Georgia wants to join the military alliance and the EU, but prime minister’s new remarks won’t go down well.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a reaction to NATO expansion, Georgia’s prime minister has said, echoing the Kremlin’s justification for the war in another sign of Tbilisi splitting with the West.
Speaking at the GLOBSEC security forum on Tuesday, Irakli Garibashvili said “one of the main reasons” behind the conflict “was NATO expansion … the desire of Ukraine to become a member of NATO.”
Claims that Western troops are encroaching on Russia’s borders was a key part of President Vladimir Putin’s narrative before ordering an all-out assault on Ukraine in February 2022.
Georgia fought a war with Russia in 2008 and has become one of NATO’s closest partners, with the alliance training the country’s troops. Around a fifth of Georgia’s territory is occupied by Russian armed forces and separatist regimes it supports in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, disputed territories in the Caucasus.
Earlier that year, 77 percent of voters backed Georgia joining NATO in a nationwide referendum. Following the poll, the alliance issued a statement in which it said the country would ultimately become a member, but progress on its accession has since stalled.
Despite a stated ambition to also join the EU, Georgia is failing to meet requirements for reforms to move its application forward. “We have seen setbacks in the key areas of rule of law, governance and human rights,” Brussels said last year.
Earlier this month, Moscow announced it would scrap a ban on flights between the two countries and abolish visa requirements for Georgian citizens. Flights have resumed despite Georgia’s own president saying the move was “another Russian provocation.”
According to the European Council on Foreign Relations, oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, “appears to be largely responsible” for the pro-Moscow turn. “Through his control of the Georgian Dream party and the government, Ivanishvili may be attempting to manoeuvre Georgia into Russia’s sphere of influence,” it says.
By Gabriel Gavin. Source Politico.