The potential parallels and dangers for Georgia stemming from Russia’s renewed aggression against Ukraine featured prominently throughout an annual Georgia-NATO Interparliamentary Council (GNIC) meeting in Brussels. Chaired by Gerald E. Connolly (United States), President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), and Irakli Beraia, head of the Georgian delegation to the Assembly, the meeting took place just hours before Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.
Hearing the concerns of their Georgian peers, members of the NATO PA reaffirmed their long-standing support for Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and right to self-defence and self-determination.
Allied and Georgian lawmakers agreed that the grave crisis and the world’s reaction would greatly affect Georgia. If Russia succeeded in turning Ukraine into a vassal state, President Vladimir Putin would, at a minimum, make a renewed push to extend his influence over Georgia. Members also agreed that the crisis could lead to new disruptions in Georgia.
Assembly members further stressed their rejection of Moscow’s demand to shut the door on either Georgia or Ukraine’s bids for NATO membership. They stressed that NATO’s Open Door policy was based on the Alliance’s founding treaty, that membership remained open to those European states meeting the obligations of membership and contributing to security in the Euro-Atlantic area and that no third-party held a veto.
At NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit, Allies welcomed both Ukraine’s and Georgia’s NATO membership ambitions and agreed that they would become members of NATO. While Allies have continued to reaffirm this decision since then, Russia has been working systematically to undermine both nation’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, to the extent of invading and occupying significant territories of each.
NATO lawmakers told their Georgian counterparts that strengthening their democratic institutions has been a key element of both nations’ bids for closer integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions. Democratic progress in each nation is why President Putin’s regime feels threatened, members agreed.
However, NATO PA members sounded their serious concerns about Georgia’s recent lack of progress on democratic reform and consolidation, including the lack of full implementation of last April’s political agreement, intended to break a deep political impasse.
The Georgian delegation recognised the current political polarisation in Georgia as a key problem the political class must overcome to continue on their Euro-Atlantic path, which, they noted, is a common goal for all parties and the broader population.
This current crisis in Ukraine demonstrates the relevance and timeliness of the NATO PA recommendation to place shared democratic values at the heart of NATO’s next Strategic Concept and to establish, within NATO’s Headquarters, a Centre for Democratic Resilience. The Centre would operationalise NATO’s commitment to its values and would allow Allies and partners like Georgia to tap into this resource on a voluntary basis.
The NATO PA reinforced its cooperation with Georgia via the creation of the GNIC in the aftermath of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War. Today, the Council serves as a counterpart to the NATO-Georgia Commission which oversees NATO’s relationship with Georgia. The Council meets twice a year to discuss and assess NATO-Georgia relations and issues of common concern.