Georgia on the Road to NATO: challenges to and accomplishments towards membership

Project Rationale
One of the key questions that scholars, policy makers, and practitioners face today is that of the future outlook and role of NATO. Pivotal moments in the past fifteen years mark the events of 9/11, the operation in Afghanistan and ISAF’s involvement there, the US invasion of Iraq and the following stabilisation efforts (to which NATO contributed too). They have reshaped the security environment not only of a few regions in the world, but they have also had a global impact on generations to come. In this context, the Alliance needs to incorporate new strategic developments, meet the demands of constantly transforming and evolving security practices, and examine the issue of enlargement.
The dissertation will look at the ‘road’ of Georgia to a NATO membership and will investigate challenges to and accomplishments towards it. The key question the project will aim to answer is what factors influence the decision whether Georgia becomes a full-right member of the Alliance or not. Thus, the main hypothesis concerns the unlikely occurrence of a quick Georgian accession (Zdenek & Shevchuk, 2011). In doing so, this dissertation will reflect the delicate balance of military and strategic interests of America, the European Union and their neighbours to the east. It will also raise questions on the impact of power relations, particularly in the case of the US and Russia, on the foreign affairs with former Soviet republics (Andreev, 2010). Lastly, internal dynamics of the Alliance will be studied to draw insight on the vision for future scope of action and structure of the organisation (Gulnur & Moore, 2010).

The topic is situated neatly in the broader considerations within the discipline of security studies – namely the development of new security threats with global impact – terrorism, cyber security and complex emergencies. The limitation on the scope of research do not allow for a more extensive look at all current areas of collaboration between NATO and Georgia that might influence decision-making. In acknowledging that, however, the study undertaken prioritises the above-mentioned three spheres of bilateral cooperation as producing the main effects on membership consideration.
Having conducted a preliminary literature review on the topic of NATO enlargement, one of the key findings that stood out was the fairly recent and relatively few attempts to specifically address the issue of Georgian membership. Most works so far have tackled the issues concerning the ‘search’ for a new strategic vision for the Alliance (Gulnur & Rebecca, 2010), or enlargement to the east with regards to the attitude of Russia towards the accession of states from the former Soviet bloc (Andreev, 2010). Thus, this research will seek to contribute to the discussion by examining the bilateral relations between the Alliance and Georgia, the potential implications of accession from technical and military practitioner’s view, as well as the different perspectives of NATO member states on various courses of action.
My reasons for choosing the topic stem from my personal interest in the subject of security and my firm belief in Georgia’s interest to become part of NATO and thus contribute to the global peace and stability. Furthermore, as a Georgian national I have witnessed first-hand the importance of the discussions surrounding membership in the Alliance on the development of Western-oriented identity of the Georgian authorities. Therefore, the dissertation represents an effort to build upon my academic preparation and satisfy personal curiosity.
Summary of the Project Objectives
The key objectives this research aims to fulfil are as follows:
To identify key factors and prove their role in the consideration for potential membership in NATO, as well as to assess their applicability to the case of Georgia.
To test the application and validity of rationalist approaches to security and examine their relevance in the discourse of power relations between the US and Russia.
To highlight tensions within the strategic dynamics of the Alliance member states in terms of new members, the vision for expansion of the organisation or the adoption of new roles in delivering regional security.
To examine if the accession of Georgia in NATO would pose a challenge to the implementation of the current strategic concept of the Alliance and if any amendments of Georgian military objectives are needed to accommodate a potential membership.
To establish the argument within the methodological framework of political science case study research and to point towards the need to incorporate several conceptual tools to achieve a more comprehensive understanding.
To draw a strong solution and relate it to matters of policy-making between NATO and Georgia.
Literature review
The focal point of analysis in this section aims to consolidate the question which revolves around the different explanations behind the likelihood or reluctance towards a Georgian membership in NATO. After the Summit in 2008 in Bucharest a clear message was put forward with a promise for membership of Georgia in the Alliance. However, the actual steps taken towards that have only sent mixed signals to the timescale of accession (Collins, 2011; Razaoux, 2009). This part of the proposal endeavours to shed more light on the issue by reflecting four different views and bringing insights from several different theoretical perspectives. The reviewed works are: Collin’s book ‘NATO: a guide to the issues’, Kamp’s article ‘NATO Enlargement Reloaded’, He and Feng’s ‘Why is there no NATO in Asia?’ and Gordon’s book ‘NATO’s Transformation’.
