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Guram Nikolaishvili: For 25 years we have heard that we meet NATO standards, we do not have aviation at this time, we do not have navy, we do not have air defense

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Guram Nikolaishvili

On March 6, US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan spoke to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic perspective in her interview with Radio “Freedom”, saying that the country was making significant progress in integrating with Western structures. According to her, Georgia will definitely become a member of NATO, but the most difficult work is to be done: “Our decision on integration of Georgia in NATO is unchanged. We are committed to the decision of the 2008 Bucharest Summit – Georgia will become a member of NATO and this, of course, means that Georgia must do the hard work that will bring it up to NATO standards. These standards are very high and precisely defined…” 

According to Degnan, the country has made remarkable progress in the military in recent years, but it is also a political part with high demands and expectations.

As for relations with Russia and the failure of the Council of Europe’s Ministerial in Tbilisi, the ambassador could not imagine how the authorities would be allowed to enter the country for a person who repeatedly violated the laws of that country…

For note: Speaking of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and integration process, previous US ambassadors also said that the country would inevitably become a member of the alliance, soon.

For this time, what does this statement of the Ambassador means, saying about meeting the military and political standards, and what is the prospect of a country even in terms of becoming closer to NATO? “Georgia and the World” speaks with Lieutenant General Guram Nikolaishvili.

– Mr. Guram, the US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, said that Georgia would definitely become a NATO member, but until, the country must work hardly to meet the standards of the Alliance. What do you think about this statement, is it real and what standards should Georgia meet?

– Georgia has been meeting these standards for the past 25 years and is doing better than some of the countries that have been members of the alliance for the past 10-15 years. I mean, it’s been years since we’ve been involved in all international missions; And most importantly, we are engaged in these missions so that our strategic interests, our national security, are at the background.

As for the ambassador’s statement, a comic nature of this rhetoric is that, despite the sacrifices and risks that Georgia incurs at the expense of its own national interests in NATO missions, their attitude towards Georgia remains unchanged – Georgia becomes a NATO member, NATO doors are open, Georgia meets NATO standards… Look, we’ve heard this for 25 years, but the process is stopped here There is another important point to emphasize to this end – such statements are sometimes are made by ambassadors or individual western diplomats only. At another, higher level, say, Presidents, Prime Ministers, we hear other rhetoric. For example, Merkel has publicly stated that the alliance cannot be expanded at this point, with Trump and Macron are even more categorical.

– In your opinion, what does this mean?

– There seems to be some level in international politics where all parties speak clearly and it is impossible to create some false imagery by word play; And there is a lower political level at which false positives can be created.

– As for standards, many might think that meeting NATO standards means high-level armament, well-trained troops or a good navy, air force, etc. In our case this is different. NATO standards for us are primarily determined by the fact that as many contingents as possible are involved in international missions, these are associated with the colossal costs that burden our defense budget with the greatest burden. Imagine these missions costing up to GEL 200 million a year; And do you know how much was spent in total?

– How much?

– More than four billion GEL has been spent since Iraq. You might agree that this is a colossal number for a country with a weak economy. This is what they call NATO standards, not the fact that the armed forces were focused on solving the country’s main problem – the territorial problem …

– Does it mean that meeting NATO standards means weakening our armed forces?

– I would say: We have been meeting NATO standards for over 25 years since 1994, and because of this we have been constantly complimented by ambassadors or diplomats from different countries. At this time we don’t have aviation, we don’t have navy, we don’t have air defense, etc. Judge the rest for yourself. In my view, the defense capability of any country is primarily determined by its readiness for national interests and security. Therefore, unless this principle is adhered to, there is no point in talking about standards.

– All this is understandable, but why is NATO so attractive to small countries with us if this alliance does not or cannot address their national interests?

– I think, first of all, we have to ask: why is NATO today? Why is it spending so much money on various missions, and why is it trying to get closer to Russia’s borders?

– For what?

Is it not for the United States, as the foremost member of the Alliance, to maintain and strengthen its influence over European member states of NATO? Or secondly, not for Russia to consolidate and consolidate its positions in Europe, let’s say Germany, whose political leadership already has some close ties with the Kremlin … In my opinion, this is a major goal of Washington today, not that of any member of the alliance. Small states such as Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia, were protected securely? If anyone were to care about their defense capability, these countries would have their own weapons and troops to defend themselves, but in reality they have nothing. By the way, one of the key goals of NATO’s existence is for the United States to have a complete monopoly on arms production. Nor do alliance member states question whether they want to buy US-made weapons. This was also the cause of tensions with Turkey at a time when Ankara refused to buy American “Patriots” and instead bought the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile complex.

– Has Georgia ever faced this kind of coercion?

Simply, their requirement to us was that 2% of GDP should be a military budget. It is about 800 million GEL and it was done. For the rest, Georgia is not an economically large country to represent a serious market for the US military-industrial complex, though it has still abolished aviation; Because it turns out to be expensive to feed, and instead they forces us to buy “javelins” and “stingers”. Do you think it enhances our defense capacity?

As for the standards again, I think we have to understand one thing for once and for all: there is no NATO or anything else, the only standard is your national security, which you either protect or cannot protect. If you cannot defend and secure, then what is the success? The fact that you have 1,200 troops on the mission somewhere and are doing exactly the strategic tasks of America is not our success. Anyway, the fact that Georgia does not have navy and air force and the country is in fact vulnerable does not really solve the problem…

– Let’s go back to the interview of the US Ambassador. She emphasized that NATO is the choice of the Georgian population. Do you think this is our choice?

– I repeat: no matter who the ambassador is, since any ambassador will continue old rhetoric, and there is nothing surprising about it. What they’ve been calling for 25 years can’t be denied at once…

As for the choices, all the recent polls, all the surveys and statistics unequivocally confirm that the majority of the population of Georgia today chooses a neutrality policy and, this is evidenced even by the public opinion studies conducted by NDA and IDR. So, NATO is not a choice of the Georgian nation and, any conversation on this theme is a political bluff that gives nothing. Yeas, it gives nothing for the government too, but, as seen, this rhetoric is a kind of fate. Anyway, nothing indicates that the government officials are in a certain discomfort because of such endless lies and illusions. On the contrary, the ambassador will come and say – we will accept you, and there is a stir. Then, with cheerful and funny faces, they repeat that this “success is the result of their effective work…” We are in these lies and illusions till now…

Interviewed by Jaba Zhvania

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