Tbilisi and Kiev step up Nato drive
Ukraine and Georgia intensified their efforts on Wednesday to advance towards joining the Nato alliance in the face of Russian opposition. Diplomats said they expect the Ukraine and Georgia discussions to continue until the last moment...
Ukraine and Georgia intensified their efforts on Wednesday to advance towards joining the Nato alliance in the face of Russian opposition.
Both countries are seeking invitations to so-called membership action plans – the final stage to prepare potential members for joining the alliance – at a summit meeting of the 26-member alliance in Bucharest next week.
Their applications are strongly supported by the US, which wants agreement to be part of President George W. Bush’s legacy. A majority of other allies, largely from Nato’s newer members in eastern and central Europe, also backs the applications. But there is continuing opposition, mainly from western Europe, with Germany not wishing to provoke Russia, and other governments, such as France, hesitant.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president-elect, warned this week that the two countries’ moves towards Nato were “extremely troublesome for the existing structure of European security”.
The Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, on Wednesday dismissed such claims as “myths”, adding: “These are attempts to leave Ukraine in a position in which it would be unable to protect its security against threats. This is not acceptable. We are a sovereign nation.”
Mr Yushchenko suggested that failure by Kiev to join poses a risk to Ukrainian “sovereignty, independence”, and collective security in Europe.
Whereas most such invitations to the alliance have in the past been settled in advance of summits, diplomats said they expect the Ukraine and Georgia discussions to continue until the last moment.
Georgian officials pressed their case at a meeting on Wednesday at Nato headquarters in Brussels.
After the meeting, David Bakradze, Georgia’s foreign minister, said there was agreement that Georgia’s performance – including its contributions to Nato’s missions in Afghanistan and other international coalitions, such as that in Iraq – merited a membership action plan.
Georgia on Wednesday offered to contribute troops and logistics help to Nato’s counter-terrorism operation in the Mediterranean.
But Mr Bakradze said in a telephone interview that political questions could still delay the move. He declined to estimate the chances of an invitation next week.
Georgia’s move to the membership action plan was “a question of when rather than if”, he said, adding that a majority of allies believed the “when” should be settled in Bucharest.
Opponents to Georgia’s membership have also argued it should not move ahead because of the so-called frozen conflicts in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But Mr Bakradze argued that the issue before allies was not whether Georgia would join Nato but whether it would take a significant step towards it.
Denying that Georgia would “hand an indirect veto to third countries”, he said, in an apparent reference to Russia.
Moreover, a membership action plan would provide incentives towards settling the conflicts and add to stability, predictability and security in the region.