Firstly, Collin’s work is a valuable asset when examining a membership process though a historic lens. The author pinpoints several important historic events that have had a significant impact on the transformation of the Alliance. Therefore, a parallel can be drawn between the strategic consequences of accession today and the consequences of the past membership paths. Additionally, key strength of the book is its strong contribution in terms of analysis on the international developments of the past fifteen to twenty years. A constructivist approach on the topic would direct the main argument to the matter of shared identities and the notion of collective security. The last two enlargements of NATO in 2004 and 2009 are placed in the broader consideration on the aftermath of the invasion in Iraq and in amid the operation in Afghanistan. Thus, the main thesis on expansion is explained through the ambition of the Alliance to form and sustain new partnership in order to address the possible threats.
Moreover, the constructivist arguments Collins advances also tackle the view on forming a collective defence identity by looking at the past NATO Security Concepts (SC) and the NATO 2020 report. Although the latter is not categorised as a Security Concept, it does play a significant role in shaping the strategic approach of the Alliance (Collins, 2011; Kamp, 2012). Focusing on the last two SCs issued in 1991 and 1999, the author develops the argument on the evolution of the collective defence idea and postulates that it is built to accommodate changes so that it would achieve strategic and political gains: ‘NATO would also increase its dependence on multinational forces because doing so would demonstrate political solidarity’ (Collins, 2011, p. 92).
The next text chosen for the literature review represents a fantastic opportunity to investigate a more optimistic view on NATO’s expansion. Kamp (2012) advances a supportive view of wider enlargement of the Alliance in the Western Balkans and to the east. What is more, his analysis does comprehend the peculiarities of the case with Georgia in terms of the current political position of Russia and the fact that Russian troops are still on the territory of Georgia following the war of 2008.
Basing his argument on statements by officials (US State of Secretary in particular), Kamp (2012) provides an insightful view on NATO enlargement. He supports the position that future enlargement is not only possible but probable and still on the agenda for policy-makers on domestic and international level. After the Bucharest summit and the promise for membership little has been official achieved towards accession. Nonetheless, the author uses transcripts of statements by Hilary Clinton (2012) and Rasmussen (2012) to stress NATO’s commitment to complete the membership process. In his work, also acknowledged are the tensions within the Alliance on the topic of Georgian membership which is seen as a point of disagreement between the US administration and the west European states. Together with the denial to enter the Membership Action Plan (MAP), this is identified as one of the main factors that question the likelihood of membership.
Bearing this in mind, the main obstacle to Georgian membership that Kamp (2012) examines is the complexity of the Georgian relations with Russia. Apart from the current presence of Russian troops in Georgia, what is emphasised as more problematic are the implications of a potential conflict between the two states. Should Georgia be a member in the Alliance, a conflict would constitute a sufficient reason for Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty to be evoked. Such an occasion could have significant consequences in relation to the role of NATO in confronting Russia militarily and in deteriorating the foreign relations between Russia and the West. In this context, a Georgian membership could also be treated as challenging one of the founding principles of the Washington Treaty of 1949. An accession should ‘contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area’ (Kamp, 2012, p. 7) rather than undermine it significantly. On these grounds a rationalist analysis could dismiss the likelihood of membership.
In comparison with Kamp’s rationalist explanations and the Collin’s constructivist view, the third source explores the thematic view of political psychology and state behaviour to account for the decision-making process on the Georgian membership (He & Feng, 2012). The journal article articulates important perspectives on the factors that can be attributed to the lack of progress on the matter. In fact, the political psychology of the Alliance member states is depicted as the key reason of the current status of the Georgian accession. He and Feng’s argument builds upon insights from the rationalist; however, it demonstrates an in-depth view over the political developments in the US with regards to Europe and Pacific Asia to illustrate the difference in the political approaches to both regions.
