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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Vladimir Socor of the Eurasia Daily Monitor calls it "an all-out, public campaign" by Germany, though others say Berlin is simply the most vocal opponent.Skip to next paragraph
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"NATO for Ukraine would be a public humiliation for Russia that would last generations," says Heinrich Kreft of the foreign-policy team for Merkel's Christian Democrat party. Yet Mr. Asmus says that Ukraine and Georgia should receive a bundle of concrete action plans short of an invitation – "say, 80 percent of MAPs .... a NATO staff presence, exercises, beefing up visits, making schedules of activities, doing things that are real, and that will give people a reason to hope."
At a recent conference in Brussels, Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Rietkins said, "I know how it is to be at the doorstep [of NATO]," but that joining helped "reform society, caused us to rethink our military structure, and allowed an internal dialog where there wasn't one before."
In Georgia, public opinion is 77 percent in favor, but the country has two regional "frozen conflicts."
Ukraine has been in dialogue with NATO since 2005; this January, President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko stated its readiness. Skeptics cite low opinion polls (17 percent), close ties with Russia's military, and an eastern section of the country that is solidly pro-Moscow. Advocates say an invitation would change the polling data.
Russia is playing off the divisions in a bid to thwart Ukraine's membership hopes.
"Russia has been against NATO enlargement from the beginning," says Oleksandr Sushko of the independent Institute for Euro-Atlantic Integration in Kiev. "But now they are more active than ever. They understand that, in Ukraine's case, they might succeed, because they see there is no consensus in NATO, and there is no consensus in Ukraine, so they feel they might succeed in blocking.... All diplomatic stops have been pulled out, and approaches have been made to wavering NATO countries."
NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer hopes NATO will be seen as nonthreatening by Moscow and, two weeks ago, hinted Russia might participate in a "supporting" logistical role in the Afghan mission. "Engagement with a capital 'E,' " he argues. With Putin in Bucharest, he favors "openly discussing Kosovo, missile defense, [Conventional Forces in Europe treat], and enlargement."
• Fred Weir contributed from Moscow.