The NATO expansion that was bound to fail
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images President Bush’s bid to win NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia turned out to be a non-starter. Member states opposed admitting the countries to a “Membership Action Plan,” choosing instead to merely issue a non-binding pledge to admit them some day and review their application again in December. (Albania and Croatia did ...
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
President Bush’s bid to win NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia turned out to be a non-starter. Member states opposed admitting the countries to a “Membership Action Plan,” choosing instead to merely issue a non-binding pledge to admit them some day and review their application again in December. (Albania and Croatia did get the green light, continuing the alliance’s expansion into the Balkans.) Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rozogin, was quick to declare that the review would alter nothing:
I doubt very much that in less than a year Georgia can solve its territorial problems and Ukraine can change the current proportion of NATO sympathizers,” he said.
While it’s easy to attack the Russians’ motives, he’s actually quite right. Half of Ukrainians oppose joining NATO and Georgia is still grappling with decades-old territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both countries believe that NATO membership can help them resolve their internal divisions. European governments were skeptical of this approach from the beginning. Estonian President Toomas Ilves had this advice, based on his own country’s experience with NATO membership:
Don’t be a Marxist” he said, “and by that I mean Groucho Marx-ist”. He reminded the audience of the scene where Groucho Marx walks into a bank with a gun to his head claiming that he’ll take his life unless they give him all their money.
But if Georgia and Ukraine’s leaders’ understandable desire to join NATO makes them Marx brothers, Bush comes out looking like a stooge. It’s fairly clear that the primary U.S. goals in Bucharest were gaining support for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe and cajoling the Europeans into a greater commitment in Afghanistan. Why Bush would want to distract from these goals with an initiative that was bound to fail from the start is beyond me.
Joshua Keating is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.