NATO has agreed on “substantive package” for Georgia that will help the country to prepare for membership in the Alliance, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on the second day of NATO leaders’ summit in Wales on September 5.
“There is one group of partner countries, who hold special relationship with NATO, the countries, which aspire to join the Alliance once they fulfill the criteria… NATO’s door remains open. Each country will be continued to be judged on its merits and no third country has a veto over NATO enlargement,” he said at a news conference.
“Each aspirant has work to do in different areas and we will give them support they need,” Rasmussen said. “We agreed on substantive package of measures for Georgia… that will help Georgia advance in its preparations towards membership of NATO.”
He said that NATO leaders have also decided to “a defence capacity building initiative” for partners, among them Georgia, that will help the Alliance “project stability without deploying large combat forces.”
“This builds on our extensive expertise in supporting, advising and assisting nations with defence and security reforms,” Rasmussen said. “Building on our close cooperation, and following their requests, we have agreed to extend this initiative to Georgia, Moldova and Jordan.”
He also said that Georgia is among the group of five nations, who seek “enhanced opportunities” of cooperation with NATO. Four others are Australia, Finland, Jordan and Sweden.
“Georgia’s participation in that group represents an acknowledgment of progress Georgia has made in its relationship with NATO. Georgia wants to further improve its ability to work and operate with NATO forces,” Rasmussen said.
“Georgia has already made remarkable steps in that direction, but more could be done and I am pleased that Georgia accepted invitation to participate in that selected group of nations that want particular close relationship with NATO. So there is clearly a political demonstration, acknowledgement of the progress Georgia has made, but of course there is also a very concrete dimension that Georgia’s participation in that group will step up Georgia’s practical cooperation with NATO,” Rasmussen said.
At a meeting in June NATO foreign ministers decided that membership action plan (MAP) would not be extended to Georgia at the summit in Wales; instead, NATO foreign ministers agreed to develop a “substantive" package to help the country move further closer to the Alliance.
According to Georgian and NATO officials, the package for Georgia will also include launching of NATO training center in Georgia, as well as “occasionally” holding of NATO exercises in Georgia.
Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s Future Leaders Summit on the sideline of NATO summit in Wales on September 4, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said that proposed training center will be “a military training facility, where NATO members and partners will train.”
“There are lot of suggestions – we already have a Krtsanisi training base, which has already been used for years by the U.S. marines for training of the Georgian troops; almost 12,000 Georgian troops were trained in pre-deployment to Afghanistan and other missions in that place [Krtsanisi training facility]. We will invest more in this [training base],” Alasania said.
He also said that after the package is finalized it would then be followed by its “implementation plan”. Alasania also said that NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow would be overseeing its implementation.