Extending MAPs to Ukraine and Georgia is a very important step towards the creation of a stable and peaceful Europe. Ukraine and Georgia should not function as buffer states or bargaining chips for better relations with an aggressive Russia. According to the Helsinki Final Act, sovereign states are free to choose their alliances. Admittedly, the Euro-atlantic community faces challenges which are more imminent than trying to guarantee stability for the wider Black Sea region. The example of Iran’s nuclear ambitions deserves concentrated attention. Brussels and Washington could need the help of Moscow to deal with the issue.
Yet the urgency to deal with Iran and the benefits to be secured from Russian cooperation should not disrupt the West’s moral compass. US leadership can combine the challenge of Iranian nuclear ambitions with extending MAPs to Ukraine and Georgia. President Obama, this is what you should do on your visit to Europe this week:
- Consult with your NATO allies, and deliver a public speech in the Czech Republic after NATO’s summit. In that speech you should emphasize NATO’s Open Door Policy and define MAPs as an open-ended process. A MAP does not translate to automatic membership.
- Meet with President Medvedev and make public that you will propose a Biden-Putin Commission, which is to meet at least twice a year to work on issues of common interest. Secondly, you should be prepared to offer Russia the compromise that the US missile defense system will be abolished in the event of a successful diplomatic solution with Iran.
A brief evaluation of this policy recommendation reveals its numerous advantages.
- It would mean that President Obama would address multiple audiences. Germany and France would be convinced about the commitments of the US administration to listen to Russian concerns. With better relations to Russia and knowing that a MAP is not a slippery slope to membership, they could be more inclined to extend MAPs to Ukraine and Georgia. In addition, Europeans welcome President Obama’s commitment to diplomacy toward Iran.
- In the same way, this policy would address the concerns of Central and Eastern Europeans about being used to secure better relations with Russia. Emphasizing NATO’s Open Door Policy in Prague would act as a signal to Poland and the Czech Republic that the United States is committed to the principle of an undivided, stable and peaceful Europe — with or without missile defense.
- A potential offer from the US to end the missile defense problem would put the ball in the Russian's court. Both missile defense and an Iranian nuclear weapons program contradict Moscow’s interests. Pressure abroad would increase since Moscow has no excuse for inaction and could not refer to American unilateralism.
- Tehran would have to recalculate the costs of developing a nuclear weapon. It would be the first time that Iran would be standing alone in the face of a united international community. The Iranian leadership would have every reason to be concerned about the prospect of increased pressure from Beijing, eager not to be isolated as an “irresponsible stakeholder” in the international community.
The Obama administration faces a great number of foreign policy challenges. President Eisenhower once said: “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” Linking the issues of MAPs to the Iranian challenge can address the concerns of the key players, whose cooperation is essential to coming up with solutions for both challenges.
Fabian Martin Lieschke is a student at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Ira Louis Straus: A Bulgarian Should Head NATO
- Yasser Abumuailek: NATO to Lead the War on Terror
- Stefanie Babst: NATO's New Public Diplomacy: The Art of Engaging and Influencing