Toward Europe whole, free and at peace
The west’s vision and solution for post WWII Europe proved to be far wiser, bolder and truly longer lasting than simplistic and shortsighted zero sum approach to the security that has been largely practiced before in world politics. The Marshal Plan for the economic rehabilitation of Europe and the creation of NATO for the collective defense provided two essential pillars for security and stability, stable democratic development and economic growth. Enemies who fought the bloodiest war in the history of mankind became allies and partners. Simultaneously, the Soviet Union’s expansionistic surge against freedom and liberty was contained thus creating a solid foundation for what today is known as a prosperous and a free Europe. Allies on the other side of the Atlantic, the US and Canada, have also benefited vastly from this policy. They acquired strong, economically prosperous and reliable European allies, as well as greater security and stability on the European continent, which turned out to be imperative in ending the cold war without a major military confrontation.
NATO is perhaps the most successful international organization. It has managed to maintain and project security and stability on the European continent for more than six decades. NATO was created to counter Soviet expansion after World War II and to protect the freedom of European democracies to lead the lives of their choice. The principle of common defense gave Western European nations the opportunity to build economic prosperity and consolidate their democracies. It would be a mistake to assume that NATO’s role lessened with the end of the Cold War. The Alliance was and continues to be a success chiefly because its members share the values of liberty and freedom and, therefore, vision of a peaceful world guaranteed by international security and order.
After the Cold War, NATO membership became one of the strongest incentives for carrying out swift political, economic and security sector reforms in Eastern and Central European countries. NATO partnership and cooperation mechanisms, in great part, contributed to the success of these reforms. Every single wave of NATO enlargement validated success. NATO membership of Central and Eastern European countries strengthened security and stability, thus creating conditions for economic growth and democratic consolidation that benefited Europe and all democratic world at large.
Today,the principle of collective defense that is based on shared values is more relevant to democracies thanever. With rapidly changing security environment, the diverse nature of threats and challenges and technological advancements of the modern world, an effective defense system is hard to imagine outside of collective defense approach. If NATO had not existed it should have been invented. As a hugely legitimate political venue, with unique capabilities and a shared burden, NATO provide sits members the essential elements to deal with conventional, as well as non-conventional, threats and challenges.
Despite of colossal progress toward Europe whole, free and at peace that has been made in last two decades it still remains business unaccomplished. Moreover, in last several years, this momentum toward Europe whole, free and at peace has been hindered. Reasons abound, including military and financial exhaustion in the West, economic crises and problems with the economic growth in Euro zone, and the Iraq war that troubled transatlantic unity. The United States and Europe have become more inward looking. All these caused encouragement of the autocratic propensities and discouragement for reformers in emerging democracies.
Signs of a lack of Strategic vision for the Euro-Atlantic future and sense of disunity within the Alliance partially contributed to the reinvigorated revisionism in Russia. After destroying embryonic components of the democratic system and establishing authoritarian regime at home, the Russian Government has started to exert its power outside by hindering democratic and economic developments in the neighboring countries to expand its influence over them. To achieve its objectives, Russia has used means at its disposal from finances and trade to energy and energy infrastructure to military and special services covert (and not so covert) operations. One of the most challenging Russian actions to the European Security as well as to the widely recognized principles of the international relations was the Georgia-Russian War of 2008 that ended with the occupation of two Georgian provinces and the Ukraine-Russia conflict that currently continues. In both cases Russia used so called hybrid warfare that together with pure military component includes intensive special services operations, paramilitary troops, cyber-attacks as well as information, energy and finances used as weapons of war. If in 2008 Russia military component of hybrid warfare was more visible than other components (even though they were present), in 2014 in Ukraine all these components are vivid.
Russia’s positions on issues of international security such as Syrian conflict and Iran’s nuclear program, its relations with neighbors are just few examples of Russia’s anachronistic approach to the international security. What the free world sees as a challenge to the international security, Russia considers as an opportunity to extract concessions. Occupation of Georgian territories, occupation and annexation of Crimea and military aggression in Eastern Ukraine reveal the revisionist nature of the Russian regime that is attempting to challenge an idea of Europe whole, free and at peace. Russia is trying to redraw boundaries of Europe by force. Recent developments show that Russia relies on a combination of military, paramilitary, special services penetration and informational warfare coupled with economic and financial tools, to undermine European security and stability. Western initiatives and attempts to build a partnership with Russia on issues of international security, including President Obama’s Reset Policy, have not been met with reciprocity. If undeterred, the world may observe Russia’s similar actions in other European countries.
Russia always opposed NATO and resisted its enlargement under the pretext that NATO’s enlargement poses a threat to its national security. In fact NATO does not representing security threat to Russia. On a contrary, Russia actually benefits from the security and stability that NATO brings to its borders. Russia’s most secured and stable borders are with NATO countries including, Eastern European allies. The European Union is its largest trade partner. What NATO does is limit Russia’s ability to impose pressure on its neighbors – members of the alliance. This is the primary reason why Russia disapprove NATO enlargement.
Georgia on NATO Path. NATO enlargement has been beneficial to international security. Each wave of enlargement has strengthened the security and the stability of the wider transatlantic area. The Alliance’s open door policy remains one of the strongest incentives for aspiring nations to foster reforms and to contribute to international security. Georgia is one of the NATO’s aspirant countries. The NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 made a political decision and commitment that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO. That pledge has been confirmed by all following summits.
Georgia’s aspiration to build modern, democratic and prosperous state wouldn’t materialize without NATO membership. It is well understood in Georgian society and more than 70% of population supports Georgia’s NATO integration. Georgia has been a commendable partner to NATO and has achieved serious progress in integration, both in terms of democratic development and military interoperability. Georgian troops, together with the Allies, took part in operations in Kosovo and Iraq. Its troops have been fighting in Helmand province of Afghanistan shoulder to shoulder with NATO troops. The small country of Georgia is the largest non-NATO and second biggest per capita contributor to the NATO operation in Afghanistan.
Without doubt, Georgia still has way to go before obtaining full membership into NATO. It will need to further consolidate its democracy, strengthen democratic institutions and refine procedures, and further reforms in the security sector. During the past two years, through the free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, Georgia experienced a peaceful transfer of power. The current Georgian government has confirmed that NATO integration remains the top priority of the nation’s foreign and security policy. However, declarations are not enough. Questions arise about competency of the government, its adherence to the rule of law as well as on coherency of Government’s vision and strategy for the country’s development and consistent integration policy. In order to move toward the NATO membership, current government should demonstrate its strong commitment to the democratic principles and rule of law, as well as its ability and willingness to continue reforms. It should focus on strengthening the pluralistic political system and encouraging political stability, promotion of institutional checks and balances, fostering economic development as well as on further reforms in the security sector, including continuity in Defense sphere and fundamental reform of the Ministry of Interior.
Engagement with the Euro and Euro-Atlantic institutions is the best way to improve Georgian Government’s performance and support reforms. To support all these reforms NATO can provide institutionalized tools that will foster the process. In Wales Georgia received a substantial defense cooperation package that creates new opportunities to strengthen defense cooperation with the Allies in order to improve its territorial defense capabilities as well as its interoperability. However, Allies couldn’t come to the decision to grant Georgia NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). Holding up decision to give Georgia institutional mechanism to achieve membership, regardless of reasons particular Allies may have for it, sends wrong signals about Alliance. Russia reads it as a sign of disunity among Allies and prove that the aggressive policies it pursues are effective tool to stop the NATO enlargement and thus, as an invitation to open quest for spheres of influence in Europe.
After the August 2008, Georgia-Russia War, Russia continues occupation Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It still violates EU brokered ceasefire agreement. The Georgian strategy for the de-occupation and reintegration of these provinces is strictly peaceful. Occupation of these territories shouldn’t become an obstacle on the road NATO membership. It only will strengthen Russia’s incentives to pursue belligerent policies. When the day of addressing the question of the full NATO membership for Georgia arrives, secure Allies consensus, proper legal and political arrangements can be worked out with regard of Article Five obligations in relation to the occupied territories without any concessions regarding Georgia’s territorial integrity. At the same time, Georgia’s democratic and economic development, further progress in reforms will surely contribute to the success of the reintegration process of the occupied territories.
Russian invasion of Ukraine, rise of radical, militant groups such as ISIS, instability near the Alliances borders have influenced outcomes of NATO Wales Summit. In the Summit Declaration Allies demonstrated clear awareness of the challenges to the Euro-Atlantic security and stability. Decisions of the Summit among other issues included not only reaffirmation of adherence of the Allies to the founding values and confirmation of open door policy and reassurance of the commitment to the collective defense, but also very practical steps to strengthen capabilities of the Alliance as well as its close partners to improve their ability to deal with emerging threats and challenges. All that creates the hope that more Strategic vision and decisive moves can be expected from next summits on practical issues of NATO expansion which is so necessary now. It will add to the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area and bring us closer to the dream of generations of Europeans – Europe whole, free and at peace.