The prime minister of Georgia, an ex-Soviet republic that aspires to join NATO, has hailed the Western military alliance’s decision to allow North Macedonia to join.
“We see that NATO is pursuing an open-door policy and this is the only right response to the challenge coming from the Russian Federation,” Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said in an interview with RFE/RL on February 17 on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Macedonia's government on February 12 said the country was officially renamed the Republic of North Macedonia, under a landmark agreement to normalize relations with Greece that also allows Macedonia to enter NATO.
Bakhtadze made the comments after Skopje signed a protocol on February 6 that could see North Macedonia become NATO’s 30th member if the move is ratified by all current members of the alliance.
Moscow has made explicit its opposition to NATO’s further expansion, especially as regards to Georgia and Ukraine. Kyiv also seeks to become a member of the security alliance.
After Macedonia signed the accession protocol, the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that "NATO's door remains open for countries that meet NATO standards,” and praised Georgia’s “commitment to reforms, the commitment to strengthening defense and security institutions, transparency, judiciary reforms."
“We will continue to support Georgia as it moves towards NATO membership," Stoltenberg added.
At a 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO agreed that Georgia will eventually become a member, but no firm date has been set, although the membership perspective for the country has been reconfirmed at every summit ever since.
The country of some 3.7 million people fought a brief war with Russia in August 2008, and Moscow’s continued military presence in the country’s territory adds to tensions in the region.
After the war, Russia left thousands of troops in Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and recognized both as independent countries.