Friday, April 11, 2008

lead note from Europe section

European security

Redrawing the MAP in Europe

Apr 10th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Illustration by Peter Schrank
Illustration by Peter Schrank

Germany is up, and Russia in. What will America do in eastern Europe?

THE job of NATO used to be straightforward: keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Russians out. These days things are less certain. A week after the alliance's acrimonious summit in Bucharest, and an inconclusive follow-up meeting between presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin to discuss anti-missile defences, NATO's future role in Europe's security seems particularly unclear.

The most controversial question for the coming months, even years, will be how far the alliance should expand; in particular whether it should take in Ukraine and Georgia. At NATO's summit in Bucharest, Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, led the resistance to an American-led move to grant the two countries the next step to membership—known as the Membership Action Plan (MAP). NATO postponed the issue to a meeting of foreign ministers in December, or perhaps to its 60th anniversary summit in April next year. Or perhaps, given that Mr Bush's successor will still be getting his team in place, a decision may be delayed for much longer.

On one reading of events, this expansion of NATO is a mere formality. Ukraine and Georgia claim to be delighted with the summit communiqué, which said firmly: “These countries will become members of NATO”. Without a date for MAP, however, this promise may mean less than it seems.

The fallout in Ukraine has been limited so far. Only a minority of the public supports NATO membership. That is one reason why the alliance is chary of issuing a firm invitation. The government in Kiev says it will concentrate on making the case for NATO and pushing ahead with the less controversial bid to seek an association agreement with the European Union, which it hopes to secure in September. Ukraine's leaders also still have plenty to do to convince other NATO countries that they both meet the criteria and really want to join the alliance—something that is bound to bring a big political cost in relations with the Kremlin.

Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, said that Russia should punish Ukraine for even trying to join NATO. According to a Russian newspaper report, Mr Putin lost his temper with Mr Bush at a meeting on the final day of the Bucharest summit, telling him: “Do you understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state.” Claiming that most of Ukraine's territory was “given away” by Russia, Mr Putin supposedly also said that if the country joined NATO it would “cease to exist”. A Kremlin spokesman at the meeting says he did not hear the exchange. Still, intemperate language from Russia may stiffen Ukrainian resolve to move closer to the West.

In Georgia, the authorities complain that Russia is accelerating the “creeping annexation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, breakaway regions that maintain an unrecognised independence, backed by the Kremlin. On the day of the summit decision, Mr Putin sent a letter to the secessionist leaders promising that Russia would “further widen and deepen its all-embracing practical co-operation”.

Georgia fears that the price of NATO membership may be the permanent loss of Abkhazia, in particular, from which the 250,000-strong majority ethnic Georgian population fled in 1993. One worry is how Mikheil Saakashvili, the impetuous Georgian president, will handle the Abkhaz issue. Another is the upcoming Georgian parliamentary elections in May, in which Mr Saakashvili's clannish supporters are battling a hot-headed opposition. A fairly-counted poll, and a calm approach to Abkhazia, may help to allay fears in NATO countries, particularly Germany, about Georgia's suitability for membership.

Indecision in NATO leaves plenty of room for the European Union. But the EU shows little sign so far of wanting to take the lead in the continent's security policy—for example in reaching out to Ukraine. It is still struggling to digest its most recent expansion to Romania and Bulgaria—countries that seem to be going backwards rather than forwards on issues such as the rule of law and organised crime. This week the European Commission reiterated that Bulgaria needs to tackle gangsterism and corruption. Despite 150 assassinations since 2001, nobody has been convicted, nor has any senior Bulgarian official successfully been prosecuted for corruption.

The other big issue is America's planned missile defence bases: ten interceptor rockets in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. In its dying months, the Bush administration is keen to settle the issue with Russia, but has so far been unable to do so. It has offered several “transparency” measures—such as a promise not to switch on the system until a threat (from Iran) emerges, and access for Russian liaison officers—to reassure Mr Putin that the missile shield is not an attempt to neutralise Russia's nuclear arsenal.

