Choosing NATO over MAP
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference in Brussels Tuesday declared that, prior to Georgia’s accession to NATO, a consensus must be achieved with regard to the Membership Action Plan (MAP).
According to Stoltenberg, Georgia has all the practical tools for NATO membership, including an Annual National Program (ANP), the NATO-Georgia Commission and a Substantial Package, which was agreed on at a high level at the NATO Wales Summit in 2014.
“All these practical tools will be used in a daily regime to prepare Georgia for membership as you move closer to NATO,” the NATO SecGen declared.
He went on to say that as MAP is a political status granted by allies on the basis of a consensus, prior to Georgia’s accession to NATO, it is necessary to reach a consensus with regard to that status.
The NATO official emphasized that during the next meetings of the NATO-Georgia Commission they will discuss the future prospects of NATO-Georgia cooperation and the Alliance’s support to the country.
Prior to the SecGen’s statement, NATO’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, said Monday that aspirant countries like Georgia should put greater emphasis on deeper NATO integration rather than focusing on receiving a Membership Action Plan (MAP).
In an interview with Georgia’s Public Broadcaster, Appathurai stated that the MAP was initially created as a practical instrument of integration for the former Yugoslav republics following a decade of war in the 1990s.
Appathurai stressed that the MAP no longer has the same political clout that it had when first introduced in 1999. “Several NATO members are unlikely to grant a MAP to Georgia without specific security guarantees,” Appathurai said.
He also pointed out that the overall process of further integration is severely damaged by focusing too heavily on the issuance of a MAP. Appathurai believes the forthcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw will result in a show of solidarity and a strong statement concerning Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
In response to Appathurai’s statement, Georgian Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli said that she has never asked for the MAP at ministerials. “I ask for NATO membership. The MAP represents the past for Georgia.
“MAP is not our goal as there is no need and wish for it. Our aim is NATO membership. I would like to return from Warsaw as a country equipped with more instruments to be ready to enter NATO once the window [of opportunity] opens,” Khidasheli declared.
Georgia has long been asking NATO for MAP, even when the action plan is no longer considered as decisive for integration into the Alliance. The ex-Georgian government who held what Ronald Asmus described as a ‘diplomatic shootout’ for MAP back in 2008 at the NATO Bucharest Summit. At that moment, MAP could have been of greater importance that today, as Georgia has successfully implemented a number of reforms that could potentially be ahead of MAP requirements.
It’s now up to a political decision by the European and American leadership to fulfill the promise of the Bucharest summit and grant Georgia membership.
Not very surprisingly, there is a notion that MAP could create some additional obstacles for Georgia, as Russia, who has aimed at isolating the country from the western space, will probably endeavor to disrupt Georgia’s reformation as well as social and political processes once the action plan has been issued.
Georgia’s NATO membership will only become possible when the right geopolitical moment arrives. Thus, Georgia should be prepared for that moment.