29 September 2023,   14:43
Instead of undue criticism it is time to help us to overcome our security predicament and get the well-deserved membership in NATO and the EU - Papuashvili

Chairman of the Georgian Parliament responds to Irakli Garibashvili’s statement that the expansion of NATO was one of the pretexts for Russia"s invasion in Ukraine.

“Georgian PM’s comments on NATO enlargement, which he said to be one of the pretext for Russia to invade Ukraine, caused different and largely mistaken or deliberately distorted interpretations. I believe Georgia has the right to have a say when it comes to regional and international security and Mr Garibashvili’s words should be understood properly.

We have the right to question the duplicity of some of our friends’ and critics’ attitude because many times now, Georgia was subject to unfair, almost hypocritical treatment.

Since the Soviet times, Georgia’s independence and security has been jeopardized: First by Russian-incited separatism, and then by outright Russian invasion 15 years ago, and then again, with illegal borderization, kidnapping of Georgian citizens, and creeping annexation of Georgian territories.

Ever since, Georgia practiced strategic patience, as implied by our Western friends’ advice. We did our utmost to be resilient but also to be security providers and help to strengthen international security: Under PM Irakli Garibashvili, Georgia contributed the largest per capita military personnel for NATO operations in Afghanistan, among others.

Meanwhile, despite Georgia’s precarious existence under the foreign occupation and daily experience of threats and harassment, the West remained unfazed. Western countries imposed a de-facto arms embargo on Georgia immediately after the 2008 war and soon declared ‘reset’ with Russia. In subsequent years, the West increased foreign trade with Moscow to unprecedented levels, subjugating many Western economies to Russian energy diktat. Many Western countries, to this day, are afraid of calling Russian actions in the invaded Georgian territories its proper name - occupation.

Only now, after the repeated Russian invasion of Ukraine, the situation has changed dramatically. However, even though Georgian policy was and remains steadfastly pro-Western, Georgia is now, inexplicably, criticized for being ‘pro-Russian’! All Georgia did was to continue its responsible policy of strategic patience towards Russia, scrupulously practiced for many years now. This policy implies not imposing bilateral sanctions on Russia and not sanctioning Russia back for the latter’s decision to resume direct flights to Georgia, thus lifting the unfair punishment against our people.

Georgians perceive such inconsistent and groundless criticism by our Western partners negatively:

First, the war of aggression against Georgia was no less cruel and damaging than Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, almost no Western backlash followed Russian aggression at the time.

Second, despite Georgia having virtually no security guarantees from the West, our country is constantly called on to act ‘boldly’. This is strange because our strategic partners understand very well that Georgia cannot mount the same resistance to Russia as the allied countries under the protection of NATO’s 5th article.

Third, some of our partners reproach us for being pragmatic about not imposing bilateral sanctions on Russia (yet, never allowing circumvention of sanctions regime via Georgian territory or institutions). It is clear to everyone, first of all to our own citizens that Georgia’s imposition of bilateral sanctions on Russia would decimate Georgian economy, albeit inflict little if any harm onto Russia. Conversely, Russia’s retaliation would be detrimental to Georgian economy and statehood.

And fourth, the countries that relatively recently got into NATO and EU and thus acquired geopolitical safety (however imperfect they were at the time of membership) are now voicing loudest concerns about Georgia’s struggles. Despite Georgia’s best efforts to get into NATO and the EU, we never get the deserved reciprocal steps from the West. Georgia was even left without the candidate status last year, even if we had been clear forerunners among the Associated Trio.

With all this in mind, we should call a spade a spade and tell our Western partners that instead of undue criticism it is time that they help us to overcome our security predicament and get the well-deserved membership in NATO and the EU. For over 15 years now, the ball is in the Western side, on both EU and NATO courts”, - tweeted Shalva Papuashvili.