandable in terms of “diplomacy” and international policy, which are politically reasonable due to the imperialistic ambitions of the Russian Federation. However, this open door policy comes in contradiction to its treaty, which does not envisage the membership of countries with undermined territorial integrity, internal conflicts, and occupied territories.