The most controversial issue at the NATO summit was whether to offer Membership Action Plans (MAP) to Ukraine and Georgia - a step strongly supported by President Bush. Largely due to the opposition of Germany, Britain and France the Alliance turned down this plan for the moment.
Unlike the heads of government present in Bucharest a small majority of respondents to the Atlantic Community's survey would have granted MAPs to Ukraine now. And an overwhelming majority supports MAP for both countries over the medium and long term (Ukraine 82%, Georgia 74%.) Less than 20% rejected the enlargement plans altogether.
The European participants largely expressed views reflecting the positions of their respective governments. This indicates the continuity of a national rather than a European reference system. Differences of opinion continue along national lines and seem to override political preferences. Geography proved decisive: in countries closer to Russia, advocacy for an immediate offer of MAPs was prevalent.
Two main arguments emerged in favor of an immediate offer of MAPs: the Alliance's open door policy and its ability to promote western values.
A delay was mainly justified with the internal condition of Ukraine and Georgia.
And among the opponents, Russia's reaction to NATO enlargement and the current state of the Alliance proved to be two recurring themes of great concern.
The editorial team interviewed 23 European and US policy experts and selected members of atlantic-community.org. Among the survey participants were academics from the universities of Kiel, Hamburg, Prague, and Chester and analysts from a variety of think tanks such as the European Policy Centre in Brussels, the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, the Austrian and the Latvian Institutes for International Affairs, and the Danish Institute for International Studies.
The following summary presents the best arguments in favor and against NATO enlargement, disclosing the meaning of the survey's results and above all providing insights into current challenges and proposing solutions.
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The two main reasons put forward for an immediate offer of MAPs were NATO's open door policy and the Alliance's ability to promote western values in Ukraine and Georgia.
Holger Roeder, a German economist and a member of the Atlantic Community, argued that "any sovereign nation should have the right to join an international organization if they want." Stefan Nicola, a journalist at UPI, recommended proceeding with referendums since "the decision whether to begin the route to join NATO or not should come from within Ukraine and Georgia."
The alliance could have displayed its integrative ability by making offers to these two countries which, as Pat Patterson pointed out, have done more to earn a spot in NATO than some of the current members: "Both Ukraine and Georgia have skilled troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq." Mr. Patterson also commented that further delaying the question of MAPs, could lead to growing opposition to NATO, in the same way as Euro-skepticism has been on the rise in Turkey since the negotiations regarding EU membership seem to have reached a stalemate. As Marek Swierczynski wrote, Ukraine and Georgia could become NATO's "forever candidates."
Advocates of the MAPs also argued that the quicker NATO integration was executed, the sooner and the faster the process of westernization - understood here as democratization and modernization of state and society - could begin in Ukraine and Georgia. As Dr Ehler from the Czech embassy in Berlin opined, offering MAPs would "support and urge the reform activity of the governments of both countries and last, but not least, bring these countries or more precisely, the population of these countries closer to the (western) democratic values." Henriette Riegler from the Austrian Institute for International Affairs noted that MAPs would lead to "fruitful debate in these countries in the future."
Tomas Weiss from the Institute of International Relations at Charles University in Prague emphasized that the MAPs should be offered since they only represented a first step towards euro-Atlantic integration and could not be likened to actual membership. They could however serve as a means to encourage Ukraine and Georgia to strive to meet the political standards required to one day achieve effective membership. As Andris Spruds from the Latvian Institute for International Affairs pointed out with a comparison to the positive effects of NATO membership for Latvia, an offer of MAPs could guarantee and bring long-term stability to the region.
Delay the Decision
Nearly 40% of respondents declared that MAPs would indeed be a positive development for both Ukraine and Georgia but that the summit in Bucharest was not the right time to go through with the offers. Russia appeared to be the main reason to postpone the decisions, yet the present internal conditions of both countries as well as NATO also raised concern.
Prioritizing relations with Russia
In addition to the current issue of Kosovo, and the ongoing dispute regarding European missile defense in Eastern Europe providing for tension with Moscow, it seemed unnecessary to antagonize Russia further by kick starting a process of NATO enlargement into what the Kremlin still views as its zone of influence. As Andreas Umland from Shevchenko University in Kyiv pointed out, in the Russians' view, "the roots of Russian statehood lie in Kyiv and Crimea hosts a major Russian naval base." Dr Kelleners notes, "an offer of membership to Georgia and Ukraine against strong political and public opposition in Russia cannot be advisable." NATO's expansion to Russia's borders would in effect alienate Russia at a time when Europe and the US are hoping to move on from the Putin era of confrontation and forge new and improved relations with recently elected President Medvedev. Antonio Missirolli from the European Policy Centre in Brussels also noted it would make sense to wait for the new US administration.
Though the Russian government should not dispose of a veto over NATO, Dr Giessmann from Hamburg University highlights the importance of including Russia into discussions to "prevent the East-West ice age to return." The MAPs could damage Russia's potentially reformist intentions and any willingness to compromise. Russia has been working in collaboration with NATO since the mid 90s and should be treated as a partner. Dr Kelleners writes that accession of Russia's neighboring countries should be announced together with an offer of prominent partnership status for Russia. While showing disrespect for Russia's security interests could be detrimental to its internal political stability, reaching an understanding with NATO could serve as an instrument of democratization.
