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Two Different Paths to NATO: Georgia and Ukraine

Ukraine and Georgia were previously anticipated to take the next step toward full NATO membership, attaining Membership Action Plans (MAPs), at an upcoming December NATO Ministerial.  However, Georgia’s conflict with Russia and the destabilizing, perennial internal political squabbles between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko in Ukraine has made a 2008 MAP for either country all but impossible to imagine. 

Steven Pifer, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that in this situation, it would be unwise for the US to push hard for MAPs in December.  Instead the US should develop a Plan B for moving Georgia and Ukraine toward membership:
Rather than pursuing a quest certain to end in diplomatic failure, Washington needs a Plan B. It should aim to shape a December outcome that sends positive signals to Kyiv and Tbilisi while making clear that NATO does not concede Ukraine or Georgia to Russia’s geopolitical orbit.

Seeking MAPs in December, only to fall short, would not be good for Ukraine or Georgia or for their long-term NATO prospects. Likewise, it would not be good for the U.S. government to make a big diplomatic push to persuade allies to agree to MAPs – and fail again, as it did in Bucharest.
Pifer outlines his own Plan B proposal here.

The US State Department appears to have come to the same conclusion that a December MAP is out of the picture; US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor announced this week that Ukraine may still qualify for a MAP in 2009, according to Trend News.  Taylor qualified this statement by saying progress in Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership will require evidence of political stability in a country that has been far from politically cohesive in past months or years. 

While working at NATO during the Bucharest Summit in April, I felt there was strong sentiment in the NATO corridors that both Georgia and Ukraine would achieve MAPs this December.  The US pushed hard for the two countries to be granted MAPs at Bucharest, but these ambitions were vetoed by skeptical countries like Germany, certainly heavily influenced by Russian opposition.  It was determined however that the MAP issue would be revisited in December, and all Allies agreed the question is not if Ukraine and Georgia will become NATO Allies, but when.

Given Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Ukraine’s disastrous political infighting, it may seem the skeptics were right to hold off for now.  In fact, Taylor’s suggestion of a 2009 MAP for Ukraine may be over-optimistic in itself, according to Taria Kuzio who published an op-ed, highly critical of President
Yushchenko, in the Kyiv Post:
If Yushchenko follows Leonid Kravchuk in serving only one presidential term, then the last chance he has of fulfilling his dream of being the president who takes Ukraine into the preparatory stage of NATO membership will be in 2009, his last year in office. Ukraine, though, could also fail the test of political stability in April 2009, during NATO’s 60th anniversary summit when Ukraine and Georgia could again come under consideration for membership action plans.

Yushchenko’s preference for pre-term elections over compromise, because of his loathing of [Prime Minister] Tymoshenko, means that a new parliamentary coalition and government will not be in place until March 2009, a month before the NATO anniversary and too little time to show NATO doubters, like Germany, that Ukraine is politically stable.
It seems like Georgia and Ukraine's bids for NATO membership have been bundled together up to this point; it may be time to change this.  Georgia and Ukraine are two different countries in different political situations, and each may very well progress toward NATO membeship at its own pace. 

Popular support for NATO membership in Ukraine currently and consistently hovers in the low and below 30 percentile; it is hard to imagine Ukraine will be an ideal candidate for NATO membership in 2009, even if it does get its political house in order. 

On the other hand, with some 70% of Georgians desiring NATO Membership, Georgia's leadership and population are motivated to join the Alliance.  The Allies should leverage this motivation to encourage positive democratic reforms within Georgia, while moving it closer to NATO membership as previously promised.  NATO's decision regarding Georgia's membership should be determined by Georgia's actions, not Russia -- by whether or not Georgia progresses toward meeting the qualifications of a good NATO Ally.


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Zyme on :

Why not concede Georgia into Russia's Orbit? They are the strong men in the region, Western ambitions in this region are laughable and would mean unnecessary provocation. Just as Russia had to concede the Balkans, we should now be honest and recognize who pulls the strings in the Caucasus. Any other American policy within Nato structure is doomed, as France and Germany will surely enforce the above. You cannot simply cut off a part of a country's traditional sphere of influence without granting additional influence elsewhere and at the same time assume that relations to this country remain positive.

quo vadis on :

Why not concede Germany into the US Orbit? We are the strong men in the region, Russian ambitions in this region are laughable and would mean unnecessary provocation. Just as we had to concede the Caucasus, they should now be honest and recognize who pulls the strings in Europe.