Russia insists that it wants around-the-clock monitors based at both sites—a demand that causes resentment in countries that 19 years ago were unwilling members of the Soviet-led Warsaw pact. The Czech Republic has reached a deal on hosting the American radar, but Poland is holding out for better terms—especially American help to modernise its armed forces.

America's policy in eastern Europe is running out of steam. Earlier successes, such as expanding NATO to the Baltic states, are now overshadowed by disunity. Some newer NATO members even view Germany as something of a “fifth column” for Russia. Given the uncertainty over what a new American presidency will bring, the outlook for many in Europe's ex-communist states is worrying.


akarlin said...

1. Only half the Ukrainian elite and just three western provinces are dead-set on joining NATO. In Ukraine as a whole, more people prefer closer integration with Eurasec than the EU (not to mention NATO), and I can cite the poll if anyone wishes.

Considering that all the parties have pledged to hold a referendum on the matter, however, Ukraine won't be joining any time fast. Not before the propaga, oops, "information" campaign is done with. And that will give Russia ample time to get on with the job of dismantling the Ukraine, especially the Crimea which is Russian which that idiot peasant Khrushev handed over in 1954.

3. I do like the cartoon though. Bush thinks Ukraine is trapped by Russia and will no doubt be attracted to yank her braid to pull her free. Too bad she'll fall to her death when that happens. Quite a fitting metaphor. :)

George Nikoladze said...

Dear Mr Lucas,

The West should not worry what Saakashvili does with Abkhazia but what Putin and his mini-me Medvedev are already going in this autonomous republic of Georgia. It was a week ago when the President offered the Abkhaz side maximum autonomy (federal model), Vice Presidency of Georgia to Abkhaz representative and veto power over any legislature. Moreover, just yesterday, he offered the Abkhaz side the joint Georgian-Abkhaz police patrolling instead of drunk and unruly bunch of marauders-the so called Russian “peacekeepers.” I don’t think there is anything to worry about these initiatives. The attention and worries should focus on correct reality in this separatist enclave and the Russian attempt of an outright annexation (instead of creepy) -- a kind of deja vu of Sudetenland events in 1930s. There is nothing to gamble here. Abkhazia has been recognized by UN and other international organizations as an undivided part of the Georgian state and nobody in their right mind is willing to jeopardize this reality. Russia recognition of this enclave with 100,000 population (which is still missing its majority Georgian ethnic component of 350,000) is a cynical and politically suicidal venture. I don’t think anyone will yield to this dubious recognition and in fact will play in favor for the Georgian side (Russia should kiss goodbye to their mini Soviet club called CIS, and almost overnight their drunkard peacekeepers will be rightly labeled as occupiers). However, for the Northern Caucasus and Tatarstan, this precedent will pup-up in the near future. Frankly Mr Lucas, I don’t think any of us in Ukraine or Georgia should appease the Germans. Germans on the other hand should appease their allies and young democracies after demonstrating that their democratic commitment can be tainted by the Gazprom money laundering. In fact, NATO should try to repair the damage which France and Germany have inflicted by demonstrating how unreliable and pathetic its unity stands. Instead of pointing fingers at Georgia or Ukraine, shouldn’t we be concerned for the NATO itself? The May Parliamentary elections in Georgia will not save NATO from its disunity and will not bring Germans and French back into their senses. Mr Yuschenko before the meeting in Bucharest said: “we will now see how committed are these countries to Democracy.” Indeed Victor, we have seen how reliable and how committed are Germans or French to this ancient Athenian phenomenon. We just lost MAP bid in April, but Germany and France have far greater losses—countries which can be manipulated and intimidated by bunch of Chekist-Stalinists from Moscow. By tossing back these countries into the rusted jaws of this menacing empire, I wonder how many nations or countries will it take to feel up belly of this resurrected beast. As I recall, the first victims were those 120,000 Chechen civilians, hammered by the vacuum bombs and carpet bombing. Now this menace is spreading into the former colonies and what’s next? Nouveau Molotov-Ribentropp pact dividing Poland and the Baltic states? That’s what the West should worry about Mr Lucas and not the Abkhazia handling by Saakashvili.

