Game of (open) Doors: NATO-Georgian Relations and Challenges for Sustainable Partnership
Kornely Kakachia, Bidzina Lebanidze, Shalva Dzebisashvili
Since the 2008 Russia-Georgia War NATO-Georgia relations have been in limbo. While NATO has never formally closed its doors on Georgia, the alliance has become more skeptical of enlargement and warier of Russian interests. While Georgia’s practical NATO integration has continued to deepen, it still remains below the threshold of membership. This policy paper maps the main interests, mismatches, perceptions and misperceptions in the relations between NATO and Georgia. It is argued that while Georgia’s territorial disputes are often seen as the proximate impediments to NATO membership, the real reasons are Western European skepticism towards Georgia and an accommodating approach towards Russia. The paper also explores the potential alternatives to NATO membership for Georgia. While Georgia and enlargement-sceptic members of NATO will not be able to solve their differences anytime soon, alternatives to NATO membership seem even more distant or less desirable. Evidence from the post-Soviet area demonstrates that non-alignment and neutrality are suboptimal options whereas a bilateral military partnership with the U.S. would be the most desirable, but less attainable option in the short term.