NATO divided over Ukraine, Georgia membership bids
Ahead of a major summit April 2-4, Germany is leading the opposition against their accession.
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That view is echoed in France ahead of the summit as well. "The fact that NATO can be defeated in Afghanistan puts the Ukraine-Georgia question far down on the list of priorities," says Thomas Gomart, director of Russian Affairs at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. "For us, the future of NATO is not enlargement. It is Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan.Skip to next paragraph
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"If we get Georgia or Ukraine into NATO, it transfers the nature of the alliance from military to a political club.... We have enough trouble in the world without adding tensions with Russia," he adds.
Putin's presence in Bucharest is slightly sensitive. No consensus exists among NATO members as to whether he is coming as a potential friend, a vetoing competitor, or a victor in a legacy battle to reassert Russia.
Opponents of accession for the two former Soviet states argue that their objection is one of timing, not substance, saying that membership is not a matter of "if, but when." Whether or not Putin or President-elect Dmitri Medvedev agree is another question. This may be a finessing of language, experts say, since members can't suggest that Russia has a veto over NATO. But, as one Baltic diplomat put it: "Ukraine and Georgia won't join NATO because of Russia, but Vladimir Putin doesn't have a veto over NATO?"
Following the accession four years ago of a half-dozen states including ex-Soviet neighbors Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, Moscow sees a further "enlargement" of NATO into its sphere of influence – together with US plans for missile defense components in Poland and the Czech Republic – as a threat to its security.
"No state can be pleased about having representatives of a military bloc to which it does not belong coming close to its borders," said Mr. Medvedev in a Financial Times interview published this week.
Germany leads the opposition
Unlike the 1990s, when German-US relations were the engine behind some 10 new former East bloc nations in NATO, substantial differences now exist between Washington and Berlin. President Angela Merkel openly opposed MAPs in Moscow this month, and refused to meet either President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine or President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia in Brussels March 13, when they sought talks on NATO.