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2008 NATO capital

The decision of the North-Atlantic Council was one of the most special political pages in the history of NATO since the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is why Putin was keen on coming to Bucharest, although everything had been said and done. NATO has become a new institutional universe, different from the one that had emerged 59 years ago.

When writing a letter to NATO, the address on the envelope must be some­where in Brussels. But in political terms, the capital of NATO is where heads of state and government meet, in the North-Atlantic Council, to make critical decisions. The fact that Bu­charest got so soon to host a meeting of such scope is not necessarily related to the somewhat artificial division between the “Old” and the “New Euro­pe,” but rather to a geopolitical context of which Romania is an essential component.
The key topic for the Summit in Bu­charest was the accession of Ukraine and Georgia. Although in different respects, their accession to NATO a­mounts to a change of the political and security landscape in Europe as a whole. A change which fundamentally commits NATO and is of utmost inte­rest to Russia and its relations with the United States, Europe and NATO. This is precisely why Putin was keen on co­ming to Bucharest, although everything had been said and done. The decision of the North-Atlantic Council has writ­ten one of the most special political pages in the history of NATO since the fall of the Berlin Wall. For the first time ever, it promises the accession of Ukrai­ne and Georgia before the two countries have met the political-military prerequisites! In Bucharest, the famous Membership Action Plan (MAP) was turned, in the special case of Ukraine and Georgia, into a secon­dary element of the accession process, one which can no longer impede the final decision! The review in December and even the possible extension of Ukraine and Georgia’s preparations, until the next summit meeting, remain important, but not decisive in political terms. Those who regard the deferral of Ukraine and Georgia’s MAP status as a failure of the meeting in Bucha­rest, a failure of the American politics and of President Bush in particular, or as a victory of Vladimir Putin, ought to wonder what’s on the other scale of the balance. It’s like claiming that a candi­date that was never admitted for preparations ahead of an exam, but was rated as “admitted” even before the exam took place, has flunked the exam!!! With this decision, in the nor­thern component of the NATO security space there is a strategic continuum comprising Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states, and in the southern com­ponent there is a system of connections and cooperation bridges across the Black Sea region, between Romania, Ukraine and Georgia, with Tur­key also expected to join in.
What became obvious in Bucharest was the stark difference in perceptions on the meaning and impact of this mutation. For Moscow, the new context created by the certainty of the Ukraine and Georgia accession to NATO raises a more serious strategic problem than the integration of the central and eastern European states: the collapse of a security line defined by the con­cept of “immediate neigh­bour­hood.” A sort of Maginot line, a last barrier aga­in­st the “Eastern pressure.” A defen­si­ve system designed to be impossible to overcome, organised in the CIS under Moscow’s military authority and control, and politically managed by the Russian diplomacy, in view of preser­ving the last buffer zone left out of the former Soviet empire. Moscow’s rea­ding of these changes has always been mostly apocalyptical, and by virtue of this reading Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin did not hesitate to hint that cros­sing the “immediate neighbour­ho­od” line would be taken as a “casus belli” in a worst-case scenario, or at best as the trigger of a “cold peace” between Russia and NATO, in which Russia’s coun­ter-measures, from military to political ones, would be as severe as those taken during the Cold War. Putin’s address in Bucharest was an overview of this course of events, which in his opinion justifies Russia’s structural distrust of NATO promises and its resolute opposition to the American anti-missile shield plan, sort of complementary to the field changes.
In the Euro-Atlantic view, the expan­sion of the security space by inte­grating Ukraine and Georgia, as it was the case with Central and South-Eastern Europe, is not achieved at the expense of Russia’s interests, but rather in favour of the new members and of the system as a whole. To perceive the NATO enlargement as Moscow does is to overlook the Washington Treaty altogether. In other words, to pretend not to be aware that it is a political and judicial pledge of mutual support in case of armed attacks, regardless of where these may come from and of their authors! At no point does the Treaty mention any “enemy,” any “direction” from which a threat may come from, or the causing or prompting of a conflict with anyone; even less so does it commit mutual support if any of the states decides to initiate military aggression against another state. In other words, to claim that the NATO enlargement comes seriously against Russia’s security interests is to work on the assumption that all members of the organisation decided to overlook the Treaty pro­vi­sions and to turn the organisation into a war machine targeted at a particular country. If Russia and its politicians insist on this far-fetched and com­ple­tely unrealistic reading, it is because they stand to gain out of it. But the security of Europe and of the world as a whole stands to lose. And this is not because of the NATO enlargement, but because Moscow prefers to read geo-strategic facts and political-military action in patterns which are based on a clash with the Euro-Atlantic West, particularly a controlled clash, as it was the case during the Cold War.
The other accession decisions in the Bucharest meeting, although im­por­tant, have a less significant impact on the reorganisation of the geo-stra­tegic space. The gradual inte­gration of the former Yugoslavian region and of Alba­nia was a natural, almost ine­vitable move. The sooner and the more successfully completed, the better. It was Croatia and Albania’s turn this time. Putting F.Y.R.O. Macedonia on hold, although everything was set for its accession to NATO, is a mere conti­ngency. It could have been avoided, with only a little more care. The mass me­dia across the Ocean brimmed with anti-Bush reactions, rating the event as a major defeat for the President. In ac­tual fact, it is a mere stumble, for which Ms. Condoleezza Rice ought to dras­tically penalise her Department of State director for the area, and to chastise the deputy secretary of state in charge with the Bucharest meeting. The opposition of Greece was as predic­table as the sunrise and sunset, and the American diplomacy should have had an answer prepared. It didn’t! Consequences are neither disastrous, nor changing the political configuration in any respect. Macedonia will become a NATO member state as soon as it puts behind its arrogance and contem­pt of Greece and indeed of the UN, and settles the judicial issue regarding its official name. Macedonia cannot claim to be willing to sacrifice its peace and to send troops to die for Greece, should any state attack it, under the famous Art. V in the Washington Treaty, when Macedonia proves to be neither open to cooperation nor flexible in relations with a prospective ally, and will not nego­tiate in good faith, at least before the Summit, so as to settle the issue. The problem is not with Athens, but with Skopje!
As for Afghanistan, things are stuck mid-way. Although everyone admitted in Bucharest that more must be done; although the UN and the European Commission, represented by top-level officials precisely for this end, under­took an enhanced role in the organi­sation and coordination of recon­struc­tion processes in Afghanistan; althou­gh several states announced increases of the military contingents deployed to this country, the meeting doesn’t seem to have triggered a significant para­di­gm shift. In conceptual terms, the solu­tion is not new; it is only a continuation of the approach used so far—“adjust as you go”—with slightly more resources. Under these circumstances, success is hardly certain, which is why fears regarding Afghanistan will soon return in the focus of political debates in the Alliance.
More than anything else, it became obvious in Bucharest that complexity begins to prevail in the organisation. Not only the USA, but also France, Germany or UK will have to adjust to a new context. Decision-making by a consensus of 28 players is not as dynamic as one reached by seven or twelve players. NATO has grown into a new institutional universe, different from the one that emerged 59 years ago. We will see whether in the next meeting, under the sign of a new French-German entente, the necessary changes have been taken in. Only then we will be able to assess the capital accrued to NATO, in Bucharest.

by Cornel CODIŢĂ

Publicat în : English  de la numărul 55
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