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Poking the Russian Bear with the NATO Umbrella

October 23, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Some terrible foreign policy ideas seem to have eternal life.
One example is the proposal to expand NATO yet again by offering
membership to Georgia and Ukraine. That campaign has gone on for
more than a decade and is a significant factor in the West’s
deteriorating relations with Russia.

George W. Bush’s administration apparently decided that
the United States and its European allies had not provoked Russia
sufficiently with the first two rounds of NATO expansion. U.S.
leaders adopted that attitude even though the second round in 2004
added the three Baltic republics, which had been part of the
defunct Soviet Union itself. The administration now pushed hard to
make certain that Ukraine and Georgia received membership

Washington’s key European allies began to balk, however.
France, Germany, and most of Washington’s other long-standing
Alliance partners were unwilling to take that step when Bush formally
proposed the first stage in the admission process, a Membership
Action Plan (MAP), for both countries, at the April 2008 NATO
summit in Bucharest, Romania. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recalled that German
Chancellor Angela Merkel was especially negative. Merkel “did
not trust the Georgians, whom she still saw as corrupt.” The
German leader also observed that Ukraine’s governing
coalition “was a mess.” Although the primary reason for
Western European reluctance was the unsatisfactory domestic
political and economic situations in both countries, there also was
uneasiness that another stage of NATO expansion would damage
already delicate relations with Russia.

Our Western European
partners thought it was a bad idea then, and do now. Why aren’t we

Despite the intra-Alliance resistance to the Bush
administration’s campaign to offer MAPs to Kiev and Tbilisi,
though, the outcome of the Bucharest summit was not a total defeat
for U.S. ambitions. The summit’s final declaration stated that “NATO welcomes
Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro Atlantic aspirations for
membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will
become members of NATO.” There was no timetable but the
ultimate outcome seemed clear.

The Kremlin’s anger threatened to boil over at this point,
and Moscow’s push back began. Even before the issuance of
final declaration, Vladimir Putin bluntly warnedsummit attendees
that “The emergence of a powerful military bloc at our
borders will be seen as a direct threat to Russian security.”
The country’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko,
stated that NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine would be
a huge strategic mistake” causing the
“most serious consequences” for European peace and

Germany, France, and other key European allies became even
warier of provoking the Kremlin when war broke out between …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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