NATO membership, extend to Georgia and Ukraine
Should the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine be granted NATO membership, despite Russian opposition?
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The people of both Ukraine and Georgia wish to join NATO, and that is the best reason for welcoming ...
The people of both Ukraine and Georgia wish to join NATO, and that is the best reason for welcoming them into the alliance. NATO is an alliance of democratic states and should respond positively to the request of a sovereign nation. Both states are at risk of being pushed around by Russia, partly because their desire to adopt “western” democratic values is at odds with the more autocratic values of Russia’s leadership. They also fear that Russia has designs on their territory and sovereignty, knowing that many in the Russian elite have never fully accepted the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Joining NATO offers Georgia and Ukraine the protection of a proven alliance and a clear route to European Union membership that has already been travelled by other former Soviet states.
It is far from the settled will of the Georgian and Ukrainian peoples that they wish to join NATO. Georgia’s President Saakashvili does wish to join, but after his disastrous attempt to regain control of South Ossetia it is very unclear if his countrymen agree with him, and indeed whether he will survive in power. Ukraine is certainly split over NATO membership, with most of the Russian-speaking East of the country firmly opposed to the idea. The collapse of Ukraine’s coalition over how to respond to the conflict in Georgia shows how unsettled Ukrainian politics is. In any case, NATO membership should not automatically be extended to every nation which wishes it, but only offered when the current members of the alliance judge it to be in their strategic interest to do so.
Expansion to include Georgia and Ukraine is in the interests of NATO. After more than a decade with...
Expansion to include Georgia and Ukraine is in the interests of NATO. After more than a decade without a clear role, the alliance now once again stands for the principle of solidarity between western liberal democracies. The hopes of the 1990s for a new world order in which a democratic and liberalising Russia would see partnership with NATO and other western clubs as strongly in its own interest died during the Presidency of Vladimir Putin. Russia once again poses a threat to Europe and needs to be contained. Extending NATO up to Russia’s southern border will signal the West’s strength and determination and force Russia to respect the alliance and its members.
Further expansion is not in NATO’s interests. The alliance is based on the principle that the security of one is the security of all, so that all members will go to war if any one member is attacked. This is a very serious commitment and should not lightly be extended to new nations. The irresponsible manner in which Georgia provoked a conflict with Russia, ignoring US warnings, shows the danger of being sucked into quarrels in which most NATO members have no strategic interest. Like the breakaway regions of Georgia, Ukraine also contains many Russian-speakers who look to Moscow for protection, especially in the Crimea which hosts Russia’s Black Sea fleet. It is not difficult to imagine circumstances in which Ukrainian membership could bring NATO into a dangerous confrontation with Russia.
We must not allow Russia a veto over western policy or over the ability of sovereign states to decid...
We must not allow Russia a veto over western policy or over the ability of sovereign states to decide their own future. Refusing to grant Georgia and Ukraine the NATO membership they are seeking would be to give into Moscow and would set a bad precedent. Encouraged, Russia’s leaders would be likely to demand yet more concessions, for example for the independence of the Transdniester client state from Moldova, or for the suspension of the Baltic states from NATO.
NATO and the West must be aware of the danger of alienating Russia, which sees former Soviet states like Georgia and Ukraine as part of its natural sphere of influence – what it calls the “near abroad”. Apart from their historic links to Russia, these neighbouring states typically still host Russian military bases crucial to the defence of Russia itself (e.g. Sebastapol in the Crimea). They also contain large numbers of Russian speakers who often seek work as economic migrants within Russia itself, and have defence industries closely linked into Russia’s military-industrial complex. These links give Russia a legitimate interest in the future strategic orientation of states such as Georgia and Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Russia fears encirclement by America and its NATO allies. It also feels bitter that the deal it thought had been made in the late 1980s to limit NATO expansion appears to have been ignored, and sees plans to place American missile defences in neighbouring states as an aggressive western move. Continuing to provoke Russia by insisting on further NATO expansion within its near abroad make East-West relations even worse and lead to a new Cold War.
We do not need to buy Russia cooperation by sacrificing Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty. The Wes...
We do not need to buy Russia cooperation by sacrificing Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty. The West would like Russian cooperation in a whole range of areas, but this isn’t a zero sum game where if one side wins the other must lose out. Russia should also worry about issues such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, and the threat posed by failed states, so it is in its own interests to work with international partners to find global solutions. It also wants World Trade Organisation membership to continue its economic growth, especially if oil and gas prices should fall. For these reasons Russia will not make its whole foreign policy dependent on the expansion of NATO, but can be relied upon to continue existing partnerships because they are of mutual benefit.
