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More NATO in Georgia and More Georgia in NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's visit to Georgia was presented as an event of regional importance. The level of Georgian media coverage and the officials' announcements indicated that the authorities were seriously prepared for this visit and the goal was to enhance the authorities' reputation through PR component and to reduce / overcome the "war loser complex" in Georgian society.

In connection with the visit, two main aspects are to be identified; the problem of Georgia's Euro-Atlantic prospect and the opening of Georgia-NATO joint training center.

Naturally, Georgia's Euro-Atlantic perspective could not be overlooked during Stoltenberg's visit. The need for deepening and strengthening NATO-Georgia relations and joint cooperation were once again emphasized in bilateral meetings. But the intention of granting NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia was not discussed. Stoltenberg said it was too early to talk about what kind of decision will be made in the next year's summit in Warsaw. Moreover, he also noted that Georgia has already received all the necessary tools for moving towards alliance.

NATO Secretary General, probably, referred to the package of special measures provided in Wales, which is still not fully realized. But in order not to disappoint Georgian colleagues, NATO Secretary General introduced an interesting thesis, which was successfully adopted by Georgian authorities, that is; "More NATO in Georgia and more Georgia in NATO." Taking into consideration Georgia's several years’ unsuccessful propaganda for accession to NATO, we can assume that this thesis will be used quite actively in work with community.

As for NATO-Georgia joint training center, then it is already on the agenda for about a year. The opening of the center was the component of the special package given to Georgia in September 2014 at a NATO summit in Wales.

Joint center opening ceremony was held in "Krtsanis" National Training Center, near Tbilisi.  It is noteworthy that the joint training and assessment center represents network of diverse facilities, which, besides a part of "Krtsanisi" training center, includes the military training ground of Vaziani, Orfolo, as well as a part of mountain –rifle training ground of Sachkheryan.

It is noteworthy that the visit of NATO's Head was considered by the Georgian side as the best time to organize a loud opening of the training center, without taking into consideration the important fact that the basic structures for the construction or reconstruction of some facilities have not even begun. In other words, although opened, the center is still unlikely to be able to fully serve its long-term goal, that is to contribute to Georgia, as well as  NATO member and partner countries by organizing military trainings.

In this regard, Georgian Chief of General Staff Vakhtang Kapanadze has already announced that all the infrastructures of the joint training center must be created in stages, and according to him such haste is connected with the desire to start training a day before.

It can be only assumed, what was the real reason and repercussions of opening the center in haste. However, on the one hand, by the opening ceremony the authorities tried to lift their rating, taking into consideration the campaign of parliamentary elections, which will start in September, on the other hand, they tried to show the long-awaited progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as to disperse the public concerns connected with the movement of signs on Georgian-South Ossetian border.  

It is noteworthy that there were clear concerns of the Georgian leadership because of possible reaction of Russia. It is also expressed in Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s speech, who stressed that NATO military base should not be confused with the training center. Moreover, he emphasized that the center will contribute to regional security.

However, as expected, Moscow does not agree with such training center qualifications. The representative of while the very center - as a "serious destabilizing factor for regional security." The Russian side has even made parallels with the events of 2008, warning about the possible consequences.

Summing up Stoltenberg's visit to Georgia, we can note that despite the Euro-Atlantic prospects remained dim, and Russia acquired a new reason for concern, nevertheless the opening of the center, even in a symbolic way, is an important event for the region, because it became a new component of the security of South Caucasus architecture which must be taken into account from now.

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