The ministerial focused primarily on the future of NATO enlargement (particularly Ukraine and Georgia), US plans for missile defense in Europe, relations with Russia (strongly related to the previous two issues), and ongoing operations (mostly on Afghanistan and to a lesser degree Kosovo). Here is a roundup of articles that address the key outcomes of the ministerial:
NATO: Albania and Croatia to join by April - Associated Press
NATO foreign ministers said Wednesday they expected Albania and Croatia to become the alliance's newest members by April.
They reiterated that Macedonia would be invited to join as soon as it settles a dispute over its name with Greece.NATO allies divided over Ukraine and Georgia - Guardian
On the eve of a meeting of Nato foreign ministers today in Brussels, the Americans pushed for a new formula that would put Ukraine and Georgia on a slow path to Nato membership. But at least six European Nato members opposed the US move, which is backed by Britain, suggesting that the two-day Nato meeting will result in an ambiguous fudge.
Germany rebuffs U.S. on NATO ties for Ukraine and Georgia – Yhiah News Agency
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has backed a possible compromise of seeking to advance Ukrainian and Georgian entry hopes through the bilateral forums which NATO has already established with each country.
Berlin has accused the United States of trying to provide short-cuts to membership, something Washington denies. Germany backs using those forums to supervise annual reform programmes but insists MAPs are still needed eventually.
NATO says 'no' to Georgia and Ukraine... for now - New Atlanticist
It's official – NATO will not offer Georgia and Ukraine Membership Action Plans (MAPs), Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after a two-day summit of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. By maintaining its policy from April of eventual but not immediate membership for Georgia and Ukraine, NATO showed pragmatism and responsibility.
Tensions between leading European nations and US following NATO meeting – World Socialist Website
While the German foreign minister made clear there would be no concessions on the part of his government with regard to Georgia and Ukraine, the Russian ambassador to NATO reacted to the summit decision with jubilation: “There is an open split within NATO and it will widen if NATO tries to expand further,” Dmitry Rogozin told the state broadcaster Vesti-24. “The schemes of those who adopted a frozen approach to Russia have been destroyed.”
President Yushchenko seeks warmer links with Moscow as NATO hopes cool – The Times
President Yushchenko of Ukraine has ordered a policy review in an effort to defuse tensions with Russia over his country’s pro-Western leanings. The shift is an acknowledgement that friction between Kiev and Moscow has made it harder for the European Union and Nato, particularly members such as Germany and France, to embrace Ukraine.
Georgian leader upbeat on NATO bid - Al Jazeera
The Georgian leader told Al Jazeera on Thursday that he rejected the "interpretation" that Nato had suspended the country's membership bid.
"On the contrary ... what Nato has essentially done is put away the membership action plan - which is the traditional way to get into Nato – and it has said ... that Georgia and Ukraine should proceed towards Nato membership," he said.
NATO backs US missile shield over Russian protest – Salon
NATO foreign ministers on Wednesday affirmed their support for U.S. plans to install anti-missile defenses in Europe despite Russia's strong opposition.
The ministers said the planned U.S. defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic will make a "substantial contribution" to protecting allies from the threat of long-range ballistic missiles.
NATO supports U.S. missile defense projects in Eastern Europe - China View
Concluding their two-day meeting at the NATO headquarters, the ministers also discussed the progress on the development of options for a comprehensive missile defense architecture to extend coverage to all European Allied territory and populations not otherwise covered by the U.S. projects, which will be reviewed at the military bloc's summit next April.
NATO to resume talks with Russia - PressTV
"Allies agreed on what I would qualify as a conditional and graduated re-engagement with Russia," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after the meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.
However, he stressed that this did not mean NATO's view, that Russia had used "disproportionate" force in invading Georgia in August, had changed.
The NATO chief also added that though lower-level talks would take place with Moscow, the NATO-Russia Council will not be restored.
NATO chief defends opening to Russia - New York Times
The NATO secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, strongly defended on Wednesday the alliance’s decision to begin “a conditional and graduated reengagement” with Moscow, saying that “Russia is such an important factor in geopolitical terms, that there is no alternative for NATO than to engage Russia.”
“It’s not so easy to know how to approach someone, in daily life or in foreign policy, who feels themselves victimized,” he said. “I think there is no reason for Russia to feel victimized, not to be taken seriously, but if that is the perception, we have to discuss it, because I have to try to convince them that democracy and the rule of law coming closer to Russia’s borders – why should that be a problem?”
Russia: NATO returning to realism - PressTV
Following the decision, Russian envoy Dmitry Rogozin said Moscow was also ready to restart dialogue with NATO, but 'would not forget' that the alliance backed Tbilisi in the conflict.
"NATO is, in essence, taking a step toward Russia, and it would be irresponsible and reckless to ignore that," he told reporters.
US softens stance on Russia at NATO summit – New York Times
With the Bush administration’s influence rapidly waning, the United States agreed on Tuesday to support a modest reopening of NATO’s dialogue with Russia, despite Moscow’s continuing occupation of the separatist Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, taken during fighting in August.
It was a concession by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at her final NATO meeting. In return, Germany agreed to allow NATO to accelerate work on preparing Ukraine and Georgia for eventual membership, while postponing any further decisions for the incoming Obama administration.
As Georgia recedes, NATO eases stance on Russia - Time
As Cold Wars go, NATO's season of half-hearted saber-rattling at Russia over its summer offensive in Georgia was decidedly brief, and tepid. It was with a palpable sense of relief — at least in the capitals of Western Europe — that the Alliance moved this week to bury the hatchet with Moscow, agreeing at NATO summit to resume relations with Russia that had been bedeviled by Moscow's military showdown with Georgia. The move reflects a victory for Western European skepticism over what is viewed as the overly confrontational approach to Russia adopted by Washington, made possible by the waning influence of the Bush Administration and spurred by a global economic crisis demanding maximum international cooperation. But it may also mark the onset of a more assertive European Union taking the leading role previously reserved for the U.S. in defining the continent's post-Cold War relations with Russia.
NATO calls on Russia to return to treaty - UPI
Foreign ministers of NATO member countries called on Russia Wednesday to return to the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.
In a joint statement, the ministers called the treaty a "landmark regime," the Novosti news agency reported.
Operations - Afghanistan, Kosovo
NATO says allies must 'do better' in Afghanistan - Daily Times
Addressing a press conference at the conclusion of the NATO foreign ministers meeting here, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said: “The challenges are great...the allies have to do better and we need extra troops (in Afghanistan) for stability, particularly during the elections scheduled for next year.”
The secretary-general also conceded that military solution was not the answer to the Afghan problem. He supported political efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan and also acknowledged the commitment of Pakistan to fight extremism and terrorism in co-ordination with the allies and NATO in its Tribal Areas.
NATO official sees no problem in Kosovo changeover - International Herald Tribune
NATO Military Committee chairman Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola says he doesn't foresee a "security gap" when the EU takes over administrative duties from the United Nations.
NATO ministers urge EU mission's rapid deployment - Rantburg
The speedy deployment of the European Union's police and judicial mission throughout Kosovo is an urgent priority, NATO foreign ministers said on Wednesday. "Allies welcomed the fact that the security situation remains stable and acknowledged that NATO and KFOR, bearing in mind its operational mandate, would continue to support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful country," said a NATO statement.
See also from Atlantic Review
* NATO Bucharest Summit press round-up