Russia’s foreign ministry has said that Moscow, along with the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, do not view favorably neighboring Georgia’s increasingly close relationship with NATO.
Specifically, the foreign ministry — which speaks for Russian President Vladimir Putin — said recent Georgian-NATO military exercises were only destabilizing the region and leading to new tensions.
“The delegations of Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia emphasized that further deepening of Tbilisi’s cooperation with NATO is perceived as a real threat to regional security,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the military exercises, which were held in Georgia, clearly were anti-Russian and provocative nature, Russian media reported.
“[The drills] involved a record number of servicemen and military hardware… The emissaries of some NATO states, who attended the drills, stressed the anti-Russian nature of the maneuvers and their importance for Georgia from the point of view of the future ‘de-occupation’ of South Ossetia,” the statement said.
Georgia is not at present a member of the security alliance, but Vice President Mike Pence vowed earlier this year that “one day” it would be.
Also, in May, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held a plenary session in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, adopting a declaration of support for Georgia’s NATO membership.
Russia fought a brief but bloody 5-day war after invading Georgia in 2008 after Tblisi’s forces were sent into South Ossetia after the region declared independence from the Georgian state. Putin used the excuse of needing to protect ethnic Russian citizens living in the region; Moscow’s forces quickly routed Georgian forces.
Analyst comment: After its humiliating defeat at the hands of a reinvigorated Russian fighting force, it’s understandable why Georgia would want to join NATO. What’s less clear is why NATO would want that headache. Putin has made clear he considers the use of military force in Georgia worthwhile to protect Russian national interests; NATO seems willing to bet at some point in the future he will have changed his mind. Is it a gamble worth taking?
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