Posted by: Shaun | April 22, 2008

Georgia: A Liability for NATO?

Earlier this month, heads of state and government from member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) gathered in Bucharest to discuss the future of the Cold War era alliance. On the table were Membership Action Plans (MAPs) for the former Soviet Republics of Ukraine and Georgia. Though NATO’s leadership decided more dialogue was needed before incorporating the two countries, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that the two “will become members of NATO.”

Here’s why this is a bad idea:

This video appears to show a Russian MiG-29 fighter aircraft shooting down a Georgian reconnaissance drone over Georgian territory over the weekend. Why would Russia do this? Broadly speaking, Russia is not very pleased with its current status vis á vis its former imperial dominions from the Soviet era. It has taken steps to try to recover some of its influence, and in Georgia this has taken the form of tacitly supporting the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia. Both are now effectively autonomous from the government in Tiblisi and are occupied by Russian “peacekeeping” troops.

The drone shoot down is only the latest of a number of provocative steps taken toward the Caucuses republic by outgoing Russian president Vladimir Putin that some have argued are trending toward the annexation of the two troublesome regions. All this begs the question, why should NATO guarantee the security of a strategically insignificant country that is constantly at loggerheads with its nuclear-armed neighbor? Is NATO willing to treat an attack on Georgia as an attack on all its members, a la Article 5?

Certainly, there is no question which side would prevail if war between Russia and NATO ever broke out (conventional war, anyway). And, likely, continuing the eastward crawl of NATO’s boundaries would result only in more diplomatic wrangling and anti-Western invective. But why complicate things? What, exactly, do the core members of NATO gain by taking on the burden of dysfunctional Eastern European states with marginal military capability? Simply put, expansion is diluting the effectiveness of an already troubled alliance and saddling it with unnecessary liabilities. It needs to come to an end before NATO does.


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