Vol. 41 - No. 4
Chairman of the Parliament and
Head of state of Georgia
When I visited NATO headquarters in Brussels and
addressed the North Atlantic Council on 23 June of this year, I recalled
the winter's day in 1989 when, as Soviet Foreign Minister, I crossed the
threshold of NATO headquarters for the first time. The excitement that
I felt then arose partly from this unprecedented event and the emotional
background to the meeting, but above all, from the content of our discussions
A previously unfamiliar theme could be discerned:
a possible fundamental change in the functions and strategy of the two
military-political blocs (NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization). Though
not directly apparent, it could be read quite clearly between the lines.
This was such an extraordinary meeting that I made an unpardonable blunder:
I left my file and some working notes in the conference room. The papers
included one entitled Cooperation between NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization;
true, there was a large question mark against it.
My file was returned to me intact. However, events
very soon took such a turn that it occurred to me that one of my hosts
must have cast an eye over my notes because a whole series of undreamed-of
decisions was taken, particularly the London Declaration on a Transformed
North Atlantic Alliance and the decision to transform the Alliance's mission
(1). It must be said, however, that
this Declaration and the decision to set up the North Atlantic Cooperation
Council (NACC) - wise, opportune and timely responses to the new challenges
of the times - had been adopted while the Soviet Union was still in existence.
The situation has radically altered with the break-up of the Soviet Union
and the emergence of newly independent states. This is how we see the
The ending of the Cold War and of East-West confrontation
has not eliminated serious threats to the Western democracies or to the
world as a whole. These threats do exist, and will persist until the new
states - the Republics of the former Soviet Union and, above all, Russia
- achieve final success on their road to democratic transformation and economic
reform. Until this comes to pass, they will remain a potential danger to
the world at large, and will continue to be sources of international tension.
The most serious development here is a rising tide
of nationalist extremism, creating new centres of instability and new
conflicts in Europe and near its borders. It is quite clear that this
trend calls into question all the gains of the 1989-1991 velvet revolution.
In these circumstances, NATO certainly does not relinquish its unique
role as the principal military and political guarantor of stability and
security in Europe. On the contrary, it is increasing in importance.
The crisis that has gripped the post-Communist
world is growing. The tremors generated by the struggle between those
who support the imperial concept and historical Messianism on the one
hand, and the proponents of democratic choice for Russia on the other,
are reverberating through Russia itself and throughout the newly independent
It would be an unpardonable error to think that
the democratic forces led by President Yeltsin had finally and conclusively
prevailed over the "party of imperial revanchism". We believe that support
for the reforming efforts made by the progressive wing of the Russian
leadership is still the primary strategic task for the West. However,
equal importance should be attached to measures in support of the newly
independent states in the territory of the former USSR. Without this,
there is no point in talking about a stable democratic Russia, or a new
We are compelled to acknowledge, with regret, that
NATO and other international and European bodies have not responded adequately
to the rapid pace of crucial events in the former Soviet Union and certain
countries in Europe. I was the first of those attending the Helsinki meeting
last July to support, in public and without reservation, the idea of giving
the Atlantic Alliance peacekeeping functions in Europe, in cooperation with
the United Nations and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
(CSCE). A year has passed: this idea has been slow to find practical expression.
Meanwhile, the situation has worsened considerably.
We welcome and support the decisions taken at the
NACC meeting in Athens last June. The provisions of the report on the
theoretical and practical principles of peacekeeping operations that were
approved there should be put on a working footing as soon as possible,
because the necessity for powerful mobile peacekeeping units in NATO has
not diminished; on the contrary, it has increased dramatically. These
units would operate under the aegis of the CSCE and the United Nations.
Most states, with rare exceptions, would gladly invite them to take part
in settling internal conflicts, which increasingly tend to degenerate
into conflicts of international and regional dimensions. We should take
a fresh look at the composition of NATO, and be less timid in considering
more active involvement by East European countries and newly independent
states in NATO activities.
NACC was created for precisely this purpose one-and-a-half
years ago and is now in operation. Its function is to form partnerships
between NATO member states and Central and East European states and republics
in the former Soviet Union, in military, political, scientific, technical,
environmental protection and other fields. This is a splendid idea. NACC
is a kind of training course for potential members of NATO. However, I
am afraid that events may take an unpredictable turn while we are still
on this course. We need practical assistance now.
