BRUSSELS -- Georgia's membership in NATO could contribute to the stability of the alliance and Europe as a whole, President Giorgi Margvelashvili has said.
In an interview with RFE/RL on March 10 in Brussels, Margvelashvili outlined Georgia's main objectives for an upcoming NATO summit in Brussels in July.
“We want [NATO] membership. We say we want to be there, we say we deserve to be there, we say we have done everything to be there," Margvelashvili said.
"There are numerous factors that are depending on Georgia, including trade communications, including major trade routes that are going from East to West or the other way around, including the stability of the Black Sea [region]. Those are European and Euro-Atlantic factors, and bringing in Georgia is extremely important.”
At the 2008 Bucharest summit, NATO agreed that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO in the future, but no firm date has been set, although the membership perspective for the two countries has been reconfirmed at every summit ever since.
Georgia's advance toward eventual membership has been blocked largely due to the frozen conflicts with its Russia-backed separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have declared independence from Georgia.
Russia recognized the regions as independent states following the 2008 war with Georgia, a move that very few countries have followed.
Margvelashvili said that Russia's rhetoric and actions, including the 2008 war against Georgia and its support for separatists in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, should advance his country's case for membership in the alliance.
“You just have to switch on the TV and listen to what the Russians are saying. They are very sincere," Margvelashvili said, adding, "We heard recently that Russia wants to recreate a bipolar world resembling the Cold War [era].
“When someone tries to impose this kind of thinking, I think that this is something we should be very carefully listening to...If the acknowledgement of those problems appears to be high on NATO's agenda, then Georgia's case [for membership] should be rushed ahead much faster."
There has been speculation that Georgia at the July summit might ask that NATO's mutual-defense clause, Article 5, which requires all members to come to the aid of any other member under attack, apply only to the territory which is effectively under Tbilisi's control, and not to the two breakaway regions.
However, Margvelashvili did not give a clear answer on whether the issue will be brought up at the summit.
“We are not in depth of discussion to that extent, though we have seen cases in NATO history [such as West Germany] where nations which were split into parts became members of NATO, with the commitment that at some point of the window of opportunity this will be solved peacefully.
"We are not discussing this [issue] right away. I guess the discussion was triggered by those historic cases. But we are very sure and firm and confirmed on our path to NATO,” the Georgian president concluded.