U.S., Europe gulf opens at NATO summit
European objections keep Georgia, Ukraine off membership track, but US plans for missile-defense program in Europe gets an endorsement.
Vladimir Putin, who will be the first Russian president to set foot at a NATO summit, arrives Friday at a meeting where basic differences among Americans and Europeans emerged more openly and sharply – partly over how to deal with Russia's rise under Mr. Putin.Skip to next paragraph
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The White House scored success in two crucial areas – troops for Afghanistan and an agreement to move forward on a missile-shield defense. French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to send a battalion – 700 soldiers – to eastern Afghanistan; the Americans promised to rotate some of their troops from the east into the south, where the heaviest fighting is, satisfying the Canadians, who had promised to pull out their troops if not given greater backup. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the meeting expressed "real confidence" that the issue has been solved.
NATO members all supported the US position on missile-shield defense, which is to be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland. "There is a threat … and allied security must be indivisible in the face of it," read the statement on missile defense.
Yet the alliance firmly rejected a very late US push to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the NATO fold. And basic disagreements deepened. How to engage with a more openly belligerent Moscow, conceptual differences over the "war on terror" as Americans describe it, and longer-term combat participation in Afghanistan were dissonant undercurrents in an organization examining its basic meaning and mission. During the cold war, NATO never fought; today, it is deployed in two theaters, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
"There were no real winners at this summit," says Ronald Asmus, director of the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. "Pandora's box was opened, and a lot of problems were put out on the table. Maybe that's good in a way because the issues are real. Now they will have to be addressed."
For the Bush team, a last-minute, pull-out-the-stops effort to invite strategically important Ukraine and Georgia into NATO was met with resolute opposition by many of the oldest NATO allies, including France and Germany.