June 7 has been declared in Georgia a national day of mourning - in Afghanistan as a result of a terrorist attack in Helmand province 7 soldiers were killed, and 9 people got wounds of varying severity . All state institutions of Georgia lowered the flags. All entertainments were cancelled. Georgia’s president and prime minister continuing the intestine war offered their condolences to the families of the dead soldiers. At a ministerial meeting of NATO in Brussels the Defense Minister of the country cut short a trip and went to Afghanistan. In such circumstances, the sixth NATO Week in Georgia is being held.
It is the second time that for some three weeks a nationwide day of mourning is announced in the country – on May 16, Georgia plunged into grief, paying tribute to the three soldiers who had been killed a few days ago. And then in Helmand the Georgian military base was attacked by the Taliban. The new attack cannot but cause increased concern of the authorities. The fact is that the day before they were warned by the Taliban in the form of a video clip with a direct threat to destroy “the Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan”, and later shifted the warfare directly to Georgia.
Brussels knows about the situation in which a small country in the South Caucasus found itself. The NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative, James Appathurai, who was on a visit within a NATO week in Georgia, praised the sacrifices Tbilisi makes performing the allied duty. But that does not help anyone, and especially for more than 30 bereaved families. Not least because of the significant for a small country number of losses the idea of Georgia’s membership in NATO has lost considerably in popularity.
The new authorities still declare the invariability of the integration course, but with much less enthusiasm. So this NATO week in Georgia too is held unlike previous years in modest surroundings. The event, organized by the Georgian Information Center for NATO and European Union, with the support of the Romanian Embassy in Georgia and the staff of the State Minister for European Integration, is of educational nature. Tbilisi, in particular, has already hosted a seminar on “Informing the public of Georgia’s integration into NATO, with the participation of representatives of the so-called NATO aspirant countries - Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. It is not very clear where the other, announced within the Week, sessions such as meetings with students and NGOs, competitions and debates, as well as sports competitions are held. A meaningful mention in the press release of higher ranked guests from NATO headquarters was confirmed so far only in the aforementioned James Appathurai’s arrival in Tbilisi.
If Georgia’s old authorities tried to give exceptional value to any visit of the NATO spokesman and interpreted it as an event of universal scale, confirming that the country was about to become a member of the Alliance, then the new authorities in respect of both the Week and Appathurai’s are far less wordy. Of course, the special representative has not been refused meetings or a tribune; his visit was reflected in the local media, but very little remained of the former piety.
In addition, James Appathurai did not say anything, the Georgian society has not heard before, and what could cause a surge of interest. He told absolutely all the same that Brussels has told Tbilisi throughout recent years: in the case of following recommendations, Georgia will soon be admitted into NATO.
However, in this light the major change of people’s attitude to the issue of Georgia’s accession to this military-political bloc is of no small importance. As is known, the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO practically ceased to be relevant when the Ukrainian society essentially came out against it. In Georgia, the contrary is the case. It is not enough that most people sincerely considered the accession to NATO a panacea for all ills that plague in recent years, also even not numerous opponents of joining the Alliance, who did not hide their position were announced by the authorities very nearly enemies of the people. The situation changed with the change of government.
It is no more something reprehensible to speak out against NATO; and it can be done without fear to let oneself in for trouble. So the question is heard more frequently: what are Georgian troops doing in Afghanistan, for what and whom are they killed, why will they continue to serve there after the withdrawal of U.S. and most western units, how much can losses increase if Georgians remain in Afghanistan without most current allies? There is only answer: otherwise NATO is not to be seen. And all this increasingly less satisfies the society reflecting on the appropriateness of the country’s entry into the Alliance – eventually, when in August 2008 the country (in this case, no matter on whose fault) was in trouble, NATO members’ help was more restrained than would be expected, and was of diplomatic nature.
But on the other hand, there is a real fear of Russia - if in 2008 with the aid of Western countries it was possible to stop it, this time, abandoning the idea of NATO membership and not having good relations with Russia, Georgia may remain face to face with it without strong patrons.