The mechanism of cooperation between new states
and the NATO system must start working at full pressure. For a start,
the Atlantic Alliance could enter into agreements with each of them, and
cooperate with them on that basis. It is true that these states will not
meet NATO requirements for some time, but it is clear that these very
requirements should match the changed situation more closely.
Need for financial aid
In general, however, it should be noted that those
who led and participated in the peaceful European revolution of 1989-1991
were right to count on the great solidarity of the Atlantic Alliance. We
have begun the process of freeing Europe and the world from the nightmares
of the Cold War and the threat of thermonuclear annihilation; for this,
we have paid a very high price. The West has got what it wanted - the elimination
of a concentration of powerful force in central Europe, and so got rid of
enemy number one. As a result, Europe was united, but many of us - I mean
the Eastern part, the new states and their peoples - were left alone, exposed
to numerous threats and misfortunes .
It is not too late to give these countries material
and financial aid. This can and should also extend to the process of building
national armed forces, bearing in mind the opportunity to exert a positive
influence upon military and political doctrine and ideologies. Such support
would be helpful in building new democratic societies.
History has fixed views on flashpoints, e.g., the
Balkans, historically the "powder-keg of Europe" and still the focus of
general attention today. Due to inertia, however, other regions where
similar explosive build-ups exist are being overlooked. One such region
is the Caucasus, an area of critical importance on the frontier between
Europe and Asia, East and West, North and South. Events here call for
rapid political refocusing, including adjustments within the Atlantic
Alliance. Conflicts around Nagorno-Karabakh, in Abkhazia, events in Azerbaijan
and the situation in the North Caucasus and the South of Russia carry
within them the threat of a breakdown in economic reforms in states in
the region and clashes between the powerful geopolitical forces that come
Today, the compass rose, the symbol of the Alliance,
must be more sensitive in responding to any dangerous breath of wind springing
up in the Atlantic Alliance region and near its borders.
The nature, scale and potential consequences of conflicts
in the territory of the former Soviet Union are such that resolving them
cannot be left exclusively to any one force, be it a nation or an organization.
Positive results can be achieved only if international bodies join forces
and cooperate effectively, each relying upon the others for political support
and resources. Georgia, where UN and CSCE missions are already operating,
would welcome the additional presence of the Atlantic Alliance and NACC.
We would also support any participation by NATO and NACC in settling the
conflict in Abkhazia, up to and including peacemaking operations.
A profound insight into the internal conflicts
that have broken out in the territory of the former USSR can be achieved
only by examining them in all their aspects - from close quarters so to
speak. With this in view, we propose that one of the NACC meetings be
held in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
While clearly recognizing the great importance
of the political factor in settling conflicts in Georgian territory, we
would nevertheless like to see closer mutually interactive collaboration
by Russia with international and European bodies along these lines.
Success or failure in building democratic institutions
in that country has become a matter of life or death for Georgia. Like
other nations, Georgia has a vital interest in the stability of Russia
and in the establishment of a democratic Russian state. To the extent
that our modest resources allow, we support President Yeltsin and his
followers, who share our opinion that peace in Georgia, its stability,
integrity and the inviolability of its frontiers are also in Russia's
interests. We should all think about Russia's new role in the post-Communist
world and help it in its progressive approach.
Today, the centre of gravity in world politics
is shifting towards economics. I suppose that this trend will increase
in the future, but it is already apparent that economic problems are becoming
the priorities in maintaining international stability and security. Economic
interests can give a powerful impetus to mutual understanding and agreement
between the nations of East and West in both the political and the military
From this viewpoint, I wish to draw your attention
to the idea of a Eurasian transport corridor, which should be regarded
as the sole line of communication through the Caucasus and Georgia linking
the Rhine-Main-Danube system to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea regions,
China and other states in Asia. In the light of common economic interests
this communication and transport system would greatly reduce the possibility
of new conflicts and undoubtedly become an important stabilizing factor
in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea basins, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The link to the North Sea and the Baltic by way
of this system would promote the integration of Western Europe and more
extensive trading, economic and political contacts across countries in
this region (most of which are members of NATO) with the countries of
Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and South-East Asia.
However novel an idea might be, it cannot be rejected
merely on grounds of unorthodoxy. We live in extraordinary times which
call for extraordinary solutions. Perhaps it is the lack of forward planning
which has revealed the imperfections in high political technology in a
period of rapid change in Europe and the world. The new trials and challenges
that will undoubtedly arise in the foreseeable future must not take us
(1) For text of London Declaration
see NATO Review, No.4, August 1990, pp.32-33.
© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation