Georgia, Ukraine and NATO
Russia is either dramatically misjudging NATO’s attitude towards Georgia and Ukraine, or else it is sinking even deeper into a miasma of propaganda and becoming utterly blind to basic reality.
At their meeting in Brussels last week, NATO ministers
reiterated a commitment that Georgia and Ukraine will eventually join the trans-Atlantic alliance, but held off on granting the two countries formal Membership Action Plans at this time. The Western allies also agreed to gradually resume contacts with Russia, which were frozen after Moscow’s war with Georgia in August, but stopped well short of a full-fledged revival of the suspended Russia-NATO Council, a forum that manages the relationship.
Yet, Russia reacted as if it had secured some type of victory just because formal MAP status was not immediately awarded to the two former slave states. That is really quite insane. Any number of recent NATO members have been accorded full treaty rights without ever being placed in MAP status, and NATO strongly reaffirmed the U.S.-sponsored plan to install a ballistic missile defense shield in Eastern Europe as well as refusing to normalize relations with Russia and guaranteeing that both nations will ultimately join NATO. Just days ago, NATO carried out another successful test of the missile shield technology.
NATO’s chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer declared forcefully: “This graduated re-engagement [with Russia] does certainly not mean that we do now suddenly agree with the Russians on the disproportionate use of force in August in the Caucasus [or] on the recognition — illegal recognition — of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” That’s right — he accused the Kremlin of being a criminal regime, flouting basic international law.
Yet, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, still found is possible to announce: “The schemes of those who adopted a frozen approach to Russia have been destroyed.” If it were true that NATO had given Russia what it wanted, then Rogozin’s comment would jarringly conflict with the statement of his boss, Vladimir Putin, that Russia would respond in kind of the Obama administration seeks raprochement. It would, in fact, make it appear that Russia would only spit in Obama’s eye if the tried that, just as Rogozin did to NATO.
But Russia isn’t quite that psychotic, at least not yet. It knows full well that NATO is an overwhelmingly more powerful military rival and that it is standing foursquare behind Georgia and Ukraine. After Putin’s statement that he wanted to hang Georgia’s president up by his balls, no thinking person can doubt that Putin wanted to reach Tbilisi and affect regime change. But he didn’t, and he was stopped by the bold actions of the NATO countries, who demanded that he desist and pull back to the status quo ante.
All the propaganda in the world can’t cover up that fact. Russia is losing the battle for hearts and minds in Europe, the jig is up. Europeans have seen Russia’s tanks on the warpath, and they have seen the light.