“The NATO-Georgia joint training and evaluation center is unique to the region”
03 September, 2015
“The NATO-Georgia joint training and evaluation center is unique to the region”
As the NATO-Georgia training center opened in Georgia, the VOA Georgian service spoke on this and other relevant matters, including Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations to Laura Linderman, who is a Research Fellow with the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center of the prominent, Washington DC-based U.S. Atlantic Council. Her research focuses on Georgian politics, economics, and foreign relations.

Read the Georgian version of the article on Voice of America website.

– Let’s start this interview by discussing
the NATO-Georgia training center. What is the significance of this joint center for Georgia’s NATO aspirations and for the region, if any?


– The NATO-Georgia joint training and evaluation center is unique to the region. It’s designed to support and increase interoperability of Georgia, the Alliance and partner countries. Also, it is connected to the recent NATO military joint exercises in Georgia called Agile Spirit that involved 250 soldiers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Slovenia, Romania and Latvia. Both the center and these exercises are the result of a decision made last year at the NATO summit in Wales to provide a Substantial Package to Georgia.

“It was a way for NATO to encourage Georgia to keep the faith.”


Two things are happening as consequence of this package. Last year’s decision by NATO to open its base in Georgia and hold these exercises was a means of showing increased support for the country while still not offering MAP. It was a way for them to encourage Georgia to keep the faith. But I think the Alliance is also trying to strengthen its position in the Caucasus as a counterweight to Russia.

“MAP is an important process, but not the only way to get into NATO.”

– What is the next step in realizing the NATO aspirations that Georgia has to satisfy before it goes to the Warsaw summit in 2016?

– As far as the exact technical details go, I don’t know. I think that Georgia can choose between two strategies of positioning itself ahead of the Warsaw summit. The leadership could explore creative means of getting NATO membership with or without MAP. Mgeotv.geAP is an important process, but not the only way to get into NATO. They could start pushing a strategy to have NATO declare in Warsaw that Georgia could become a NATO member at any time without MAP. This summit promises to be very important because there are several other aspirant countries who are expecting decisions, and Georgia is one of them. I think this is the reason why you see the government taking a more aggressive stance on demanding the Alliance’s acknowledgement of Georgia’s significant progress in political and military reforms. I think Georgia’s done a lot and it’s the decisions that NATO itself needs to make that are holding it back; obviously, this is tied deeply to the situation with Russia.

Laura Linderman: “Georgia’s security challenges are stagnant and slowly getting worse”

– In today’s presentation, Georgian Prime Minister said that Georgia continues pursuing a constructive policy towards Russia and this joint training center with NATO is not intended as a threat to any neighbors. How would you assess the current Georgia-Russia relations and what challenges do you see in this sphere?

– Georgia’s in extremely difficult position with regards to Russia. You can see that there’s renewed Russian aggression in the form of Moscow advancing the line between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia and other moves. It shows that Russia really hasn’t changed its attitude towards Georgia. They are still continuing the policy they adopted even before 2008. Georgia’s inability to stop Russia and the inability of the West to provide anything other than strong words of condemnation suggests that Georgia’s security challenges are stagnant and getting worse. I think it’s a tough fight for Georgia to be in and what I would recommend to Georgian government is to highlight the strategic importance of their location as much as possible. Georgia is an important central part of the East-West energy transportation corridor that provides pipelines, ports, railways and highways to bring energy and other resources from the East to the West. This corridor has a lot of potential as a free and easy way for global and energy trade, so highlighting its importance is vital.

– On borderizaton problems in Georgia. Do you think that the international community is well aware of this problem and if yes, what’s the solution?

– I think that they are aware. I also think the Georgian government has done a reasonable job. They’re attempting to make this issue known again and again at both international forums and when talking with their counterparts in the West. However, the atmosphere is extremely tough right now. There’s a lot of ambivalence in the West and people are not really interested in getting involved. It’d be prudent to target Germany, for example, along with the traditional allies from Eastern Europe who always support Georgia and get them to continue highlighting these huge problems. It’s a tough spot and I don’t know whether there are any easy, quick solutions to it.

– What do you think the United States can do to promote Georgia’s NATO dream, so to say?

– Again, it’s going to be tough because we are having presidential elections next year and the U.S. government is pretty distracted by other challenges. I think Georgia should probably focus more on countries such as Germany and Turkey and convince them that it should be accepted into NATO. Georgia could also focus on creating a stronger bilateral military relationship with the U.S. – this would definitely help their NATO chances in the long run.

– Last question. How would you assess Minister Khidasheli’s visit to Washington last week?

– I think her trip was very successful, credible and moved the relationship forward. I would assess it favorably and say that more visits from Georgian officials to the U.S. would be helpful. It would simply be great if the president could come as well. Visits such as this one should definitely continue.

Read the Georgian version of the article on Voice of America website.


By Anna Kalandadze, VOA Georgian Service
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