Georgia with all its successes and challenges, once again is becoming a significantly important case for the USA and the EU, especially in the foreground of the events, which are unfolding in Russia. Georgia’s democratic development, its success in formation of a modern, European and welfare state, will significantly influence the development of political process even in Russia, and will make Georgia a vitally important showcase not only for Caucasus but for the entire region of Eastern Europe and even Asia.
We have been unlucky enough as Georgia’s integration process into the West got frozen unlike the one of the Baltic countries. This, together with a number of very serious mistakes made by Saakashvili’s government, served as important factors for slowing down Georgia’s democratic, economic, social and political development. We have always been thankful to the western world for the continues and unwavering support to Georgia and strongly believe that clear welcoming signs from NATO and the EU could become a serious encouragement for Georgia’s further democratic and economic development. And failure to reward Georgia for its achievements could seriously hamper the further progress.
At the starting phase, even Georgia’s MAP to NATO will bring a new reality of inhenced security and stability in the region, guaranteeing Georgia’s further democratic and economic development as well as encouraging the constant flow of European investments and opening the EU market for Georgia. At the same time streamlining of integration mechanisms will be the perfect leverage for pushing the Georgian government to make Georgia’s democratic transformation irreversible.
Additionally, Georgia’s NATO integration could mean a security guarantee for the Russian occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region that Georgia will never use force against them. In a longer run, democratic and economic development of Georgia’s undisputed territories in an enhanced security environment could become an encouragement for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to start considering reintegration back into Georgia.
Speeding up Georgia’s NATO integration will positively influence even the troubled relations with Russia. The sooner the Kremlin realizes that the civilized world will never reconcile with the fact of occupation of the territories of a sovereign state, which is an abrupt violation of international low, the quicker it will come to a conclusion that there is no alternative to settlement of relationship with Georgia.
Whoever says that Georgia’s NATO integration will be possible only after restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity, either is too naïve and does not really understand political reality, or simply serves Russia’s interests in the region, as their formula leaves Georgia face to face with Russia alone and gives the Kremlin a lever to constantly block Georgia’s integration prospect not only in NATO and the EU but to negatively influence Georgia’s stability, democratic and economic development. If Georgia’s NATO membership will be dependent on the restoration of its territorial integrity, Russia will always ensure that Georgia’s territorial integrity is never resorted, and constantly continue to negatively influence the political process in Georgia.
The past 20 years of Georgian history proves that a key for restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity and improvement of Georgian-Russian relations is not on the Georgian side. Neither Shevardnadze’s long lasting political line of strong compromises did bring the fruit, nor Saakashvili’s aggressive policy made it better. This shows that the problem of Georgian-Russian relations lies not in the storming and emotional personal conflict between the two leaders of the two countries, but in Russian’s approach to Georgia as its backgarden, which always has to compromise. In the present political climate, Georgia is left with nothing to compromise as more compromise from the Georgian side would mean to say ‘no’ to its statehood. On the other hand, a compromise from Russia would not be compromising with Russian statehood but simply mean to recognize Georgia as a sovereign state.
We need to restore our territorial integrity not because it will help our future NATO integration, but need to integrate into NATO to have it as a tool to contribute to restoring our territorial integrity. In the foreseeable future, we do not see any other tool than NATO, which could realistically serve as a focal point in turning Georgia into a modern, democratic and welfare state and restoring its territorial integrity.
Giorgi Targamadze is Chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement and parliamentary minority leader