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.
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President Sarkozy said Thursday that France would fully rejoin NATO's military command by the end of this year. France left NATO in 1966, but in the late 1990s, under former President Jacques Chirac, it began a path of reintegration. Sarkozy set a deadline for France – by the end of its six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, set to begin in July.Skip to next paragraph
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After the cold war and under the rule of President Boris Yeltsin, the expansion of NATO eastward into Russian spheres of influence took place with scant thought for Moscow's opinion. Yet Putin has so changed this position that East European members of NATO, who feel they understand the Russian bear better, are critical of what they often term NATO's "appeasement" of Moscow by older NATO states who are wary of allowing Ukraine and Georgia to join.
"We seem to want a strategic partnership with a country that targets us every time we say we disagree with it," said Estonian President Toomas Ilves, whose country recently endured a cyberattack from Russia that shut down the Internet for a week. "I think we should take Russia more seriously."
NATO officials agreed to set up a cyberattacks defense group, along with an energy-security team, a result of concern over Russia.
Strains continued over what Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized as a "two-tiered" alliance system, in which some nations can pick and choose when and how to defend each other. Germany has been singled out for refusing to deploy troops in combat areas in Afghanistan and the French and Canadians have also been critical. Yet Berlin has countered that the Afghan mission it originally undertook was a rebuilding and civil-society mission that did not involve combat.
Mr. Heisbourg argues the alliance was always multitiered, but the fact that NATO was never deployed hid this fact.
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski responding to the question of such hard fighting in the summit hallways, said that vigorous debate and disagreements were perfectly acceptable if not desirable inside NATO. "It is an alliance of free nations….In the Warsaw Pact we had no disagreement."
Macedonia's lack of an invitation is expected to play badly in Skopje. "I have a bad feeling in my gut," said a senior political figure contacted by phone from Bucharest. Greece did change its position to allow the name Macedonia along with another adjective, like New Macedonia – but Skopje insists on the Republic of Macedonia, "because no one can tell you what you should be called," the political leader said. Heisbourg blames Athens, saying that "Macedonia is an incredible success story ... how the Greeks could further instability on their own northern border, in the Balkans, is incredible. They are acting as if this is 1912."