Georgia’s Perspective on the Role of NATO

Nato_Georgia_b Without any doubts, the North Atlantic Alliance has been one of the most successful international organizations. For more than six decades it has played instrumental role in keeping the peace and security on the European continent. Principle of collective defense proved to be instrumental and effective for democracies. It has guaranteed security and stability and consequently, supported the democratic and economic development of the member states. NATO capabilities, together with the attractiveness that freedom, civil liberties and economic opportunities that free world carry and generate, has always been integral part of what is called smart power of the Trans-Atlantic community. This smart power brought cold war to the end, liberated and opened new opportunities for the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, made European continent and the world safer. Transatlantic community, NATO and European institutions played key role in ensuring the success of post cold war democratic transformations of the Eastern and Central European countries. Success of these democratic transformations has immensely improved the prospects for long term stability, security, freedom and further economic development of the entire European continent. Expansion of boundaries of freedom and security benefited not only the member countries, but greater region. Trans-Atlantic solidarity and value based alliance made it possible.

Threats and challenges to the security and stability world is facing today are becoming more asymmetric. Together with the conventional threats fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism, cyber crime and proliferation of WMD are increasingly dominating security agendas. Threats possessed by state as well as non-state actors are quite complex in nature and consequently require complex approach. On the other hand the goal of Europe whole, free and at peace cannot be considered as accomplished. NATO is also changing, adopting its capabilities to deal with all complexities.

To the contrary of many skeptical views about the future of the NATO and Trans-Atlantic unity from the political commentators and publicists (the most pessimistic ones even predict the end of the Trans-Atlantic unity) the fact is that NATO remains as the most capable and effective political-military alliance and a main pillar of the Euro-Atlantic security. It remains as relevant and reliable as it always has been. NATO remains as policy making and coordinating forum of a unique nature. It also remains as an indispensable military institution as well as can provide an instrumental and unique assistance and expertise for the security sector to its members and partners when needed. NATO is adopting new capabilities and is already dealing with the non-traditional threats and challenges such as cyber security or piracy.

NATO offers political venue and unique capabilities for the security dialogue, decision-making and joint actions of the free countries. It has also unique experience of engagement and cooperation with the partners and its military has an ability to interoperate with them. These mechanisms proved to be effective and we can see partners and aspirants seriously contributing both politically and militarily to the strengthening of Security.

Concept of collective defense is becoming more and more indispensible with the technological advances, complexities of the threats and challenges and limits of the economic recourses. Sharing of defense burden and joint development of the capabilities strengthens ability of the allies to deal with these challenges.

The recent success in Libya, as well as NATO’s operation in Afghanistan, underlines NATO’s indispensability to enhancement of global security. NATO can do what North America and Europe cannot do alone.

Apart from meeting its core task of collective defense, the Alliance can and should certainly continue contributing via different ways and means to the security worldwide. Making Europe whole, free and at peace is still a business unfinished. We strongly believe that there is a consensus, both, within NATO and EU that democratization of post-Soviet countries is necessary to make Europe whole, free and secure. NATO open door policy stimulates and promotes democratic transformations in aspirant countries. Trans-Atlantic Community was always focusing on strengthening Security through supporting freedom and democracy. There is no doubt that the prospects of NATO and EU membership, as well as close engagement and support of allies were instrumental in making the democratization of Eastern Europe a true and irreversible success. Being a value based organization, NATO’s increased engagement and oversight of democratic reforms in its immediate European neighborhood is essential for repeating this success throughout the Balkans and South Caucasus. As before, the Alliance’s open door policy provides aspirant countries with strong political incentives to boost their democratic reforms. In turn, NATO integration mechanisms ensure proper allied engagement in and expertise sharing during the reformation process. It is important to keep the progress in integration process performance based. In this regard clear and firm position of allies that no third country should have a direct or indirect veto power on NATO enlargement is fully consistent with the principles NATO is founded on.

At the same time, taking into account previous accession experience, aspirants progress on the NATO integration path would have a positive effect on security and stability of the region in general, and ultimately on bilateral relations with Russia in particular. Blocking any aspirant country’s membership because of the fear of aggravating the leadership of a third country gives wrong incentives and invites more intransigence, both, in rhetoric and action. It also undermines a narrative of democratization being the best choice for ensuring national security and, therefore, may strengthen the autocratic tendencies on post-soviet space and therefore harm the European security. Clear rejection of outdated and retrograde idea of dividing Europe to so called spheres of influence and firmly standing behind the every nations right to choose its allies and international organizations it wants to join is strengthening Trans-Atlantic community and fully consistent with the founding principles of the alliance and reasons that made it so successful.

In the time of economic crises, defense budgets unavoidably shrink. Today we see budget cuts taking place in free countries, though some of authoritarian regimes are increasing their defense expenditures. It becomes ever more important to fully utilize NATO’s synergy potential and minimize the damage that defense cuts can do to the collective defense capabilities. Smart Defense is an adequate policy response to this challenge. It boosts efficiency through avoiding unnecessary duplication. It raises effectiveness, and allows each ally to concentrate more on doing what they can do best. As a positive side effect, through increasing the reliance on each other, smart defense policy also stimulates closer and deeper cooperation between the allies on both, military and political issues.

We strongly believe that NATO expansion doesn’t represent the threat to any other nation and strengthens security and stability of Europe. Strengthened security and democratic transformations in Europe benefited entire continent and wider region. It has benefited Russia too. NATO enlargement brought security and stability to its neighborhood. World has changed, but seemingly cold war type strategic thinking is dominating in setting of Russia’s security agenda. Ongoing occupation of Georgian territories and unwillingness to comply with EU brokered ceasefire agreement, its relations with the neighbors in general, and country’s position on global efforts to deal with issues in Syria or with Iran’s nuclear program are examples of that.

Occupation of Georgian provinces by Russia is a challenge not only to Georgian, but also European security and stability. Success of ongoing conflict resolution talks between Georgia and Russia in Geneva, with the mediation of EU, UN, OSCE and USA, will definitely contribute to the enhancement of security in both, the Caucasus and throughout Europe. It is in core interests of Europe and whole transatlantic community to see democratic developments in Russia and its positive engagement in dealing with challenges and threats of today. This is especially important to its immediate neighbors. And I am pretty sure that this is in Russia’s long term interest foremost. Unfortunately we don’t see it yet.

Most powerful uniqueness of NATO and entire Trans-Atlantic Community is that it is value based and driven. Values which are dear to hearts of all humans: freedom, civil liberties, human rights, rule of law, promotion of peace and stability. Unity founded on these principles simply is destined to be successful.

Keynote address at the ATA Council Meeting, ATA 58th General Assembly, 4th February 2013