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March 23, 2008 |  14 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

Rapid Reaction: Moving NATO Forward

Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev: Secretary-General De Hoop Scheffer must find a compromise between NATO members: those who don’t want to anger Russia and those pushing to include Eastern European states.

NATO's Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is a man with a problem. Actually, several overlapping ones.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan, which was supposed to demonstrate the alliance's ability to transcend its cold-war limitations and to highlight NATO's capabilities to both effectively fight a ground war and engage in post-conflict reconstruction, is faltering. Instead of bringing the alliance together in service of a common cause, Afghanistan is exposing that the vaunted "transformation" NATO has supposedly been engaged in has largely been for show.

Pakistan's election results have brought to power national and regional governments that may be less inclined to cooperate with NATO's Afghan operations-and could require the alliance to find a new way to direct troops and supplies. The only other feasible route runs via the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

A number of European countries want to decrease tensions with Russia-and the U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State are currently in Moscow engaged in a series of negotiations on issues such as a missile defense shield for Europe that could produce positive breakthroughs-but Russia has also made it quite clear that its cooperation with the West is tied to slowing down or halting altogether NATO's eastward expansion.

The governments of Georgia and Ukraine, however, want to be given their membership action plans (MAPs) at this summit, so they can begin the process that, in four years or so, would culminate in joining the alliance.

The March 6th ministerial meeting in Brussels adjourned with no clear signals. No country outright opposes the IDEA of Ukraine or Georgia joining the alliance at some point, but no decision was taken on whether to offer the MAP to either country. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner even declared that the alliance should "take into account Russia's sensitivity and the important role it plays" in reaching its decision.

Several days later, German chancellor Angela Merkel gave her opinions about the criteria the alliance should use in assessing future members, namely that "A country should become a NATO member not only when its temporary political leadership is in favour but when a significant percentage of the population supports membership" and "Countries that are themselves entangled in regional conflicts, can in my opinion not become members."

The first criterion would rule out Ukraine, where a majority of the population opposes or is ambivalent about NATO membership. The second seems to encompass both Georgia (with its ongoing separatist problems) and Macedonia (with its continuing dispute over its name with Greece)-and any delay in extending membership to Macedonia might cause the alliance to decide to postpone any plans for including the states of the Western Balkans.

Beyond this, the concerns of France, Germany and some other European states such as Spain and Belgium, is that there should be growing symmetry between membership in NATO and likely prospects for joining the European Union. Nothing can be done at this point about Turkey, a long-standing NATO member and a candidate for EU membership-but Paris, Berlin and other capitals are uneasy about expanding NATO further to the east and creating precedents for new NATO members making the case that inclusion in the alliance implies the right to be considered for the EU.

To finalize the stew, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili visits the United States-where politicians from both parties will overwhelmingly endorse his bid to join NATO-and President George W. Bush will travel to Ukraine ahead of the Bucharest summit, and is expected when in Kyiv to endorse Ukraine's bid to receive a MAP.

So the task before the Secretary-General is to come up with a "solution" that keeps open the prospects of increased cooperation with Russia, avoids any semblance of a major split within the ranks of the alliance, yet is not an outright refusal for the aspirant states.

I think he will be up to the task. After all, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe came up with a unique formulation to describe the recent Russian presidential elections as both being "not free and not fair" but also "representative of the popular will." De Hoop Scheffer has already suggested that Tbilisi and Kyiv "will see results of Bucharest as an inspiration for them to proceed on their Euro-Atlantic track. In what form that will exactly be, it is honestly quite early to tell." Whether this attempt mollifies all sides also remains to be seen.

Nikolas Gvosdev is editor of The National Interest and a member of the Atlantic Community. Originally published in The National Interest online.

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Tags: | NATO | Ukraine | Georgia |
 
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Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

March 24, 2008

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A follow-up: Jackson Diehl in today's Washington Post says that any plan to give "temporirizing assurance" to Ukraine and Georgia would be useless. He quotes Georgian president Saakashvili as saying, "It's rubbish. We can't fool ourselves. We can't fool our own people."

It's a useful essay for our European counterparts across the Atlantic to read and comment on.

 
Joerg  Wolf

March 24, 2008

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Thank you Nikolas. I understand Saakashvili's "Now or never" thinking, especially when considering EU promises regarding EU membership for Turkey over the last decades.

Diehl's article is interesting because it once again shows how strong this idea of a league of democracies still is in Washington, i.e. pushing the Western alliance eastwards based on the assumption that democracies share soooo many interests and would therefore defend and die for each other. I am sure you have seen John McCain's recent FT piece.

Many American and European observers express concern that the West is getting weaker. The West's defeat of communism is seen as old news. They are not impressed by NATO enlargement and the ISAF mission in a far away country. They can't get enough and complain like Diehl: "But the alliance and its leaders are weaker than they were a decade ago -- and more susceptible to intimidation by Putin."

