Refusal to grant Georgia a membership action plan (MAP) at NATO summit in Wales in early September will "ruin and undermine" political stability in the country, Georgia's parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, has warned.
In blunt remarks on January 13 in the Estonian capital Tallinn, Usupashvili suggested that anything short of MAP will be a tough sell at home for the Georgian leadership.
Speaking at an event organized by the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership, Usupashvili, who is one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream ruling coalition, also suggested that if Georgia is again denied to MAP, like it happened four years ago at the NATO summit in Bucharest, it will give a “momentum” to anti-Western political forces in Georgia.
“Membership Action Plan – this magical word MAP – for many, many Georgians means much more than it really is, because it has become a symbol of answering on a question: 'Does free world need Georgia or not? Does free world keep its promise that Georgia will become a NATO member or not?',” the Georgian parliament speaker said.
“If the [answer] is 'No' and 'Situation has changed now and more important things are [happening] in the wider region and therefore that promise [that Georgia will join NATO] was important then [in 2008], but [not] now because of some new circumstance' - this is going to ruin and undermine political stability in the country," Usupashvili said.
At the 2008 Bucharest summit NATO refused to grant MAP to Georgia, which is considered to be a precursor to an eventual membership in the alliance; but at the same summit the NATO leaders instead pledged that Georgia will become NATO member sometime in the future provided that the country meets all the criteria.
The parliament speaker suggested that with major political forces in Georgia – the ruing GD coalition and the major opposition party, the United National Movement, both pursuing pro-Western policy course, 2014 is the right time for the West to help consolidate Georgia’s recent progress by on the one hand signing the EU Association Agreement and granting NATO MAP on the other.
He warned that failure to do so may give a “momentum” to some political forces to push for a notion that ‘Georgia would have solved its territorial problems if not NATO aspiration’. Usupashvili said that it does not mean that such statements will become popular, but it may become "the only choice left if people feel that there is no other option.”
"One option is to take guns and fight against the occupant country, which we do not want to do; second option is to become part of free Europe - step-by-step but with demonstrated success and the third option is to go back to modernized Soviet Union or Russian empire; there are no other options on the table,” Usupashvili said.
He said that if NATO summit in September 2014 results in a “very little progress”, it won’t be enough. “[It] will be very difficult to sell to the people as a big success,” Usupashvili said, adding that the previous government tried it in 2008 when it was portraying the Bucharest summit results as being better than getting MAP. “It simply does not work,” he said.
Usupashvili, who is visiting Estonia on January 13-14, raised the issue when he met his Estonian counterpart Ene Ergma.
Readout of the meeting, distributed by Georgian parliament’s press office, says: “The [Georgian] parliament speaker has also discussed the issue of  NATO summit and noted that Georgia remembers pledge [made by the NATO leaders] at the Bucharest summit [in 2008] and although the country is following steadfastly its commitments, no concrete result is yet visible. He [Usupashvili] said that Georgia has an expectation for a concrete result – that is MAP and certain threat to EU integration may also emerge if this result is not tabled.”
In April, 2013 then PM Bidzina Ivanishvili announced that Georgia’s target was to get MAP from NATO in 2014. But since then the Georgian officials have been cautious while commenting on the issue, saying that they did not want to create inflated expectations about 2014 NATO summit.
After the Bucharest summit, NATO-Georgia Commission was launched in September, 2008 – the main mechanism through which Georgia’s cooperation with the alliance is currently supervised.
In December, 2008 Annual National Programme (ANP) was introduced - a mechanism through which reform targets are being set by the Georgian government and then reviewed by the alliance annually.
According to Georgian officials and Western diplomats, ANP in substance is actually “de facto the same” Membership Action Plan.
But when NATO decided to launch the Annual National Programme with Georgia, it also stated that it was done “without prejudice to further decisions which must be taken about MAP”.