Placing the scope of their research in a model of risk management of political power and perspectives evaluation, He and Feng (2012) postulate that the American mindset envisioned Europe after the Second World War as a key actor to be multilateral partners with and thus retain a certain balance of power. The economic and political relations were considered to serve as gains in the long-terms perspectives. In contrast, the American administration viewed their Asian allies as more suitable to establish bilateral agreements. Thus, they would be able to restrict the possibility for a unification of Asian states under a common doctrine and potentially against American interests (He & Feng, 2012). Further, economic and political advantages were easier to preserve when negotiated with one party only rather than on a multi-party front. Bearing this in mind, a transformation can be observed in how NATO leadership has viewed and is viewing a Georgian membership today. In the past two decades the discourse of power influence and identity of Georgia has been redirected towards Europe and less towards Russia and has enabled leaders in the Alliance to consider accession.
The main flaw in the behavioural explanation for the limited positive transformation of the membership process should be acknowledged. It is seen to better accommodate the attitudes of the US, Russia and states of Western Europe, rather than those of smaller members of NATO given that it mainly relies on the analysis of balancing threats (He & Feng, 2012). Therefore, the underlying notion of managing the negative consequences on the relationship with Russia is to be seen as the major variable in the risk assessment of Georgian membership. Further to this, the prospects-based analysis rests upon the idea that collective security is acquired by accession rather than developed after accession.
The final element of the literature review presents a more pessimistic and more pragmatic view on NATO’s expansion in general. In the words of the authors, their efforts establish ‘a framework for thinking about issues, options and trade-offs that the Alliance faces’ (Asmus, et al., 1997, p. 94). In acknowledging the time of writing of the book, much of the written expresses the disillusionment of politicians and scholars on the notion of collective security after the Yugoslav wars. Nevertheless, what is particularly interesting about this book is that it frames the narrative of enlargement around trade-offs and construct the idea around balancing between gains and losses.
From a conceptual point of view, three ‘paths to NATO enlargement’ are depicted to explain choices of decision-makers to include new members in the Alliance. First, the ‘evolutionary expansion’ (Asmus, et al., 1997, p. 94) revolves around the idea that no immediate expansion is needed and if the strategic circumstances require it there can be slow, gradual transformation for accession. Second, the goal to ‘promote stability’ (Asmus, et al., 1997, p. 95) is vested in the practices of military progress, economic development and democracy promotion. Such a view on expansion was created to fill security vacuums after the collapse of the Soviet Union and was directed to shape security practices and regional strategic outlook in Eastern Europe specifically. Third, the ‘strategic response’ (Asmus, et al., 1997, p. 96) approach uses enlargement to address explicit threats, deter attacks or defend Western interests.
These three approaches are well constructed to explain any possible motivation behind expansion. However, there are several conflicting issues to be considered. The timeframe for deciding when a candidate should join the Alliance does rely on long-term consequences but does not accommodate immediate response to events, nor does it reflect strategic losses in the short-term. Additionally, none of those approaches considers the idea that there are various interests within the Alliance and each member state could envision enlargement through a different approach. Although the explanation on three approaches to enlargement is a valuable framework, it does not provide sufficient analysis on the possible implications in case the membership of a candidate is delayed and the motivation to join the Alliance is significantly lost.
Despite the valuable and diverse contributions all these four texts make, the common feature they all display is their importance for raising further questions on the topic of enlargement. Moreover, they imbibe all the contested issues surrounding the future of the Alliance, the possible expansion to the east and its multifaceted relationship with Russia. Existing tensions within conceptual and practical debates further exacerbate the complexity of the geopolitical environment in which a membership process would eventually be completed. Thus, a Georgian membership could stimulate the resolution of these conflicting ideas.
The project will employ qualitative methods to defend the key postulation of the dissertation. The research will include both primary and secondary sources. A main element of the hypothesis will be defended by the examination of archival material and documents from the official website of NATO, NATO Defense College, the Ministry of Defence of Georgia. Academic literature (books and journal articles) would complement the analytical contributions of the dissertation. For this purpose, the works of scholars such as Rebecca Moore, Roger Kanet, Stanley Sloan and Brian Collins will serve as an excellent platform to build the argument.
