Georgia: Merkel Promises NATO Membership

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Georgia should be able to join NATO (dodgy translation) if it so desired. Speaking after meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi, Merkel said that "Georgia will, if it wants, and it does want to, become a member of NATO". This a change of tone from Germany who, in April, prevented NATO from offering a membership timetable to Georgia because it feared angering Russia. Russia is a major gas supplier to Europe, the European market accounts for two thirds of Russian natural-gas company Gazprom's profits. Gazprom's profits make up 25% of the Russian Federal budget.

Meanwhile, according to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has pledged to finally begin withdrawing Russian troops on Monday. However, it is expected that this will be a pull-back from Georgian non-contested territory, not South Ossetia. Moreover, Russia troops are expected to stay in Abkhazia, a region that had been relatively stable until Russian troops moved in.

Washington, Brussels, London and Berlin are all agreed that South Ossetia and Abkhazia will not be allowed to be assimilated into the Russian Federation. It does, however, seem that Prime Minister Putin and his puppet Medvedev may disagree.

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