Western countries should seek to compromise with Russia, as they need its cooperation in a whole range of areas. Global efforts against terrorism, nuclear proliferation, climate change, energy security and organised crime will all fail without Russian participation. Russia’s veto power on the United Nations Security Council also means that alienating Moscow could frustrate international efforts to bring security and freedom to states such as Sudan, Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Iraq. And NATO depends on Russian goodwill to allow supplies into Afghanistan via the safer northern route, cooperation that is likely to be withdrawn if Georgia and Ukraine remain candidates for membership.
There is a strong precedent for letting Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Latvia, Lithuania and Estoni...
There is a strong precedent for letting Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are also former Soviet states, and Russia objected to their entry into NATO quite as much as it objects today about its Black Sea neighbours. Yet Russia was not allowed a veto over their futures, and it soon got over its annoyance, continuing to participate in joint forums with NATO and to cooperate with the USA over Afghanistan, North Korea and nuclear non-proliferation. So NATO is already committed to the defence of states in Russia’s near-abroad, and should not fear further expansion.
In retrospect, the decision to welcome the former Soviet states in the Baltic into NATO appears foolish. They continue to have a prickly relationship with Russia, which has some legitimate concerns about the treatment of large Russian minorities in Latvia and Estonia, and about the siting of US nuclear defences. Their entry into NATO was forced upon Russia, which naturally saw it as an aggressive move designed to humiliate it, and marked the point when its pro-western policy shifted to a more nationalist and confrontational approach. It also weakened the unity of NATO as there are quite legitimate doubts as to whether all the alliance’s members would really go to war with Russia over the integrity of, say, Estonia. Given this history, it would be madness to compound the problem by extending NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine.
NATO has already promised membership to both states, at its Bucharest meeting in March 2008. Regard...
NATO has already promised membership to both states, at its Bucharest meeting in March 2008. Regardless of whether this was a good decision, it must now be upheld or the credibility of the alliance will be severely undermined. If not, Russia will be rewarded for its aggressive behaviour and know that NATO can be bullied into backing down. And potential friends and supporters of NATO throughout the world will know that its promises cannot be trusted.
When in a hole, don’t keep digging. The Bucharest decision was pushed on NATO by President Bush of the USA, soon to leave office. In fact he wanted a much more concrete offer of Membership Action Plans for Georgia and Ukraine, rather than the vague aspirations that the alliance offered – a result of the concerns expressed by European allies such as Germany. It turns out that these concerns were well-founded, and with a new American President soon to take power, the decision should not be seen as binding.
Russian strength is illusory – the country’s wealth is highly dependent on the energy exports and it...
Russian strength is illusory – the country’s wealth is highly dependent on the energy exports and its economy is very vulnerable to a fall in oil and gas prices. Despite recent hostility to foreign oil firms attempting to operate in Russia, in the long term the country also needs western investment and technology if it is to maintain its energy output by opening and exploiting new fields. Indeed, Europe cannot be held hostage to Russian energy policy – who else could Russia sell its oil and gas to?\
Russia’s apparent military strength is also deceptive – its army and air force actually performed badly in Georgia and are no match for the modern forces available to NATO.\
NATO’s European members have an additional reason not to offend Russia by continuing to expand the alliance in defiance of Moscow. Much of Europe depends on imports of Russian gas for their energy needs, and the Kremlin has made clear over the past three years that it is prepared to use its control of energy as a political weapon. It has already limited the flow of energy to states (e.g. Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia) who have annoyed it on several occasions, and may well be prepared to turn lights, heating and factories off across Europe in retaliation for interference in its near abroad.\
Russia’s energy riches in a time of high oil prices also mean that it is far richer and self-confident than at any time since the fall of communism. The profits of its energy wealth have also enabled its military to be strengthened. This means that even if Moscow backed down in response to western assertiveness in the past, it is now determined to overturn past humiliations.\
Dramatic and depressing as events in Georgia in 2008 were, the loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia ac...
Dramatic and depressing as events in Georgia in 2008 were, the loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia actually make Georgia better suited to NATO membership than before. There would have been a clear danger of allowing Georgia into NATO if the status of these breakaway regions was unsettled, with the obvious potential for conflict with their Russian patron. Once Georgia can be brought to accept the permanent loss of these territories to Russia, then it becomes a much more united country, without any other obvious grounds for Russia’s future interference.
The conflict in Georgia showed how NATO is already badly divided over how to respond to Russia. Old European states such as Germany and Italy are much readier to accommodate Russian interests than America, which is supported by newer NATO members such as Poland and the Czech Republic. The United States faces a danger that if it continues to push for NATO expansion in the face of Russian objections, it will split the alliance completely.
What do you think?