Daniel Korski from the European Council for Foreign Relations believes that even if giving in to Russia may not encourage the best behavior on behalf of the Kremlin in the future, "in the interest of reconciliation - and perhaps in exchange for Russia's potential logistical support to NATO's Afghan mission - the best way forward may be for NATO to say that it intends to offer the two countries so-called membership action plans at the Alliance's summit in 2009, thus deferring but not cancelling the move." In this sense, an imminent offer would not have strengthened NATO.
Ukraine and Georgia need more time
Dr Flockhart from the Danish Institute for International Studies noted that Ukraine and Georgia are not ready to join the West, but it is a good thing that MAPs now clearly are on the agenda and that this constitutes a "major step towards membership." Dr Ehrhart from Hamburg University noted that offering the MAPs could have worsened internal cleavages in Ukraine in the context of fairly widespread public and parliamentary opposition to NATO. As for Georgia, besides famously struggling with democracy, it also has two frozen conflicts on its territory - in South Ossetia and Abchasia. Nearly half of the respondents agreed with Ehrhart who concluded that "conflict resolution should be a prerequisite for increased formal relations with NATO."
NATO needs more time
Wess Mitchell from the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington DC argued that offering MAPs "would be a momentous and danger-fraught undertaking even for a confident, healthy alliance; in NATO's current, crisis-prone state, it would court disaster." There is an understandable fear that NATO could be overburdened if it does not prioritize the resolution of current debates and define its goals before considering further enlargement. Mitchell goes on as follows: "The placement of two states this size, location and geopolitical complexion under the Article V guarantee would represent a heavy responsibility for the Alliance. Is NATO prepared to permanently underwrite the national security of these two states? [... ] At this juncture on the Alliance's history, Ukraine and Georgia are a bridge too far."
For little less than 20% of respondents MAPs remained out of the question. For some analysts, Georgia and in some cases Ukraine failed to fulfill the preconditions at present, and would not do so in the foreseeable future. Others considered NATO incapable of enlargement in its current state and form.
Dr Giessmann from Hamburg University drew attention to the fact that Georgia will not meet NATO criteria decided upon in 1995 until its ethnopolitical conflicts are settled. Georgia was more controversial than Ukraine since its conflicts could bring internal strife into NATO. Andras Racz from the Hungarian Institute for International Affairs for instance, firmly opposed Georgia's accession to NATO. He wrote that even if the country was to fulfill the requirements, it is "geographically far away [and has] no common borders with other NATO countries." He advanced that enthusiasm about joining NATO was less the result of the internalization of western values than a means of gaining a strong ally against Russia.
Dr Singhofen from Kiel University and Mark Burgess from the World Security Institute in Brussels mentioned the possibility that Bush supported the MAPs for the sake of his own reputation rather than the good of NATO, and Martin Sletzinger from the Wilson Center also argued he saw no interest for either NATO or the US to welcome these countries into the Alliance. Sletzinger wrote that MAPs were an unnecessary process that would only lead to higher and unmet expectations on the behalf of Ukraine and Georgia: "It is dangerous, hypocritical and definitely not in the vital interests of either NATO as an institution or the US as a country which would be primarily responsible for securing these new nations' security." Alexander Bitter from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin also implied enlargement would increase NATO's ineffectiveness and incapability, as proven by earlier integration processes in Eastern Europe, a fairly common opinion among German, British and American analysts.
Jan Zavesicky from the International Institute of Political Science of Masaryk University would make MAPs dependent on NATO succeeding to turn itself into an organization which promotes a process of unprecedented international cooperation. If NATO was to become this type of "intensified mechanism," the integration process could then be extended to many other states. However this type of transformation could indeed, as William Shirano pointed out, put the seriousness of NATO as an organization and as a whole into question.
This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community Editorial Team after analyzing the results of interviews conducted with European policy analysts and our community.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Andre Kelleners: NATO and Russia Need a Shared Vision
- Mark Burgess: Bush in Bucharest: Failure on Timing and Execution
- Marek Swierczynski: Enlargement Delay is Okay if Progress in Afghanistan
- Andreas Umland: Surrealistic Debate Over NATO Membership for Ukraine
- Stan Sloan: Grand Plan for NATO Will Have to Wait
Alexander Bitter, German Institute for International Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin
Mark Burgess, director of World Security Institute, Brussels
Dr Ehler, the Czech embassy in Berlin
Dr Ehrhart, Hamburg University
Dr Flockhart, Danish Institute for International Studies
Dr Giessmann, Hamburg University
Dr Kelleners, Atlantic Community
Daniel Korski, European Council for Foreign Relations
Antonio Missirolli, European Policy Centre in Brussels
Wess Mitchell, Centre for European Policy Analysis, Washington DC
Stefan Nicola, journalist at UPI
Pat Paterson, Atlantic Community
Andras Racz, Hungarian Institute for International Affairs
Henriette Riegler, Austrian Institute for International Affairs
Holger Roeder, Atlantic Community
William Shirano, Atlantic Community
Dr Singhofen, Kiel Univeristy
Martin Sletzinger, Wilson Center
Andris Spruds, Latvian Institute for International Affairs
Marek Swierczynski, Atlantic Community
Andreas Umland, Shevchenko University in Kyiv
Tomas Weiss, Institute of International Relations, Charles University in Prague
Jan Zavesicky, International Institute of Political Science of Masaryk University