Georgia is compatible with NATO, says Defence Minister Alasania

Alasania spoke at the Atlantic Council’s Young Leaders conference, held within the NATO Summit yesterday., 05 Sep 2014 - 15:04, Tbilisi,Georgia

More details of the NATO support package being offered to Georgia at this week’s NATO Summit has been revealed by Georgia’s Minister of Defence Irakli Alasania at a conference for budding young leaders from all over the globe.

Alasania spoke at the Atlantic Council’s Young Leaders conference, held within the NATO Summit, and said NATO’s offer of a Gold Card status was a valuable way the Alliance could formally recognise Georgia’s efforts to make the country more compatible with NATO.

"The substantial Georgia-NATO package will have some substance in it. At the beginning the announcement came that MAP wouldn’t be granted to Georgia because it is not an extension Summit, it is not an enlargement Summit. We of course were very worried about it. Especially in light of what is happening around us – the direct military aggression against Ukraine, which is in fact, continuation of what happened in Georgia in 2008,” Alasania said.

"Of course at the Summit we will openly support Georgia’s efforts in past years to contribute to NATO, because we are the largest non-NATO contributor to the Afghanistan mission and we remain the same after 2014 as the ISAF mission ends. We also [are participating in] new missions in other EU-led missions, for example in Central Africa,” he noted.

Alansania took part in a panel discussion session where he answered questions posed by the audience. When asked about the Gold Card status – which had previously been awarded to Sweden, Norway, Australia and Jordan – Alansania said this was a firm step to allow Georgia develop closer ties with NATO. It was also a way NATO could formally recognise Georgia’s democratic and reform progress, he said.

"NATO is not only a military organisation. First of all it is a union of states of democracy. So we would very much like to join this club. That’s why we have made dramatic progress in judiciary, law enforcement and security side. But of course, there are a lot of things we still need to do to transform the institutions. I think this is the Summit that takes into account all of these that Georgia has been doing,” he said.

The Defence Minister noted Georgia had not only progressed from the military standpoint but on the democratic front as well.

"Free elections, transfer of powers through the democratic means that happened in 2012 as you mentioned when my coalition won and maturing of political system – these should be adequately assessed and declared in this Summit. So we have a very good optimism that the declaration of this Summit will have these two elements inside. Georgia has progress in compatibility with NATO - this is why we are offered to be one of the most compatible partners,” he said.

Alasania stressed two most important issues he was going to take away from the summit.

"First, assessing Georgia as the most compatible military force, as a partner. Second, the package says that Georgia needs to be assisted by the defence capabilities, which is the entire air defence, entire armour – that is instruments of purely defensive nature that we need.”

Alasania added that in the future there would be a greater NATO presence on Georgian territory through the establishment of a NATO Training Centre and by hosting NATO military exercises there.

"All of these are something that encourages Georgian people to move ahead as the society with the reforms we started and hopefully, the next summit will be an enlargement summit where Georgia gets [NATO] membership.”

When asked what he thought of the Ukraine crisis, Alasania said the developments were "tragic,” but he also believed the situation could help the Ukrainian people gain their self-identity. He also compared the Ukraine crisis with the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

"Georgians regard it very painfully when they see what is happening [in Ukraine] because we went through it and we know how hard is to have such warfare with the Russian Federation. So we are transferring all the experience that we gained to assist Ukraine in its plight,” he said.

The Georgian Defence Minister is part of the Georgian delegation attending the September 4-5 NATO Wales Summit, led by President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

More details of the NATO support package will be announced later today, which will be another step forward towards Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.