RFE/RL: You were the only high-ranking political leader at the NATO summit representing not a member country, but one with partnership status. Were you surprised to receive an invitation to the summit?
Nino Burdjanadze: I received a personal invitation sent to me by [Latvian President Vaira] Vike-Freiberga. This was a tremendous honor for me personally and, of course, as a representative of Georgia, first and foremost. Because this invitation, me being here, implies huge support for our country. It has been specifically underscored that Georgia belongs here -- where democratic states, NATO member countries, stand.
RFE/RL: I have just completed reading the entire text of the declaration passed during the Riga summit, in which Georgia is mentioned four times. Have your expectations been met?
Burdjanadze: We, of course, hope to receive a [Membership] Action Plan, and become a member of the alliance as soon as possible. However, the document adopted today reflects the maximum that could have been achieved by Georgia under the present circumstances. There were also other aspects that were perhaps equally important as those points reflected in the document. What I mean is the reality and the atmosphere that reigned at the summit, during which virtually not a single official or informal gathering, not a single bilateral meeting went by without very active discussion about Georgia and its future membership [in the alliance]. There were messages at the highest level, starting from [U.S.] President Bush [and] the NATO secretary-general. Not to mention Vike-Freiberga, our very active and sincere supporter, and many others -- the president of Estonia, the president of Poland. The support is so immense that I do not even want to continue with this list. The steps that we take next are very important, and such extensive backing from our friends obliges us to do more. We will do whatever it takes to continue with the reforms, and to make Georgia a candidate -- or, rather, even a member of this organization -- soon. I can tell you one thing: Georgia will be among the first countries ready to cross the threshold of NATO's door -- which, we are being told, and it is true, is open.
RFE/RL: NATO's mission in Afghanistan is currently one of the alliance's most pressing issues. However, it seems that politicians and military personnel have differing perceptions of the situation, and individual member countries are not contributing equally. Does this mean that in its drive toward integration Georgia will increase its contribution to the operation in Afghanistan, as it did in Iraq?
Burdjanadze: Georgia has already contributed to operations in which even some members of the alliance did not participate -- Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq. This, I want to say, is particularly appreciated by our friends. Because, again, what this demonstrates is that Georgia is not a country that considers its relations with NATO an opportunity for exploitation. Georgia is not a country that only expects to be helped and supported, without doing anything to help itself. The fact that our country has expressed its readiness to increase its contribution to the establishment of international peace and stability is appreciated at a very high level, and in a very honest manner. I am very glad to see that this contribution of ours, which indeed is not small, is so appreciated by our friends. The contribution is not small, but its importance is emphasized even more than it could have been if we were in NATO.