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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2423

NATO for Compromise on Expansion

By Dr.Abdul Ruff Colachal

The crucial 02- 04 April three-day summit of leaders from the 26-nation NATO alliance in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, billed as the biggest in the alliance's 59-year history, concluded in a compromise solution that allowed all competing sides to claim victory. The Nato enlargement and efforts to rally support for the Nato-led force in Afghanistan dominated the agenda. Taking a balancing course on its expansion move and getting more troupes for Afghanistan with Russian help for its operations in the troubled Afghanistan, NATO told the two former Soviet republics that they were not getting immediate MAP status but could be sure of membership at some point in the future.

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told the BBC he supported membership for the former Soviet states. "There's no way that the door will be locked for Ukraine and Georgia," he said. "The Nato Treaty very clearly states that European democracies fulfilling their criteria for Nato membership are welcome." Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he understood Russian concerns but added that the "final decision will be taken by the allies and not by anybody else".

Croatia and Albania were also invited to begin negotiations to join the organisation.The delegation from Macedonia left the summit prematurely after hearing that it would be denied membership for the foreseeable future.

Bush and the Issues

US president George W. Bush, seen as the prime-mover, came to the meet with a prime objective of seeking NATO expansion and he repeated his call for NATO to expand eastwards. Speaking in Romania ahead of NATO's summit in Bucharest, he said the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia should be offered clear paths to membership. In a joint press conference, Bush said he "strongly believed" Croatia, Albania and Macedonia should be able to join Nato as full members. He strongly supported calls by Montenegro and Bosnia-Hercegovina for "intensified dialogue" on membership. "We ought to open the door to closer co-operation with Serbia," he also said. He added that "Nato membership must remain open to all of Europe's democracies that seek it, and are ready to share in the responsibilities of Nato". Greece had demanded that Macedonia first change its name, because there is already a Greek province called Macedonia.

There has been mistrust among the NATO members about the goals of its operations in Afghanistan and hence have not sent sufficient troupes there. Bush said "we cannot afford to lose Afghanistan" and urged more Nato states to "step forward" with troops. Many countries, including France have come up with supplying troupes to Afghanistan. NATO supplies currently reach Afghanistan by air or across the hazardous Pakistan border. Russia and NATO members have repeatedly denied suggestions of a deal where Georgia and Ukraine would be sacrificed in return for a deal on Afghanistan access. NATO is keen to seek Russian territory to transit supplies to Afghanistan, NATO members have become committed to sending more troops to Afghanistan.

The decision was announced at the NATO summit, where Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer confirmed an extra French battalion would be sent immediately. Other countries would be pledging smaller numbers.NATO said that it wanted to work more closely with the Afghan government to allow it to eventually take over more tasks from the organization.

Bush appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept US missile shield installations in Europe. The US says they are needed to counter a potential threat from Iran, though Moscow fears they could be used against Russia. Bush also spoke of his forthcoming talks with outgoing Russian president Vladimir Putin - whom he will meet at the summit, and again at private talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi at the weekend. The US leader said he would make clear to Putin that "the Cold War is over and Russia is not our enemy". "This is a good chance for me to sit down and have yet another heart-to-heart with him," he said.

Rift

However, it seems there is rift among the European members on enlargement issue. The move was opposed by Russia, Germany and France and effectively blocked, since Nato must agree unanimously on new members. The prospect of more ex-Soviet states joining Nato is opposed by Russia, while Nato members France and Germany have warned that it will worsen relations with Moscow. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said his country would not sulk over the expansion plans - but stressed that they would not "go unanswered". "But we will respond pragmatically, not like small boys in school who sulk at those who bully them, run out of the room, slam the door and start crying in the corner. We must concentrate on increasing our economic power and taking our defense capabilities to a higher technologic level."

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said of Ukrainian and Georgian membership: "We think that it is not the correct response to the balance of power in Europe." Macedonian officials said the rejection was a "huge disappointment" that would undermine stability in the Balkans. Georgian diplomats earlier said the expected "no" would be a victory for Russia, which has voiced concerns at Nato's eastward expansion. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said Ukraine and Georgia should have a long-term prospect of Nato membership, but that now was not the time for Membership Action Plans (MAP) to be extended to them. "We have reached the conclusion that it is too early to give both countries MAP status," she said.

While Russia objects to NATO admitting Ukraine and Georgia, Greece has said that, if no last-minute compromise is reached, it would veto an invitation to Macedonia to join Nato because it objects to the country's name. Macedonia is also the name of a province in northern Greece, and Athens worries that this could imply a claim on its territory. The BBC's Jonathan Marcus in Bucharest says the invitations for Albania and Croatia are a damage limitation exercise after the summit atmosphere was poisoned by the diplomatic wrangling.

An Observation

President Bush has got what wanted and expected of the meet among the European nations. He’s fully aware of the opposition by Russia and other few member-states of NATO, but agreed with the NATO for going slow with expansion move, possibly, President Putin leaves Kremlin. Russia strongly opposed the membership of the two former Soviet bloc countries and called the NATO decision 'a huge strategic mistake' and hence the revised strategy of NATO.

The Nato-led force in Afghanistan currently numbers 47,000 troops from 40 nations. Commanders have called for a further 10,000 soldiers to be deployed. Romania and France have already undertaken to send extra forces. France's Nicolas Sarkozy announced at the summit in Romania hundreds of extra French troops for Afghanistan. US president is sure to get the support of Russian in its operations in Afghanistan and some what pacified Putin on the nuclear shield issue which both would discuss soon in Russia.

As a premium to Russian gestures, NATO has successfully persuaded Bush to be lenient on expansion issue for the time being by keeping the Ukraine and Georgia in abeyance. Interesting fact, therefore, remains Bush, known thus far as arrogant person, has some what shed his rigidity. After all Russia is different from other countries of the globe with which Washington has been dealing with.

Nato has confirmed it will not offer membership to Georgia or Ukraine but agreed to review the decision on the ex-Soviet republics in December. The alliance also said it would not invite Macedonia to join amid protests from Greece over Macedonia's name. But Nato confirmed that Balkan neighbors Albania and Croatia would be asked to join the club. For NATO the door is always open, but needs a perspective for accession.

Pursued rigorously by Bush, Nato leaders also agreed to fully endorse US plans to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. US President George W Bush has said he is pleased by Nato allies' responses to calls to send more troops to support the government of Afghanistan. To put it bluntly, USA obtained a tactical victory over not only Russia, but even the European allies of the Western Alliance. That is how matters have been ever since NATO came into being on April 04, 1949.

- Asian Tribune -

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