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Loss of MAP a strike against Georgia, but also against NATO

Monday, April 7
Last week’s Bucharest summit was not only a failure for Georgia, but also for NATO.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO’s task shifted toward ensuring regional stability, countering terrorism and expanding to buttress its own security. The alliance needs to continue that expansion to strategically-located Ukraine and Georgia.

In Bucharest, some members voted against NATO’s needs, undermining the alliance’s entire strategic policy. Flimsy excuses about Georgia and Ukraine not meeting military or democratic benchmarks don’t hold up—many former Soviet satellites were admitted in similarly imperfect condition, and the Membership Action Plan’s purpose is to whip countries into shape for a membership which could come a decade or more later.

The real problem was Russia. Moscow blackmailed a few western European capitals, forcing them to sacrifice strategic interests in return for temporarily placating the bear.

NATO missed an opportunity with Ukraine. Support for accession there is tenuous, and Moscow may ultimately turn Ukrainian sentiments against the alliance. The chance for expansion may not remain.

By bringing in Georgia, NATO could secure a strategic foothold in the South Caucasus. And what does Georgia get? The country makes no secret of the protection it hopes NATO will provide from Russia, the only country to threaten Georgian sovereignty.

But that promise of protection is undermined by NATO’s irresoluteness.

Russia threatens to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Georgia joins NATO, making the conflicts ultimately intractable. Yet no Georgians believe NATO would join a war against the separatists and their Russian backer.

If Russia is emboldened enough to follow through on its threats, Georgia’s aspiration to regain its breakaway regions could fail even upon—or because of—joining NATO.

Georgians, seeing Russia’s de facto veto over NATO expansion, now ask: If Russia can influence NATO’s decisions, what will Georgia gain by forging ahead toward membership?

Georgians may question the country’s headlong run toward NATO. And some may begin asking what could be wrong with turning back toward Russia. And in that, NATO loses.