Russia warned on September 22 that Georgia’s integration into NATO will target Russia’s political, military and economic interests “and will have a negative effect on a fragile situation in the Caucasus.”
A statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry comes day after Foreign Ministers from the alliance confirmed in New York on September 21 that Georgia has been granted an Intensified Dialogue regarding its aspirations to join NATO.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement that the move is perceived in Tbilisi as “a huge step towards Georgia’s NATO accession.”
“Our negative stance towards this issue is well known,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly Session on September 21 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that Russia expects “NATO to transform itself from a defense alliance into something more contemporary that would meet the principles of transparency.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has further elaborated in the statement on September 22 that Moscow is against Georgia’s membership “in non-transferred NATO.”
“Any kind of NATO enlargement leads to significant changes in the sphere of security. But in the case of Georgia this aspect takes on a special nature because of its [Georgia’s] geographical closeness to Russia and because of the obviously complicated problems in the Caucasus,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia fears that Georgia’s potential NATO membership will transfer the relationship between Moscow and Tbilisi into the sphere of Russo-NATO bilateral ties.
“The practice of previous [NATO] enlargement has shown that those countries that have become alliance members are trying to solve their bilateral problems with us [Russia] through their [problems’] inclusion in the Russian-NATO agenda. In the case of Georgia, more complications of already existing problems are anticipated and will decrease the chances of their settlement. We have been explaining all these issues to official Tbilisi, but it seems that willingness to act against Russia’s interest is not changing there [in Tbilisi],” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said on September 18 that Georgia’s NATO aspiration is the reason why Russia “punishes” Georgia with economic embargos and the promotion of unrest in the secessionist regions.
Russia has also warned NATO leadership that Georgia’s integration into the alliance “will further negatively effect the Russian public’s perception of NATO.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Georgia makes no secret that it wants to put Abkhaz and South Ossetian issues into NATO’s agenda.
“In this case, the alliance will be associated by many Russians with the actions of the Georgian current authorities, which has a mainly anti-Russian stance,” the statement reads.
The Foreign Ministry also noted that although the launch of an Intensified Dialogue with Georgia was not a surprise to Moscow, it should not add to Tbilisi’s drive to change current Russian-led negotiating and peacekeeping formats in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“We expect that NATO’s decision will not be perceived by the Georgian leadership as a sign of boosting anti-Russian rhetoric,” the statement reads.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement contradicts an announcement made earlier on September 22 by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, who said that Georgia’s NATO membership is not a threat to Russia.
“To enter or not to enter NATO – that is Georgia’s affair. Russia has nothing to do with it,” he said.
Ivanov also complained earlier that Russian officials are asked too many questions about Georgia, creating the misconception that Georgia is “a hub of international policy and a priority for the Russian Federation.”