Russia: Georgia and the NATO Threat


December 31, 2023: Russia invaded Ukraine to prevent it from joining NATO. That has not worked out well for Russia. The question is whether Russia will invade Georgia, in the Caucasus, for continuing its efforts to join NATO. Georgia was working on NATO membership since 1994, long before Ukraine considered it. The Georgians want nothing to do with Russia, which invaded Georgia in 2008 but did not get far. Technically, Georgia and Russia are still at war. That complicates, but does not rule out, gaining NATO membership.

The Caucasus is south of Russia and north of Turkey. Another Caucasus state, oil-rich Azerbaijan, has close ties with Russia. Although Russia has a military assistance treaty with Armenia, Russian officials recently pointed out that the treaty does not cover the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh area, which Azerbaijan conquered after Russia would not send troops to help the Armenians. Russia has several defense-related agreements with Armenia. The first is the 2002 CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) that included Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. All these nations were once components of the Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991. The CSTO restored some of the economic and military relationships these nations had before 1991. Georgia deliberately avoided CSTO.

Russia considers both Armenia and Azerbaijan essential buffer states. This is what Russia calls the near abroad and considers those relationships sacrosanct. The Russian paranoia over NATO is mainly about near-abroad nations in Eastern Europe joining or wanting to join NATO. That was not a problem with Armenia, which wanted protection from Turkey, plus Azerbaijan fears of Iranian aggression. Russia did not appreciate Turkey getting involved with the near-abroad states. Russia was diplomatic about the unwelcome Turkish presence and the Turks knew that being in Azerbaijan was seen as a rare victory over ancient foe Russia.

Both Azerbaijan and Armenia were formerly part of the Soviet Union and are quite different even though they were neighbors. Azerbaijan is majority Moslem while Armenia is Christian. Along with the smaller Georgia, these two are the only two nations in the Caucasus that are majority Christian. For over a thousand years Armenians and Georgians resisted efforts by Moslem neighbors to make them Moslem. Russia played a key role in preventing that and considers itself the protector of Armenia.

Georgia, unlike Armenia, wants nothing to do with Russia but Russia wants Georgia to be more submissive to Russia. That’s another reason for Georgia to seek NATO membership. Armenia wants good relationships with both Russia and NATO. This annoys Russia, which does not make a big deal out of it as long as Armenia does not defy its Russian patron. In light of that, Armenia backed away from early efforts to join NATO and returned to the Russian dominated CSTO.

Tiny Georgia, with a population of four million, continues the slow process of gaining NATO membership despite Russian threats and NATO reluctance to gain a member in the distant, from Europe, Caucasus. Georgia sees NATO membership as the key to its future survival. Russia is expected to revive its 2008 war with Georgia one it has extricated itself from the mess it made when it invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Russia seems oblivious of how much its smaller neighbors fear being attacked by Russia and absorbed into Russia. That’s what Russia is trying to do in Ukraine and has been at it since 2014 when Russia seized Crimea and parts of two eastern Ukrainian provinces. Georgia considers itself another potential victim of annexation by Russia. NATO was created to protect members from Russian aggression and that’s what Georgia wants and needs to remain an independent and sovereign state.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close