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NATO on Georgia's horizon: outgoing secretary generals and Russian propaganda

On Sept 7-8 was a holiday for the Georgian authorities. It was the date of the visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Tbilisi. The guest was given high-class reception, with round-the-clock media coverage and a bunch of Georgian dances, songs and dishes.

Stoltenberg was excited. He said that lots of things had changed since his previous visit in 1995 but some things never change: hospitality, beauty, culture and delicious food.

Young Georgians may be unaware, but for their parents and grandparents that scene was quite familiar: once they gave similar receptions to Soviet rulers Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. They still remember how their Soviet-time leader Shevardnadze was looking forward to Andropov’s visit on the occasion of the 200th year of the Treaty of Georgievsk, but the Kremlin’s boss was sick and sent his deputy Chernenko instead.

In this political show, the names of the actors do not matter. It makes no difference who has come – Brezhnev, Bush or Stoltenberg, at worst. What matters here is that the one to come is a big boss, who should be happy when he goes back.

And Stoltenberg was happy. “Georgia has made impressive progress on fundamental electoral reforms. You have also strengthened the rule of law. And you are pursuing key reforms in the defense and security sectors,” he said, adding that this is essential for Georgia’s NATO membership.

One would think it was a hint that now NATO’s door is open, but Stoltenberg did not say when exactly Georgia would be ushered into the Alliance. “To become a member of NATO, Georgia has to meet the standards and requirements for membership, and that’s exactly why we are working together with the Georgian government to make this happen,” he said.

For pity’s sake, what else should Georgia do? For more than 20 years already, the Georgians have been reforming something and have been receiving compliments from the West, but NATO’s standards are still far from them. It is hard to believe that the mock armies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania meet NATO’s standards and Georgia doesn’t.

The Georgians are already annoyed to see NATO breaking its promises. This time too, all Stoltenberg had for them was some good advice, which was more like an instruction. He said that NATO expected the forthcoming elections in Georgia to be fair and democratic.

The Georgian Dream held the elections with no serious violations, especially if compared with the anarchy observed under the rule of the United National Movement. So, perhaps Stoltenberg’s words just an attempt to protect the West’s pet project? For it is a well-known fact that the only legal outcome for the United National Movement will be its own victory.

Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili assured Stoltenberg that the Georgian Dream had set the highest possible democratic level and would try to keep up to it.

On the other hand, why should NATO make Georgia its official member? Georgia is already an active partner with its troops involved in NATO’s operations from Mali to Afghanistan. Georgia has the biggest contingent among non-NATO states, is regularly hosting NATO sessions and it is hard to imagine that Stoltenberg and his delegation paid for the food they ate.

Georgia is doing all a NATO partner should do but still has no rights. Can there anything better for NATO? To have benefits and not to have any expenses. This is like promising a girl to marry her and putting off the wedding every time.

Naturally, there must be something that is preventing Georgia from joining NATO. And this something is Russia. During his visit, Stoltenberg complained of Russian propaganda. But NATO is not going to act in the same way as people, according to Stoltenberg, can tell propaganda from the truth and NATO’s key weapon is the truth. In this light, he urged the Georgian people to fight propaganda and the best way to do it is to have free press speaking in facts.

Everybody knows what Russia’s propaganda machine is doing. It is alleging that NATO has bombed and ruined Yugoslavia and has turned into ruins Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. It claims that NATO super-precision bombs hit weddings, hospitals, foreign embassies. This is a lie. NATO planes dropped only bouquets for women and sweets for children and Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are prospering happy nations. And now millions of Europeans are rushing to those countries in search of a better life. This is NATO’s truth and, of course, it is stronger than Russia’s propaganda.

As regards Georgia, it has been told that NATO is already on the horizon, but, as we know, horizon is a line that moves away as one tries to approach it.

Irakli Chkheidze, specially for EADaily

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