Georgia Defense Minister: We Are Acting Like a NATO Country, Like a European Country

Today, the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) at Brookings hosted Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania for an address on Georgia’s vision for Euro-Atlantic integration during a period of increased insecurity in the region. In his remarks, Minister Alasania shared his insights on the upcoming NATO summit and Georgia’s approach to enhancing its relations with the West while attempting to normalize relations with Russia to lower tensions still simmering from the war six years ago.

Minister Alasania said that his country’s “path toward NATO and European integration is unchanged” and offered next steps on “how we’re going to make sure that the credibility of the west, the credibility of NATO as an organization will continue to be relevant to safeguard the values that we all cherish: freedom, democracy, and a Europe whole and free.”

“We are acting like a NATO country,” he said. Continuing:

We are acting like a European country, because we believe that our future is within Europe. And we regard ourselves as a future member. And this is why we are preparing ourselves institution-wise, in terms of freedom, in terms of democracy, and the military capabilities when … the historical opportunity will open up to Georgia to join NATO and the EU.

The defense minister added that “We are looking at the future.” We:

cannot be dragged back to the confrontation of the early 1990s. And we want to make sure that our policies, our economic policies, our foreign policy, [are] specifically working to make sure that the Georgian people who elected us are now moving closer and closer to the European way of living standards. And this only can be done if the efforts that Georgia is making will be validated, will be appreciated by the NATO and the European countries.

One of the things we are looking forward to is the signing of the association agreement. The next step obviously is the NATO summit. And what the NATO summit will decide is how effectively they can assure the allies, but also the partners, like Georgia.

On Russia, Minister Alasania spoke in both hopeful and realistic terms, saying that:

We are now approaching foreign policy and specifically the issue with Russia with a rather mature approach. We don’t have any illusions that Russia will change its behavior or policies toward Georgia’s territorial integrity or NATO aspirations. But we do hope the diffusion of tensions, the decrease of the military rhetoric between the two countries, will serve Georgia’s interests best.

And it will give us more space to develop ourselves, to develop our relationship with the Abkhazia and South Ossetian areas. This is the cornerstone of our policy actually. Be uncompromising on the territorial integrity. Be uncompromising on NATO aspiration, membership in NATO and the EU. But at the same time be sure that we are not going give a pretext to anybody in the region, specifically to Russians, to attack us politically or otherwise.

Listen to audio of the event below or on the event’s web page to get the full conversation, which was moderated by CUSE Director Fiona Hill.