"RUSSIA VERSUS GEORGIA" or "RUSSIA VERSUS THE REST OF EUROPE"? THE POLITICS AND DIPLOMACY OF THE UPCOMING NATO SUMMIT IN BUCHAREST.
"Now, of course, we have this conflict issue, but this conflict issue is not Georgia proper: this is Russia versus Georgia, Russia versus the rest of Europe. And the membership action plan doesn’t give us Article 5 [which provides for mutual self defence] coverage in any way, even implicitly. So it’s now burdensome on Georgia rather than on Nato, and we can go as long as 10 years before we get Nato membership after that. So basically, in real terms, Nato is not taking any real obligations besides providing what is a symbolic gesture. However, Georgia, because this is the framework for the membership action plan, has to take lots of obligations – to report, to try to advance and solve the conflicts, to contribute to Europe’s energy and other kinds of security....
Right now, Russia is playing a zero sum game, and no matter what would be the motivation of the Europeans, some Europeans think we should delay, postpone it, not do it now – do anything short of MAP. Anything short of MAP, anything, MAP minus, action plan – from my perspective being something that has been proposed and even doesn’t sound very well – like creating a Georgia-Nato Council, promising us Nato visits instead of MAP, this all will immediately lead, next morning to Moscow crying victory. And because that’s the way some people in the Kremlin have positioned themselves, this is a zero sum game. Anything that is not MAP is a great Russian victory.
Now, that’s going to serve the [interests] of the conservatives among the Russian leadership, and instead of giving [Russian President Dimitry] Medvedev a clean slate and starting a relationship from this new starting point, basically we are bending to the Kremlin where conservative elements have just had a major victory, by basically just burying the issue of MAP, and this is not good for Russia. This is not good for Medvedev, whatever his good intentions might be… I mean bright people rightly have said they don’t appreciate softness. Appeasement is seen there by them as a signal that they should act even further, even tougher and they will be even more aggressive and more provocative. That has been our experience with them. These are not the people who understand soft appeasement language. They understand principled, quite polite, language based on principles. That’s how they are. And those people would make a dramatic mistake by trying to appease them; it’s just getting us nowhere… That’s why it’s such a key moment now, and not so much towards Georgia and the Ukraine, although of course it means reshaping the map of Europe, and from that point of view, it’s a much more important MAP decision than the membership decision for some other Balkan countries. But what [does] it really mean? What’s the next modus vivendi of Russia? Is Russia for the first time acquiring a veto right? No matter what some Europeans might be thinking, it’s basically giving them direct veto rights, because that’s how they will perceive it. And Russia for the first time has this. You know, Russia has tried it continuously in the nineties, and they could never achieve the status to have veto rights. If they get it now, they will get by if they denying us the membership action plan. Then we will start the whole chain of trouble… Basically we will feel the heat first, but we will not be the last ones to feel the heat…
Right now, some people are saying, oh it’s better for Russia to see Nato united rather than Nato having a big argument over Georgia and Ukraine’s MAP. I think this is a very, very wrong argument. Nato united around what? Around appeasement? We’ve seen Europe united once like this in the last century and we saw where it led…"
Mikheil Saakashvili, as interviewed in the Financial Times, 30th of March 2008, in
"Q[uestion] When you say that the allies will decide whether to accept the Membership Action Plan for Georgia and Ukraine, are you not saying whether the United States fully supports this, or does it? Is this what the President wants and will urge?
MR. HADLEY: The President has made it clear in his comments that he thinks it's very important that the door of NATO remain open for new members. He's said that he thinks membership would be good for NATO and it would be good for Ukraine and Georgia.
He is in consultation with his counterparts; those consultations continue. We believe -- he believes that NATO should welcome the aspirations of these countries for NATO membership, and that in Bucharest it will result in a clear path forward -- it should result in a clear path forward for those countries coming out of Bucharest.
So let me say that he's very forward-leaning on this issue. But, again, we respect the process that NATO has established, that we will continue consultations that have been quiet consultations -- we think those are most effective -- and we will respect the fact that this is a decision that NATO makes by consensus at the summit. And he will be an active participant in those conversations.
Q[uestion] So he's not saying whether he favors it.
MR. HADLEY: That's all I can say. As I said, he's leaning very far forward. And I think you can get a good sense of his logic from the comments I just made, which restate some things that he's said several times before.
Q[uestion] You said progress made on outstanding issues like missile defense. What sort of progress are you talking about?
MR. HADLEY: The main issue there is to find a way, in concrete terms, to reassure Russia that the radar and missile installation that is planned in Poland and the Czech Republic are, as we say, about potential threats coming to Europe, coming to Russia, if you will, from the Middle East, and are not aimed at Russia. And we are trying to find a formula of measures which would give Russia some confidence on that, that would also be reciprocal with respect to facilities that Russia has offered up that might be part of an integrated missile defense system protecting Europe and Russia, and are also respectful of the sovereignty of our Czech and Polish allies.
The President has talked about maybe we should take a -- maybe the United States, Russia and Europe should work together to develop a regional architecture, as, if you will, equal partners in developing that architecture, that would use resources contributed by the United States, Europe and Russia to provide against a threat -- a defense against threats from the Middle East that could threaten Europe, as well as Russia. That's what we would like to see occur.
And part of that, of course, is a series of transparency measures and confidence-building measures that make it clear that that is a system that is about threats -- common threats from the Middle East, not about threats from Russia.