Anton said...

If Georgia and Ukraine were to hold a referendum on joining the NATO, the result would be a big "No", and that is what the polls suggest.

One of the essential criteria of joining the NATO, is territorial unity, Georgia doesn´t have that.

Ukraine couldn´t possibly become a member of NATO, with Russian fleet based in Sevastopol atleast until 2017.

Therefore, I think the Germans and the French did the right thing, because NATO nor Georgia and Ukraine are ready for this expansion. What we see is the usual European pragmatism, why piss off Russia now, if you can integrate Ukraine and Georiga later, because the matter of those nations joining the North Atlatic Treaty, is a matter of time.

Giustino said...

I find it interesting how the Germans have been made the scapegoat by the Americans for failure to grant MAPs to Georgia and Ukraine (seen as pro-Moscow), but at the same time Russia has made the Anglo-American alliance the scapegoat for the emergence of Kosovo as a state, even though Germany has recognized Kosovo too.

It seems like we are not being honest with ourselves about the real role Germany plays in the EU and in NATO. If the Germans say "nein", then it must be the Russians fault, according to the Americans. If the Germans say "jah", then it must be the American's doing, think the Russians.

As your faithful reader, I'd say some articles about German foreign policy are in order.

As for Georgia and Ukraine, NATO deals with similar countries -- ones where the political elite supports accession but the public does not -- all the time. Those countries are Sweden and Finland.

The solution for them has to cooperate on as many projects as possible while remaining somewhat aloof from the alliance. Couldn't a similar method of engagement work with these countries for the near future?

akarlin said...


I am not sure that Lucas is that sharp on the intricacies of German FP.:)

Anyway, I agree with the last suggestion and am not against Russia itself participating in such projects either.

Anton said...

Well Russia has already been participating in several projects,for instance the Russia NATO partnership itself, or joint military excercies, however that is not very significant, at least there is less tension, than in the old Cold War days.

Personally I think it would be more sensible for Ukraine and Georgia to follow the Scandinavian model for now, to avoid confrontation with Russia, because as we have heard, apparently the big "Vlad" has already threathened Ukraine´s existence as a state, if it were to join NATO. In case of Georgia, Russia would just rip off the self-proclaimed separatist states. However if the two were to follow the scandinavian model, perhaps it would be possible to maitain good a relatinship with both blocs, i.e benefiting from close co-operation with NATO, while maitaining a relationship with Russia. Of course, there is too much paranoia about the latter option!

It would be nice to see a NATO with Russia as a member one day, a NATO that will face global issues together...but that probably won´t happen in our lifetime, if ever at all. Talking about Tom Clancy

Probably a clash of NATO and Shanghai Organisation is more likely.

George Nikoladze said...

Anton, who are you trying to fool here? In Georgia, there was a plebiscite on January 5th, 2008 regarding NATO, and more than 77% of the population votes YES. (
And all thanks to Russian initiatives. Annexation attempts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, helped the broad public to realize that there was no other way.
As for Ukraine, we all know who mostly populate Eastern Ukraine. But the membership question is already settled, read the NATO declaration.


It is not only according to Americans but the Central and Eastern Europe as well which had a bitter fight with Germans over MAP question in Bucharest. Poland and the Baltic states were blaming Germany (and their Schroiderist Chancellor) for being intimidated by Chekists in Moscow. Lets not blame Americans for every single detail. It is also in fashion (Europe and elsewhere) to engulf in anti-American euphoria and blame George Bush for every wrong doing. And also dont be surprised that these small democracies feel betrayed by so called consolidated democracies which are committed to Gazprom interest rather than global democratic solidarity. I guess ancient Athenians were far better democrats than Germans. However, France confuses me. A country which bore great thinkers of democratic science (Montesque, Claude Lefort, Pier Manent, Ranciere, Mouffe and so on) can back-stab the concept of this phenomenon without hesitation.