I beg to differ. I think the alliance gets weaker when it tries to do too much. Just like the US is weaker now than five years ago, because it tried to do too much with bringing democracy to Iraq. NATO requires many internal reforms and should not get overstretched with further enlargement right now.

And re the supposedly weaker alliance: Dan Drezner quotes Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski: "talk of decline of the West is as old as the West itself."
Richard Holbrooke was also annoyed by a discussion on past disputes: "We're having a really stupid conversation." Both quotes are to be found in Drezner's Newsweek column.
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

March 24, 2008

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Thanks, Joerg.

I blogged about McCain's piece, and what really frustrated me about it was that he doesn't provide any examples of how this is going to work. Not even on climate change!

The Diehl essay today is interesting because the argument here is that if Russia likes a particular outcome--in this case NATO thinking hard about expansion and therefore not giving a MAP to Georgia in Bucharest--it must be bad and we should do the opposite or we "look weak." I'm of the opinion that not giving to Russia a veto over what the alliance does works in two ways. We don't take orders from Moscow if they don't want us to do something that we see as being in the interests of the alliance--but we also have nothing to prove either.
 
Gunnar  Schmidt

March 24, 2008

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This concern of "looking weak" is America's biggest security problem. It's a much bigger problem than Al Qaeda or the rise of China or Russia.
 
Unregistered User

March 25, 2008

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as Joerg requested my participation in this discussion, this is a quick intervention :

well, I know that Mc Cain is pushing France to influence the EU countries for more participation with the Nato forces in Afghanistan..

I have also read that there are back yards negociations with Russia for helping the Nato forces in Afghanistan, such as giving a base in the neighbouring country for Nato planes ; then I suppose that Russia is asking a compensation on the other part, such as renoncing to the option that Ukraine and Georgia enter into Nato

I also read that the next step for Nato is to become an EU pseudo commun army (well at least in Sarko's mind)

though I think, we'll have to wait till the next US elections to see if the Americans pursue their army budget.and what they'll decide for their participation in the Nato' s one

 
Donald  Stadler

March 25, 2008

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"what really frustrated me about it was that he doesn’t provide any examples of how this is going to work. Not even on climate change"

It's glittering generality season (aka campaign season). After the second Tuesday in November the candidate wakes up with a hangover and asks 'what now?'

'Not even on climate change? Climate change? We're at the step where we agree there is a problem (despite certain evidence of global cooling), but we're not agreed upon specific causes. For one thing the science isn't anything like firm yet on anything but the most banal generalities.

Right now it's political jockeying, rent-seeking, and political efforts to place the burden upon others (specifically the US). And of course to avoid blame and seem blameless oneself.

Under the circumstances how realistic is it to expect McCain to come up with a plan which will actually work - when nobody else has. Actually not strictly true - reducing global economic output by 60% or so would probably stop global warming in it's tracks at a slight cost. That cost being a global depression which makes the Great Depression look like a blip in comparison.

Nobody has figured out how to sell that one to the voters. German politicians can sell an American depression to German voters, and no doubt US politicians can sell a German depression to US voters, that much is true. But that's as far as we have gotten to date.....
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

March 25, 2008

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Thanks for all the comments.

Donald--Absolutely right--no one expects in the midst of campaign season for McCain or any other candidate to have detailed plans. But that's not my objection that he doesn't have a specific plan. What frustrates me is that he simply says that this supposed league of democracies will do X Y and Z because they are democracies. Well, so far even on climate change we haven't seen democracies align on this issue--so perhaps, I suggest to the good Senator and others, whether a state is democratic or not may not have all that much bearing on finding a common policy position on climate change or any other issue.

India may the the world's "largest democracy" but it is going to line up right there with autocratic China to oppose any climate change plans that impact their economic growth ...

So no, I didn't fault him for a lack of a plan, I fault him for saying that the world's democracies are somehow going to do this and not yet even providing a shred of evidence that there is any such political will to do so--and your last paragraph makes that pretty clear.

Gunnar, I have to agree with your assessment, from my perch here in Washington.

Thanks, "franchie", for your comments as well. It reinforces my sense that most issues will not really be addressed at Bucharest but "delayed" to the Berlin summit in 2009.
 
David  Vickrey

March 25, 2008

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I guess Medvedev is now weighing in on his first foreign policy challenge even before he takes over from Putin. This is just appeared on the NY Times Web site:

"We are not happy about the situation around Georgia and Ukraine," Medvedev told the Financial Times in an interview.

"We consider that it is extremely troublesome for the existing structure of European security. ... No state can be pleased about having representatives of a military bloc to which it does not belong coming close to its borders."

Angele Merkel notes that "A country should become a NATO ... when a significant percentage of the population supports membership" . The NYTimes reports on Medvedev:

"Speaking in his first interview since he won a March 2 presidential election, Medvedev questioned why Ukraine was seeking NATO membership when a large part of the population, mostly in the Russian-speaking east, opposed the idea."

