Moscow is against Georgia’s NATO membership and taking such a decision would be “a huge mistake”, Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko said.
He made the remarks during a discussion at the German Marshall Fund's annual Brussels Forum on March 21 when asked by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen whether Russia would accept Georgia’s choice to become a NATO member. Rasmussen was among panelists on topic NATO in Transition together with his two predecessors Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Lord George Robertson.
After the Russian Ambassador, who was among the audience, laid out his country’s position on some of the discussed topics, the NATO Secretary General asked him about 1999 OSCE charter for European security which reiterates the right of each OSCE state to choose its own security arrangements. “Why does not the Russian Federation respect that principle to which it has subscribed?” Rasmussen asked Grushko, who responded that apart of this commitment there are also “basic principles of international law – first of all principle of indivisibility of security”, adding that “nobody will improve its security at the expense of security of others.”
“NATO is free to take any decision and Russia is free to take any decision to protect its legitimate security interest and from the beginning we were telling to all our colleagues and we were very outspoken in all our discussions that we do believe that if NATO goes with enlargement it will continue produce new dividing lines, moving dividing lines towards the Russian borders and we said very clearly also that in some cases these dividing lines will cross the countries, inside the countries and this was a very important signal,” Grushko said.
“It is up to you to listen or not, but we believe that we were absolutely right [in] focusing on that and I think that when we are talking about future security architecture… we must find the ways to protect the security of all, but not relying on instruments we inherited from the past,” the Russian Ambassador added.
Then NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asked the Russian Ambassador: “Will you accept Georgia’s right to choose NATO membership if this is the Georgian decision and if the NATO accepts? Would you accept that?”
“No. I was absolutely very clear; we are against. We believe that this is a huge mistake to do it,” Grushko responded and added. “This is the position of my country.”
Former Secretary General of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who held this post in 2004-2009, remarked after Grushko’s comment that when NATO said that Georgia will become its member “you sent in your forces into Georgia in 2008.”
“No, it’s not true,” Ambassador Grushko responded. “We were attacked; read Tagliavini report; it was a very clear offense against sleeping Tskhinval; attack on the Russian peacekeepers, we’ve lost fifteen people; exactly the problem at the time was that we were knocking at the door of the NATO-Russia Council trying to present our case, we were not allowed and in few weeks [after the 2008 war] NATO has decided to establish NATO-Georgian Commission in fact to decorate the Georgian leadership for this act. We believe that this was not the way how the NATO should address the situation, because Russia was attacked.”