On March 25, delegates from around the globe participated in a USAK-held round table discussion entitled “Preparation for the NATO Warsaw Summit and Regional Security Challenges”.
Leading the discussion was David Dondua, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, and moderator USAK Vice President Prof. Dr. Kamer Kasım. They were accompanied by a delegation consisting of members from Georgia’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, the Georgian Ambassador to Turkey, and representatives from several other embassies to Turkey, as well as prominent political analysts and members of Turkey’s media and academic community.
Discussion centered on the web of complicated relations enwrapping Georgia with the EU, NATO, Russia, and the U.S. that will likely be brought to attention at the NATO Summit which will be held in Warsaw July 8 and 9.
Kasım opened the roundtable by underscoring Turkey and Georgia’s close relations, calling for further cooperation and support and highlighting the importance of the upcoming NATO summit on Georgian security and regional stability.
Dondua then held the floor explaining Georgia’s desire - and need - for NATO membership. Georgia fist voiced its desire to join NATO in 2005, was assured eventual membership at the Bucharest Summit in 2008, and has been designated an “aspirant country” since 2011. If Georgia is accepted to the alliance, it will be the easternmost state in the organization.
Georgia is interested in not just NATO membership, but total integration into greater Europe, including eventual EU accession.
Dondua stressed his country’s need for greater security - and assurance of external support in security matters – particularly in light of Russia’s recent aggression in Ukraine, which is currently witnessing “no open hostilities, but also no stability”. Russian aspirations are not limited to Eastern Ukraine, he claimed, but pose a threat to the Black Sea region and former member states of the USSR. Dondua believes that, if Georgia is not given NATO membership, Russia will have “effectively annexed” South Ossetia and Abkhazia within the next few years.
NATO membership would both bolster Georgia’s borders and guarantee greater regional stability by acting as a counterweight to Russia. Kasım repeated this sentiment, calling NATO “possibly the only viable security umbrella” for Georgia. Both voiced the belief that Georgian NATO membership would send a strong signal to Moscow that Europe will not tolerate further Russian expansions of power beyond its borders.
Throughout his speech and the ensuing Q&A the minister also repeatedly brought attention to Georgia’s strides at democratization and opening of dialogue, both with Russia and the breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on one side, and with NATO and Schengen countries on the other. Concerning the controversial territories, Dondua claimed that Georgia wants to first come to concessions on non-political topics, making moves to integrate the societies before moving to integrate the territories. Georgia is working, he claimed, in the best interests of the residents of what he termed “occupied territories”. Furthermore, those interests will be best served by a Georgia that can offer greater security as well as membership in the EU.
In order to curry greater support for Georgia’s NATO membership, delegates will be touring NATO countries and meeting with press, analysts, and policy makers before the July summit.