Does anyone have any polling information from the Ukraine that supports Medvedev's assertion?
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

March 25, 2008

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The conventional wisdom is that twice as many oppose as favor and the rest are on the fence, as this reportsuggests.

I think that most news reports take as their starting point the poll done in summer 2007 by the Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute of Social Research and the “Social Monitoring” Center on Ukrainian attitudes (e.g. attitudes from all over Ukraine, not based on a specific region). It concluded that support for Ukrainian membership in NATO was about 20 percent and 57 percent opposed.

This backs up another poll from the end of 2006 that said 52 percent wanted Ukraine to have "neutral" status--belonging neither to NATO or any sort of Russian-led security group--and only 23 percent wanted NATO membership.

Joining the EU, of course, is a different matter.

I haven't seen any recent 2008 comprehensive polling data.


 
Unregistered User

March 25, 2008

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All of this talk means nothing. Who cares what Ukrainians think or Europeans think? No one asked you. The US will come to Bucharest, tell everyone else to expand, and they'll do it, because that is what democracies do. Perhaps later the European parliaments might sabotage the process in the details, but they'll give in. If not outright, then some statement that says you'll get in soon.
 
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

March 26, 2008

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Apologies for continuing to add comments to the original piece, but some additional feedback to the piece which I received (and blogged about under the rubric, "A Formula For Bucharest?" Essentially, the argument--so I've been told by some sources--being made by the U.S. government is for countries not to block invitations being made but if they want to raise objections to do so as the process works itself out.
 
Donald  Stadler

March 26, 2008

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"I fault him for saying that the world’s democracies are somehow going to do this and not yet even providing a shred of evidence that there is any such political will to do so"

Very true, Nikolas. What I'm curious is how McCains' unrealistic expectations differ from the unrealistic expectations placed upon the US by many Europeans as a result of the Kyoto treaty ratification process. They seem to believe that US ratification of a treaty which seems slanted against US interests in many ways would nevertheless have somehow brought us a solution to said problems. I call this kind of thing 'magical thinking' - whether it is uttered by McCain, the exalted archdruid Al Gore, or by European or American 'intelligentsia' far beyond my level of sophistication (or so they assure me).

McCain's blather was a glittering generality, nothing more. But so is Mr. Gore's assumption that global warming can be solved by the world's collected (or collective?) governments somehow magically acquiring the political will (and power) to impose drastic cuts upon the standards of living now enjoyed (or aspired to)by their citizens. Which is what enforced carbon emission limits at far below current levels inexoriably mean - with current technology.....

My sense is that if the problem is to be 'solved' in any meaningful sense it will not by labeling the citizens of any country or the political leadership as 'fascist' but through the development of technology (ptimarily) and perhaps a certain degree of market-driven social reorganisation. Social re-engineering (as implied by the approach behind the Kyoto treaty) will almost certainly fail. Either with a whimper as said hard limits are completely ignored by all and sundry, or with revolution as the collectivist apparatus necessary to enforce such 'solutions' upon the common ruck are forcibly removed - by said ruck....
 
Donald  Stadler

March 26, 2008

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Technical solutiuons to the problem of global warming also bear the label of 'glittering generalities' alas. Particularly the more radical technological solutions, which are also the most likely ones to succeed in meeting the goal. Things like bioengineering plankton in the world#s ocens to increase carbon absorbing capacity or deploying 'umbrellas' in earth orbit are bound to have massive side-effects and are unlikely to return the earth to the precise state circa 1920. Gaia is a dynamic chaotic system and the results of any such engineers solution are bound to be inherently unpredictable by any number of computer models.

But the environmenatist collectivists have a couple dirty little secrets of their own. Firstly, that the computer models they cite with such trust as 'science' have a few predictive problems of their own & may be off by an order of magnitude or more. The second little secret is that the effects of tight carbon emission limits set very low (their favored solution) are no more predictable than any of the wild engineering solutions proposed; i.e. they also are unlikely to return the earth to conditions circa 1920. Even if one doesn't factor in the possible effect of carbon emissions resulting from civil war(s) and large multi-national wars begun by countries attempting to impose costs upon others, nuclear wars, etc.....

Said wars might have a positive effect from the environmentalist POV, of course, assuming that they survive the wars. It seems to be obvious that reducing global population by 1-2 billion would make the problem of solving global warming much easier. Whether it is worth it perhaps worth a little debate?
 
Ilyas M. Mohsin

May 30, 2008

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By now my friend cynic stands proved off the mark. however, his comment about the Euro-Parliaments is very pertinent.Gunnar has hit the nail on the head marvellously.
The most sensible course appears to be that we wait for the phasing out of the current Administartion for known historic reasons. Till a new policy emerges to salvage US power/Credibility/ goodwill after the death and destruction let loose on Iraq/Afgahnistan with about 2 million deaths due to 'occupation', all speculation could be kite-flying.
 

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