With Ukraine’s NATO Prospects in Spotlight, Georgia’s Grow Dimmer

Although Georgians largely favor joining NATO, writes Davis Center alum Joshua Kucera, analysts see tension in Tbilisi’s relations with the bloc: cozy enough to draw Russia’s ire, but not nearly close enough to protect against it.

Since 2008, when NATO promised both Georgia and Ukraine that they "will become members," their geopolitical fates have appeared to be tightly linked: post-Soviet Russian neighbors straining to join the West.

Now, though, with the transatlantic military alliance's members preparing for an annual summit in Vilnius on July 11-12, all the talk is about Ukraine and how to bring a country that's battling a full-scale Russian invasion more closely into the NATO fold.

Georgia, where the Ukraine war has spurred fears of another Russian invasion, is barely an afterthought.

"Georgia and Ukraine — which since 2008 have been sort of a tandem, moving toward the alliance at different speeds but always mentioned in the same breath — I think the Ukraine-Georgia tandem is broken, probably irrevocably," Bob Hamilton, a former U.S. defense attaché in Tbilisi and now head of the Eurasia Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), a U.S.-based think tank, said. "Whatever happens with Ukraine at the Vilnius summit … no one is talking about a path to membership in NATO for Georgia."

While the war in Ukraine has accelerated Georgia's often uneven path toward EU candidacy, it has only slowed Tbilisi's advances toward joining NATO, Western analysts say. Georgia's ties with NATO are too cozy to avoid attracting Moscow's ire, they say, but not nearly close enough to ensure membership for the small state on Russia's southern border.

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Full article available via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Tbilisi-Based Journalist

Joshua Kucera is a journalist living in Tbilisi, Georgia, and a 2016 graduate of the Davis Center's REECA master's program.