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    Georgia in NATO? This will be a different story

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    MOSCOW. (Lev Dzugayev, member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council) - March 13, 2007 is set to become a major landmark in Georgia's modern history.

    On that day its 160-strong parliament almost unanimously adopted a declaration on Georgia's full and immediate accession to NATO.

    Only one MP, Gocha Jojua from the National Forum opposition party, abstained. He explained before the voting that while sharing the values inherent in the NATO entry he could not assume responsibility for the potential consequences together with the ruling United National Movement.

    This brought back to my mind the words of outstanding Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili, who warned futilely in the late 1980s-early 1990s that Zviad Gamsakhurdia was pursuing a fatal policy. Many people remember what happened next, and the fate that befell the first Georgian president. But bad memory is typical of some politicians. Otherwise, they would not be committing the same mistakes with amazing zeal, facing their compatriots with new socio-economic and political upheavals.

    This was the case when Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected by more than a 90% vote. Before long, the world saw what his idea of Georgia for Georgians was really about. Ethnic purges and a massacre in South Ossetia were part of it. In a couple of years, tanks and armored personnel carriers were in downtown Tbilisi, and the first president was toppled.

    This was also the case when Eduard Shevardnadze, who came next, received a more than 90% vote. Shortly after, he started a war in Abkhazia, in which Georgia sustained a devastating defeat. Hundreds of thousands of Georgians became refugees as a result of this adventure. In 2003 the so-called rose revolution swept away this leader as well.

    Current President Mikhail Saakashvili also scored a landslide victory with an over 90% vote. Less than a year later, his "wise" policy resulted in the use of force and bloodshed in South Ossetia again, breaking the fragile trust which Ossetians and Georgians had been building with such difficulty over the previous decade. Under Saakashvili, Russian-Georgian relations have reached the chilliest phase, while the prospects of peace settlement with South Ossetia and Abkhazia have become very vague. In the estimate of the Gorbie Public Opinion Research Center, today 65% of the polled Georgians are displeased with the economic situation in the country despite the triumphant reports about Tbilisi's substantial achievements. Learning the lessons of the recent past is not Mr. Saakashvili's cup of tea.

    Indicatively, Tbilisi has invariably blamed all problems on the intrigues of the outside forces (namely, Russia), which have been preventing new Georgia from using its creative potential. At any rate, the Georgian political elite has not said a word about their political responsibility for being a fish that is caught twice with the same bait.

    Tbilisi has revealed stunning unanimity on the NATO entry. "We will become members of the world's strongest military and political alliance. Georgia has been dreaming about this for centuries," the Georgian leader said. At one time Georgia wanted to become part of Russia in a bid to save itself from the troops of the Persian Shah, and in the 1970s the then Comrade Shevardnadze proclaimed that "for Georgia the sun rises in the North."

    President Saakashvili also emphasized that some forces inside and outside the country were exploiting the prospect of Georgia's NATO entry for the return of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He explained that NATO did not take part in domestic conflicts. Meanwhile, at the NATO summit in Riga Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Nino Burjanadze said it would be much simpler if Georgia were first accepted into NATO, and then the talks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia started with NATO's participation. So, who is exploiting the issue?

    The day before the discussion on a declaration on entering NATO in parliament, Tbilisi spread information on the bombing of the upper part of the Kodor Gorge by helicopters that crossed the border with Russia from the North. No evidence of them being Russian was submitted, but the bombing was one of the main arguments in favor of signing a memo on national accord. Burjanadze stressed that it was particularly important to sign it because of the events in upper Abkhazia. Georgia will do everything to join as soon as possible an organization that brings peace and stability to the entire region, she promised.

    Tbilisi is doing much to brainwash the Georgian population with the idea of an outside threat, and its efforts have already produced results. When the Baltic Survey and the Gallup Institute asked Georgians whether they wanted their country to join NATO, 83% of respondents said "yes."

    This situation is very similar to the events in Georgia in 1989-1992, when Tbilisi was portraying ethnic minorities as the enemy, failing to respond to the challenges of the times, and finally suffered a disaster that led to the collapse of the proclaimed state. Today, Tbilisi has again proclaimed Russia its enemy; it is unable to settle domestic conflicts, and is making attempts to mobilize society politically. What will come next? The consequences for which deputy Gocha Jojua does not want to assume responsibility.

    International public opinion polls have also shown that 86% of Georgians would like to know more about NATO. They are interested in how Georgia will benefit from joining it, and what responsibilities it will bear as a NATO member. NATO's actions in the Balkans and in Iraq have given a tell-tale answer - all problems in Georgia will deteriorate, and it will have to play NATO's games. It is a big question whether NATO's entry meets the genuine interests of the Georgian people.

    The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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