Zyme on :

Ha! I like your humor :D

Kevin Sampson on :

Why not concede all of Europe to the Russians? They, in return, could 'concede' South America, Central America, and the Caribbean to us.

Zyme on :

I got the idea of your repetition. The answer is simple - you can give it a try.

Marie Claude on :

Kevin, you can't afford them anymore, uh, our banks possess yours

Pat Patterson on :

But will the French banks be allowed to even bail out a canoe after the Japanese suggest certain reforms to Credit Agricole and the Emirates put the squeeze on Societe General? Why not skip the middle men and go straight to the ones actually bailing out the two biggest banks in France?

quo vadis on :

Seems like the US Federal Reserve is the ultimate creditor, not European Banks:

Marie Claude on :

uh ??? why Credit Agricole should care for japanese suggestions ? it's a provincial compartimented agricultural bank, whose members receive big EU subventions, didn't you know ? for the other banks, we, the tax payers, can assure you, there isn't any problem your biggest threat, isn't it ? :lol:

Kyle on :

Russia had to "concede" on the the Balkans because Russia doesn't have power over the Balkans. Georgia need not be conceded to anybody, but rather should have the opportunity to pick its own path. NATO is not trying to force or coerce Georgia into its sphere, but they have left the door open. The vast majority of Georgians have and continue to support a Western path, including NATO membership. Russia on the other hand, is forecefully trying to keep republics that, well, don't necessarily want to be Soviet states. Even if the issue were about conceding, David Satter makes an interesting commentary on striking power broker deals with Russia at Forbes: "Don't listen to "realists." Self-described "realists" have suggested that Russia be given a free hand in the former Soviet republics in return for cooperation on issues that are vital to U.S. and Western security. This call to make a "deal," in addition to its blatant immorality, ignores the fact that it makes sense to reach an understanding only with those who will keep their side of the bargain. The fact that the Russians are seeking to deny the former Soviet republics their rights as sovereign nations is all the indication one needs that an unenforceable "gentleman's agreement" to cooperate with the West will be violated the minute it ceases to be to Russia's advantage. The rejection of a moral framework for relations, meanwhile, will set the stage and help provide the justification for new and more outrageous Russian demands in the future."

Zyme on :

"The rejection of a moral framework for relations, meanwhile, will set the stage and help provide the justification for new and more outrageous Russian demands in the future." Only if you are not prepared to face them with their means. Surely if moral arguments are all you got, then they have you at a disadvantage if you let them go. The moment you struggle for your own sphere of influence with mutual means though, the chances are equal again.

Clear Thinker on :

Kyle, your commentary is so typical of so many people in our country today. You apparently know nothing of the Ukrainian, Georgian, Russian or former Soviet people, their history, their bloodlines and heritage. If a people speaks the Russian language it creates a bond that is not as loose as you may think to separate ones self from the mother. The dismantling of the Communist Soviet Union gave independence to former Republics like Ukraine and Georgia but neither country is separate in blood. I look forward to discussing this further and hope you and those who think like you are open for the heated debate this needs. The last thing the US Administration needs to be doing is continuing the dogma of the Cold War which pits the US against Russia. NATO's expansion to countries that border Russia is an attempt to segregate Russia from the rest of the world. We seem to forget too easily that Russia has India, China, Iraq, Iran, most of Africa and South America. This is not like the American Civil War where there were clear lines between North and South. Russia's allies are interspersed around us. We are in no position to continue the same insane policies of the Clinton and Bush Administrations that strained relations between two powers that should be the closest of allies.

Pat Patterson on :

Does tht mean that Russia is planning on surrendering to any of the Scandanavian countries because the Vikings were the first to set up a separate and identifiable Russian state?

Remington on :

The next ambitions and the next division. Why not to accept the existence of two countries on the map, I think you understand what I mean, and the problem will be resolved.

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