On 27 September 2022, on air on Alt-Info’s programme, Alternatiuli Khedva, the show’s anchor voiced a claim containing disinformation about Georgia’s NATO integration and the country’s occupied territories. According to the anchor’s words, there were specific statements to emphasise that Georgia should join NATO without its occupied territories: “If I am not wrong, Rasmussen was the first to say that such an option could be considered – Georgia’s integration into NATO without the occupied territories. It should be entirely inadmissible and unacceptable to foster such sentiments among the public.” Such an interpretation of Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s statement leaves the impression that it implies abandoning Georgia’s occupied territories for the sake of NATO membership. In fact, the recommendation envisions Georgia’s membership in NATO in such way that before the full de-occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region from Russia, NATO’s Article 5 should not be applied to those two regions of Georgia. NATO recognises Georgia within its internationally recognised borders and condemns Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.
On 29 January 2018, Luke Coffey, a Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, published a report about the importance and the possibility of Georgia’s NATO membership. Mr Coffey offered an overview of those challenges that Georgia faces on its way to NATO integration. In his recommendations, Mr Coffey’s suggestion was as follows: “Georgia should be invited to NATO within its international recognized borders, although Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty should not be invoked on the territories of Russian-occupied Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region until the full de-occupation of those regions.”
This issue resurfaced again after a year. In 2019, the former NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, during the Fifth International Conference in Tbilisi jointly organised by the Economic Policy Research Centre and the McCain Institute, stated that Georgia and NATO should discuss the elaboration of those mechanisms which would ensure that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty will protect only those territories of Georgia which are controlled by the Georgian government in the event of Georgia’s NATO membership.
Later, on 11 January 2022, Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke with Qronika about this issue in his exclusive interview with Imedi TV, emphasising that two aspirant countries – Ukraine and Moldova – will definitely join NATO. According to the former NATO Secretary General: “I believe that we can do exactly that vis-à-vis Georgia and Ukraine. To say that yes, Georgia can join NATO but because the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia are controlled by Russia, NATO’s Article 5 does not extend to those two occupied regions. There is a same scenario vis-à-vis Ukraine as well. We have a precedent and we should discuss this model. In this way we may avoid the situation that Russia – as a doorman – decides when we can open the doors to NATO.”
Georgia’s NATO membership under the condition that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty should not be invoked for the occupied territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region does not mean that Georgia will become a NATO member without Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. This does not mean renouncing the occupied territories and abandoning them. This means that there will be a clause that in the case of Georgia’s NATO integration, Article 5 will temporarily not protect the occupied territories until there is a peaceful settlement of this conflict. Therefore, only the rest of Georgia will be eligible for NATO protection during that period. In regard to Article 5 not extending to Georgia’s occupied territories, Luke Coffey stated that Georgia’s NATO membership does not mean losing Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. According to Mr Coffey, joining NATO in a manner that Article 5 should temporarily not be invoked on the occupied territories will be a contributing factor to the full de-occupation of Georgia.
NATO’s Article 5 envisions the collective defence principle that an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all allies. Therefore, the parties have the commitment to provide assistance to the party or parties in danger and take all of the necessary measures, including the use of force, to restore and maintain security in the North-Atlantic region.
NATO’s enlargement history is similar although not identical to the case of Germany. On 6 May 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty was extended to only West Germany at that time, excluding East Germany. However, after unification of West and East Germany (1990), the North Atlantic Treaty was also extended to East Germany as well.
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