Although, I do maintain hope and I'm sure in December our countries will join this controversial program. The NATO summit in Bucharest produced an important declaration signed by all 26 (again by ALL) members-that no matter what both Ukraine and Georgia will join NATO. Russia can bang its head, but nobody really yields to their pathetic threat in Kiev or Tbilisi.

akarlin said...

It would be nice to see a NATO with Russia as a member one day, a NATO that will face global issues together...but that probably won´t happen in our lifetime, if ever at all.

Why would you want that?

The West is a waning power. The US is going to go down under the twin attacks of unsustainable macroeconomics and soaring oil and energy prices.

Europe will soon be much more influenced by Russia than before, as it relies more and more on Russian gas - at least until it can bring wind and solar power into mass exploitation, but that will take several decades.

Ukraine and Georgia will come to regret their unfriendly attitudes very soon.

@George Nikoladze,

Interesting to see you think Athenian democracy is better than German. Do you beat your wife and participate in lynch mobs? No wonder you hate Russia so much.

Anton said...

As far as I am able to read, I gathered that both will join in the future. That doesn't not mean much. If you look at Albania, for example, it has had MAP since 1999 and as we know it was only invited this year, which will probably mean, becoming a member in 2009, that is exactly 10 years since obtaining MAP. Either Ukraine, nor Georgia have received the MAP yet, so we're probably looking at several years... you might call it a solved problem, but hell, we're talking about a very long-period.

( Please check your data on Ukraine, last time I looked it was something like 47% roughly, against the idea of NATO, damn, East Ukraine must be densily populated.

Once again, for the reasons mentioned earlier, we won't see the two obtaining MAP any time very soon... therefore, you'd be lucky, dear George Nikoladze, to see, during your lifetime, your beloved country as a full member of NATO, in one piece.

As for your link with the stats, much appreciated, but after the last Georgian election, don't really believe in any official data, coming from that country.

The Germans and the French do know more about democracy than the Georgians. Once again, the reason why the refused to integrate the two, is because the believed that the two countries were not ready yet!! Do you not consider Abkhazia, Ossetia a serious enough reason?

As for the misunderstanding of the French, they have never really been keen on NATO, 1966 France withdrew from joint military command and is only expected to rejoin sometime this year.

I actually enjoyed seeing some European activism this year, it is finally nice to see that it is no longer Uncle Sam's gentelmens' club.

You seem to think that membership in NATO, will immediately lead to democratization. That is not true, it happens that most countries in NATO are democratic, however in Georiga or Ukraine, democracy is still weak.

Lol, international affairs is just like us, individual people. Politicians aren't pink, fluffy friends, who want to help everyone in the world. Berlin-Paris by-pod, memberhsip of Ukraine and Georgia, in favour of all European security. As you said, just as Europeans care little about what Russia has to say, they probably even care less about MAP of Ukraine and Georgia,because to them security is more important. They didn't sacrifice democracy, they preffered comfort and safety.
If you like to look at it the other way, they abandoned Ukraine and Georgia, as a compromise to PRO.

Please,provide me with some data on those points, would love to see it. Regards

Stalker, deep inside I am a pacifist, I'd just love to see us all get a long))

Blair Sheridan said...

The most irritating part, for me, of the NATO dialogue in Ukraine is the POV that, once Ukraine joins NATO, reforms will really take off. That is classic cart-before-horse thinking.

If the political elite in Ukraine can't get up the gumption to really undertake the economic, political and judicial reforms that are needed (and they are very badly needed,) then I don't think they should be rewarded for their lethargy or cowardice.

Giustino said...

I find it interesting that in 1939, Danzig was too foreign and different for the French. Today it's Abkhazia that we must learn to pronounce correctly. And they say that the West is a waning power? Could have fooled me.