Despite the fact that the Kremlin has made different decisions in different cases and did not do much to prevent Georgia’s and Moldova’s political and economic cooperation with Europe, the same strategy should not be foreseen in terms of military integration. Based on certain circumstances and past practice, we can say that NATO enlargement in post-Soviet countries is where the Kremlin draws a hard line in the sand, the violation of which can entail tough reactions by Moscow, including the use of military force. I believe that the primary reason for Russia’s military actions in Georgia was to send a signal that Moscow is ready to resort to the use of force against the potential expansion of NATO in the region. It was a response to the Declaration of NATO’s Bucharest Summit noting that Ukraine and Georgia would become members of this organization. Therefore, the Russian military intervention in Georgia was unavoidable even in case of granting the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia. To blame the West in this issue and argue that the MAP would prevent the Russian aggression is not reasonable.
The Georgian Government should realize that many European states perceived the Kremlin signal very seriously and that would inevitably have an influence on Georgia’s NATO prospective. The West clearly sees a significant risk of military confrontation with Russia if Georgia is accepted in the Alliance. The last 7-8 years have especially shown that Western and Central European states are not ready to go to war with Russia over Ukraine or Georgia. Economic sanctions and other non-military measures have proven ineffective.
What is even worse, this issue has not been properly analyzed in Georgia. It is hard to find any kind of discussion or work on this topic in Georgian political or academic circles. It is also not an easy task to talk about that due to the emotional environment created by radical political and other groups. Even by moderately expressing some skepticism over Georgia’s prospective of NATO membership you risk to be instantly labeled as a traitor, “pro-Russian” or “bought by Russia”. This process further escalates by the existence of clearly Russian-financed political and civil society organizations that claim that Georgia should abandon its western aspirations and foster closer economic and diplomatic ties with Russia. It is not a surprise that many independent scholars do not want to be affiliated with such groups.