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NATO Chief Says Georgia, Not Russia, Must Decide On NATO Membership


Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze

BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has defended Georgia’s right to decide for itself whether it wants to join NATO, saying that Russian pressure against Tbilisi on the issue is “totally unacceptable.”

“Russia has no right to decide what neighbors of Russia can do,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels on July 18 at a joint press conference with Georgia’s new prime minister, Mamuka Bakhtadze.

“Georgia is a sovereign, independent nation and Georgia has the right to decide its own path, including what kind of security arrangements Georgia wants to be part of,” Stoltenberg said.

“The whole idea that a neighbor tells a neighbor what they can do and what they cannot do is totally unacceptable because that is to reestablish the old idea of spheres of influence where big powers were in a position where they could decide what small neighbors could do or not do.”

Speaking beside Stoltenberg, Bakhtadze said “Georgian membership in NATO is not aimed against somebody. It just makes the region stronger, more predictable, and more secure.”

“Georgia is an independent country and we are making decisions ourselves,” Bakhtadze said. “The decisions of NATO are made on a consensus basis. This means that it’s Georgia and 29 countries [in NATO] that have to make a decision when Georgia will become a member.”

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels
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