Meeting the press at the end of his visit to NATO today, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili dismissed skepticism about the chances of his country's bid to join the alliance. "Never say never again," he said, adding that the situation could change very quickly and recalling that at one time the Baltic states were not considered to have a chance to join the alliance they have now been members of for nearly six years. He is not disheartened by the fact that another candidate for membership, Ukraine, has a new government which is no longer pursuing NATO membership.
NATO photo (from left to right: Appathurai, Saakashvili, Rasmussen)
Georgia is certainly still making every effort to increase its chances of being invited to join the alliance. NATO Secetary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the Georgian contribution to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF): an infantry company in Kabul and the 1,000-strong battalion arriving next month, which Saakashvili pointed out is not easy for a country with a small professional army to sustain. The Georgian president said his country is the largest per capita ISAF contributor and would contribute to the training of Afghan national security forces. He listed a whole set of positive political and economic indicators to reinforce his country's case for membership.
Rasmussen said NATO continues to support Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations and described the NATO-Georgia Commission and annual national program as the "right tools' to prepare the country for alliance membership.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai gave a sobering view during a press briefing yesterday: "Georgia's membership in NATO is certainly not for tomorrow." While saying there was no link between the Georgian television broadcast earlier this month of a Russian invasion hoax, he described it as "unwise, unhelpful and let's say not seen positively within NATO."