News

Early NATO Membership Unlikely for Georgia, Ukraine

Multimedia

Audio

Membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has expanded over the years as NATO welcomed former Warsaw Pact nations and former Soviet Republics into the Western alliance.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, 12 countries from eastern and central Europe have become NATO members, almost doubling the alliance's number of countries from 15 to 28. [The 12 are Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.]

Two other former Soviet Republics - Georgia and Ukraine - have expressed interest in becoming NATO members. The Bush administration strongly supported their membership bids. But at the April 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, member countries declined requests by both countries to begin the process of accession known as a "Membership Action Plan." The final summit communiqué simply said NATO leaders agreed "these countries will become members of NATO" - but no time frame was given.

Many experts, including David Marples with the University of Alberta, say essentially two countries led the charge to postpone Georgian and Ukrainian NATO membership.

"There was clearly opposition from France and Germany to fast-track membership for Ukraine and Georgia," he said. "And those two countries are really more intent on maintaining good relations with Russia."

Russia's stance

Moscow has always been strongly opposed to NATO's eastward expansion. James Sherr, with the London-based research organization Chatham House, says there are two reasons for Russia's position, especially when it comes to Ukraine's NATO membership bid.

"Ukraine, for Russia, is not just a neighbor. Ukraine, for Russia, is part of Russia's own identity," he said. "Kiyev and Rus is the origin of the Russian as well as the Ukrainian state - that's the way Russians see it. So any movement by NATO into Ukraine is seen, at least emotionally, as a direct encroachment on Russia itself."

"And the second issue is that behind NATO they [the Russians] see the United States and U.S. power and they remain as convinced as in the past that it is in the U.S. national interest to weaken Russia as an authentically independent countervailing pole in the international system," he added.

During a recent trip to Ukraine, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden reaffirmed Ukraine's right to join NATO.

"The United States supports Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and freedom, and to make its own choices - its own choices - including what alliances they choose to belong," he said.

Biden made that same point during a trip to Georgia. Neither statement pleased Russian officials.

Chances of becoming members

David Kramer, former senior State Department official in the Bush administration, says both countries have to overcome numerous obstacles before becoming NATO members.

"Joining NATO means meeting the criteria for joining NATO - countries can't simply fill out an application and become a member the next day," he said. "They do have to undertake reforms that include political, economic as well as security reforms. And membership is a long process - it doesn't happen quickly."

"And so in some respects, in different areas, Georgia and Ukraine have made progress in these regards. But in other areas in other parts of reform, they have a long way to go. So membership for Ukraine and Georgia is not going to be in the offing anytime soon," he continued.

Ronald Suny, with the University of Chicago, sees other reasons why Georgia's and Ukraine's NATO membership bids are on the very, very distant back burner.

"Europe is very wary about this," he said. "The United States rhetorically still supports it, but no-one is pushing for it. And it would be extraordinarily difficult to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. These are countries which are not stable politically."

"The Georgians, particularly, need serious military reforms before they'll come up to NATO standards. And I think that since most Ukrainians are not, or a heavy percentage of Ukrainians are not in favor of it, that puts a damper on that side. And on the other side, Georgia is not a unified country, large parts of it now are occupied by the Russians who claim that these parts are independent states [Abkhazia and South Ossetia] - so I would say that this is not on the agenda," he added.

Experts say the debate has now shifted from a fast track approach for Georgia's and Ukraine's NATO membership - the "Membership Action Plan" concept - to "eventually" becoming a member of the Western alliance. But as several analysts have stressed - "eventually" can be a very long time.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs