NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s written interview with the Accent.
-Ten years have passed since the 2008 Bucharest Summit, where the Allies agreed that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO in future. In order to join the alliance, candidates must fulfill a series of military, political, economic, and legal criteria. In recent years, there were many statements that Georgia has made a progress in different directions, but there is still a long way to go. Could you tell us specific directions, where the country has problems today? Could you tell us the specific issues on which Georgia should work in order to meet all necessary requirements for NATO membership?
-Georgia will become a member of NATO provided it fulfils the necessary criteria. We expect Georgia to continue to focus on domestic reforms, to consolidate its democratic institutions, to strengthen the rule of law and to develop its defence capabilities in accordance with NATO standards.
We created several mechanisms in order to better support Georgia in its reform efforts. The NATO-Georgia Commission, the Annual National Programme, the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package and the Joint Training and Evaluation Centre are effective tools to help Georgia to meet NATO’s standards and to prepare for membership. A large number of Allied experts are now working in Georgia advising on defence reforms. We will continue to support Georgia in its efforts to move closer to NATO.
-As is known, one of the key requirements for NATO membership is strengthening democracy as well as enhancing military interoperability. How the situation has changed in Georgia in terms of strengthening democracy and enhancing military interoperability since the Alliance’s previous summit?
-The overall trend I see is very positive. I welcome the progress that Georgia has made and I encourage Georgia to continue on this path, including with the implementation of constitutional reforms, judicial reforms and the strengthening of oversight over the security sector. Georgia has also significantly scaled up its ambition in defence transformation. And NATO has been supporting these reform efforts through the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package. On Black Sea security, we have stepped up our dialogue with Georgia. This helps NATO to increase our awareness of the security challenges, and makes the Black Sea safer for all. Finally, we are grateful for the outstanding Georgian contribution to our operations and missions. Georgia has played and continues to play a very important role in Afghanistan, by contributing a significant number of troops to our train, advise and assist mission.
-According to Luke Coffey, Director of the Allison Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, “MAP is a NATO program that offers assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join. MAP was first used in 1999, but there is no requirement for a candidate country to either receive or complete a MAP before joining the Alliance. Even though Georgia does not need a MAP to someday join the Alliance, Russia uses the repeated failure of Georgia receiving a MAP from NATO as a propaganda victory.” However, as it was stated before, MAP is a necessary step for Georgia to join the Alliance. Could you give us clear answer to the question: is MAP necessary for Georgia?
-Every country has a sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements and whether it joins any treaty or alliance. This principle is enshrined in international agreements including in the Helsinki Final Act and in the NATO-Russia Founding Act, both signed by Russia. NATO supports the right of all our partners to make independent and sovereign choices on foreign and security policy, free from external pressure or coercion. So no third country has a right to interfere on the issue of NATO membership.
Today Georgia has all the practical tools to prepare for membership in NATO. Georgia will become a member of NATO provided it meets the necessary requirements. However, before Georgia can join NATO, there must also be a consensus decision about MAP. This is in line with the decisions taken at the Bucharest Summit in 2008. And Allies confirmed it at the Warsaw Summit. But again, the focus now is on taking forward reforms and Georgia preparing for eventual membership, as decided ten years ago.
-What the situation is now in NATO? How united and strong the Alliance is today in order to deter Russia’s aggressive policy in the world?
-Our approach to Russia combines strong defence and dialogue. NATO has responded in a defensive and proportionate way to Russia’s use of military force against its neighbours. We see no immediate threat against any Ally. But the security situation has fundamentally changed, with challenges from both the east and the south. In response, we are implementing the biggest reinforcement of NATO’s collective defence since the end of the Cold War.
We do not seek confrontation, but we cannot ignore Russia’s breach of international rules. And there is no contradiction between strong defence and meaningful dialogue. When tensions run high, it is even more important to keep channels of communication open, to increase transparency and reduce risks. Our military-to-military lines of communications remain open. We held three meetings of the NATO–Russia Council last year. And more recently, I met again with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Munich. We remain open to periodic and meaningful dialogue with Russia.
- Upcoming NATO Summit will take place in July, but my question to you would be: what Georgia should expect from Brussels summit?
-The focus of the Summit will be to take the next steps in NATO’s adaptation to the evolving security environment. We will work on two key themes, building from our 2016 Warsaw Summit and the May 2017 NATO Leaders Meeting. First, how to further upgrade our collective defence with the right mix of capabilities and with sufficient resources. And second, how to project stability in our neighbourhood. This is essential in the fight against terrorism and for our own security. We will also address other important topics, including our cooperation with the European Union and how to advance NATO’s modernization. We will also take decisions for an adapted command structure. A modern, agile and robust Command Structure will strengthen our deterrence and defence, and our ability to project stability. As usual, Allies will address all aspects related to NATO’s open door policy, including the progress made by Georgia, in the run-up to the Summit. I am certain that Georgia’s progress towards membership will be appropriately marked at the Summit in Brussels.
/ As for the question about NATO’s Article 5, (According to Luke Coffey, “Some NATO members are concerned that Georgia’s entry into NATO would trigger an automatic war with Russia over its occupation of the Tskhinvali Region and Abkhazia. Georgian officials privately say that they are happy to accept a NATO membership arrangement or compromise that excludes the two occupied territories from NATO’s Article 5 security guarantee until the matter is resolved peacefully with the Russians”), NATO Secretary General refrained from making a comment.