Saturday, April 05, 2008

No Risk Too Small

President Bush pushed for the eventual inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. It was a long bet, but an excellent opening move to eliminate the pervasive risks that these nations are under. Considerably lower is the risk brought on by the nations who scuppered their accession. France and Germany, who have always been willing to find a nice bit of heroic looking symbolism, felt that an anticipatory provocation that would ultimately come to nothing to them was still too much anxiety for them to bear.

The meeting here culminated a three-day NATO summit that saw the 26-nation alliance admit the Balkan states of Albania and Croatia but refuse to put the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia on the path to membership in the face of vigorous Russian opposition. Putin, who has threatened to target missiles at the two countries if they join NATO, had made clear he would cancel his trip here if the alliance gave them so-called membership action plans.

Instead, Putin surprised his hosts by showing up uninvited at the NATO leaders' formal dinner Thursday night, once again catching the Western alliance off guard. French President Nicolas Sarkozy had said earlier that day that "we're not afraid of Putin," but Eastern European members fretted that the alliance had essentially capitulated to the Kremlin by deferring talk of Ukrainian and Georgian membership.
Nonetheless, the US wasn’t willing to cower with them under the sofa in the parlor of human development. What Bush couldn’t get, he still managed to impress on the Putin himself. It is, after all, Russia by virtue of its’ power and size that has to continue developing its’ civil society into a durable democracy.
The United States, with Nato's backing, is keen to gain Mr Putin's support for a missile defence system which is to include a radar facility in the Czech Republic - now formally agreed - and a site with ten interceptor missiles in Poland. Negotiations are still continuing with Warsaw. Nato leaders yesterday gave their backing for the Czech and Polish components of America's missile defence plan, and decided to contribute towards expanding the network to cover other parts of Europe that are at present excluded from the proposed protective umbrella, such as Turkey and the Balkans.

Although the Russian leader has spoken out against Washington's missile defence plan, claiming it will undermine the deterrent credibility of Russia's nuclear arsenal, he appears now to be more open about a possible co-operative approach. American officials have suggested, after lengthy negotiations with their Russian counterparts, that Mr. Putin is moving towards a more conciliatory position, provided he receives cast-iron assurances that the system is not in anyway a threat to Russia's stability and deterrence posture.
In the end this they move will slow down the path to a better, freer life to Ukrainians and Georgians, and will convince Vladimir Vladimirovich that the genuine pluralism and democracy that keeps societies from creeping into a state of tyranny and aggressiveness can be slowed, stalled, or even abandoned, even in the early days of their own matriculation into a nation that can truly tolerate individual rights.

The real long-term goal that the EU-2 or 3 (whatever it is this week) who can’t seem to wrap their heads around is to deeply engage Russia into the western alliance, and the carrot and stick are the way to negotiating inclusion from a strong position by inviting them into the geographic realm concurrent with the western idea. Appeasing their insincere verbal bravado by putting boundaries on their sphere of direct influence that are beyond their borders actually does more to cut them OUT then bring them IN because it gives them an outer boundary to see as the limits of their empire.
However, as one of the three main legs of the western alliance, there need be no empirial thinking or tone. Should the EU even grow enough of a spine to be a responsible state instead of a kind of ‘lifestyle cartel’ it can continue to be the entrepot of that alliance which represents the only real capacity at influence they have in a serious crisis. While they’re having this model handed to them at little cost, they still seem to be putting preconditions on it, even as they’re trying to figure out if their Union and its’ members would even be willing to engage in real (and not symbolic) statesmanship at all.

For all things NATO as they relate to the Europeans for whom it’s meant to defend anyway, head over to Atlantic Review.

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