When examining the relations between Georgia and NATO and assessing the factors that influence decision-making, the vast share of information on the topic is extracted from official statements, press releases or the texts of agreements and protocol meeting between official representatives from Georgia and the Alliance. However, in order to better address the research aims and objectives of the dissertation, interviews will be taken from Georgian government officials and foreign ministers from the member states of the Alliance as well as official NATO representatives from the Georgian-NATO Commission (GNC) that have first-hand exposure and experience of working on the bilateral relations between the two parties. The drawn conclusions will take into account the country of origin of the people interviewed as well as the length of the period for which that have been at that particular professional position. This is done to achieve the highest level of objectivity when applying the answer obtained during the interview process. The questions and scripts of the interview process will be enclosed as appendixes of the completed dissertation together with the signed ethical approval forms.
Following that, the scope of research will address the academic literature on the issue of NATO enlargement and will present some of the key theoretical views on the matter. Instead of narrowing the main postulations around one theory from IR scholarship, the dissertation will attempt to use and draw comparisons between realist, liberal, constructivist and rationalist justifications for finalising or delaying the full membership status of Georgia in the Alliance. In doing so, the key analytical effort recognises the complexity, and the often overlapping or clashing ideas invoked by the topic of the Georgian accession. This would also allow for the examination of the conceptual evolution of the security agendas of NATO member states especially in relation to countries with geopolitical influence and impact in west and central Asia. Lastly, the contributions of the dissertation would raise important questions on the theoretical underpinnings of the literature on expansion of the Alliance.
Dissertation Structure:
This section will summarise the different factors attributed to the likelihood of accession and the scenarios that precede it. The most probable identified will stress the ‘maintenance of the status quo’ (Razaoux, 2009, p. 6) as a priority for the Alliance.
Preliminary Bibliography
Andreev, A., 2010. Russians’ Views on Foreign Policy after the Caucasus Crisis, Russian Politics and Law, Vol. 48(6): pp. 7-18
Asmus, R., Kugler, R. & Larrabee, S., 1997. NATO Enlargement: A Framework for Analysis. In: P. Gordon, ed. NATO’s Transformation: the changing shape of the Atlantic Alliance . London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pp. 93-120.
Brown, M., 1997. The Flawed Logic of NATO Enlargement. In: P. Gordon, ed. NATO’s Transformation: the changing shape of the Atlantic Alliance. London: Rowman & Littlefiled Publishers, Inc., pp. 121-140.
Burnham, P, Gilland, K, Grant, W and Layton-Henry, Z (2004), Research Methods in Politics, Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Burnham, P., ed., 1997. The Research Process in Politics, Washington D.C.: Pinter.
Clinton, H., 2012. Clinton on Georgia-US defense cooperation and NATO membership. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 February 2012].
Collins, B., 2011. NATO: a guide to the issues. Oxford: Praeger.
Gordon, P., ed., 1997. NATO’s Transformaion: the changing shape of teh Atlantic Alliance. London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc..
Gulnur, A. & Moore, R., ed., 2010. NATO in search of a vision, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press
Harrison, L (2001), Political Research – An Introduction, London: Routledge.
He, K. & Feng, H., 2012. ‘Why is there no NATO in Asia?’ revisited: Prospect theory, balance of threat, and US alliance strategies. European Journal of International Relations, 18(2), pp. 227-250.
Kamp, K.-H., 2012. NATO Enlargement Reloaded. Research Paper NATO Defense College, Rome, Volume 81, pp. 1-8.
Rasmussen, A. F., 2012. Joint Press Point. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 February 2012].
Razaoux, P., 2009, What future for Georgia?. Research Paper NATO Defense College, Rome, Volume 47, pp. 1-8.
Sloan, S., 2010. Permanent AllianceNATO and the transatlantic bargain from Truman to Obama, London: Continuum
Zdenek, K. and Shevchuk, Z. 2011. Georgian readiness for NATO membership after Russian-Georgian armed conflict, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 44(1): pp 89-97

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