We think it's very clear it's a very limited system that could be easily overwhelmed by the Russians. But we are prepared to look at some transparency and confidence-building measures, again, respectful of the sovereignty of our Czech and Polish allies, that, nonetheless, would give Russia some reassurance....
These things, in terms of the issues at the NATO summit and the strategic framework agreement, these are on separate tracks. We've been very clear that NATO is not a threat to Russia. It's interesting that these NATO summit will feature a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, which was a mechanism by which Russia is able to engage with NATO. As you know, many people have forgotten there are Russian personnel who are actually assigned and serve in NATO Headquarters. There is an active program of engagement between NATO and Russia.
So I think these are really separate issues. And there is an opportunity -- there's an opportunity to advance our agenda at NATO. There's also an opportunity, through the Sochi visit, to try and advance a relationship and our agenda between the United States and Russia, and the President is going to try to take advantage of both".
Stephen Hadley, American National Security Advisor, Press Briefing on President Bush's trip to Ukraine and the NATO Summit, in www.state.gov.
"Leaders of Nato gathering in Bucharest this week face a momentous decision: whether, in the face of fierce Russian opposition, to move Ukraine and Georgia closer towards membership of the alliance. At issue is whether to offer the two countries so-called membership action plans, the recognised final step before becoming an ally.
This question is of enormous geo-strategic importance and has divided the alliance right down the middle. The US strongly favours extending the invitation, hoping it could burnish George W. Bush’s tarnished legacy. It is supported by Nato’s newer members in eastern and central Europe. Meanwhile, much of western Europe, led by Germany, opposes making the offer....
It is clear that Russia cannot be allowed a veto over alliance membership or to make choices for other states. But Nato must, in its own interests, avoid cornering Russia, turning it unnecessarily into an enemy. And to avoid this, it should better prepare the way with Moscow before decisions of strategic moment are taken.
For this reason, the best approach this week would be to delay the invitations to Georgia and Ukraine. Doing this would allow strategic talks with Russia over its concerns, including discussions involving the prospective Nato members. At the same time, the allies must make it clear to the two countries that future membership of Nato is theirs if they continue to desire it.
Moscow then has a choice: constructive engagement in response to a positive gesture or continuing its efforts to threaten and sow insecurity among its neighbours. The decision then about whether Russia wants to be a friend or a foe, or something in between, will lie with Moscow".
"Nato can wait, but not for ever", Editorial in the Financial Times, www.ft.com
In essence Georgian President Saakashvili, has pre-determined, very very skillfully I must admit, the parameters of 'success and failure', as they relate to the upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest. As has been his wont, for a good number of years now, Saakashvili has attempted to stream roll, West European acceptance of Georgian membership of NATO. It appeared that this strategy had after gaining some traction in the initial years of his Presidency, stalled in late 2006 and for much of 2007. Most especially when relations with Moskva hit rock bottom in November-December 2006. With much of West European opinion (especially in Germany) being unwilling to take sides in the Russian-Georgian conflict. Now however in the last few months, Saakashvili, notwithstanding his own domestic problems (riots in Tbilisi and a short declaration of emergency rule by Saakashvili in December 2007), has been able to press ahead with his ambition of having Georgia join the Western Alliance. With of course the valuable assistance of the USA. Given the underlying fault lines in the Russo-American relationship (Persia, North Korea, Missile Defence in the Czech Republic and Poland), one would think that there were enough 'issues' on this particular diplomatic plate to occupy Secretary Rice and Mr. Hadley. Apparently not it would appear. Instead, in the midst of the dying days of his Presidency, Bush, et. al., appear to be pressing ahead, come what may with having Ukraine and Georgia being given auxiliary membership (the so-called 'membership action plan') of the Alliance. For what reason one may ask?
If one had to wager a guess, it would be something along the following lines: a) an ideological adherence to the American idea of a 'freedom agenda' (in the words of National Security Advisor Hadley), embracing Ukraine and Georgia (those colored [orange, red, green, violet, blue...] revolutions), as the avant garde of the worldwide quest for Democracy and freedom...; b) a more strictly realpolitik (and rational) reasoning being that by inching NATO closer to embracing Ukraine, and, faute de mieux, including Georgia as well, the USA will have come closer to completing a sort of 'encirclement' of Matushka Roissya. Rendering it almost completely harmless from the American / Western perspective as a strategic player (for more on this particular reading of American policy, which I am not quite an adherent to, see: "Russia and Rotating the U. S. Focus", by George Friedman, 1st of April 2008, in www.stratfor.com). However no one can gainsay the fact that by attempting to exercise a force majeure, on its ultra-reluctant, West European allies, to accept the auxiliary membership for both Ukraine and Georgia, at this time, the Americans are making nonsense of Hadley's wish to keep up good relations with Moskva (needed for many reasons as mentioned above). Unfortunately, it is extremely unlikely that Putin, Medvedev, et. al., will view things in such manner. Much more likely they will indeed, view a decision by NATO, to go ahead as an American / Western 'plot', in conjunction with the decision to install missile defences in Central Europe. The upshot being that the well of Russian-American and Russian-West European relations will be poisoned further still. And, the only party to gain by such an end result is our friend Saakashvili in Tbilisi. Who of course, would love to entangle both the USA and Western Europe in his quarrel with Moskva. One can only hope and pray that Germany and its West European partners in NATO, do not fall for this particular diplomatic trap, which promises no gain for anyone outside of the borders of Georgia...