(Slovakia's former Prime Minister, lawyer Jan Carnogursky, for RIA Novosti)
A little more than a year ago, the European Union had to decide on the Lisbon Treaty, which proposed changes to its internal structure.
The treaty gave Brussels the power to make many key decisions and abolished consensus. The loss of the right to veto seriously limited the authority of states, particularly small countries. The EU's propaganda machine was in full swing, and support for the treaty was considered politically correct for politicians and journalists.
The former Eastern bloc countries became its most enthusiastic supporters, with only Poland putting up some resistance until eventually giving in to Western pressure. Lech Kaczynski's ruling Law and Justice Party, which had definitely opposed the treaty, eventually voted in favor of it in the Sejm.
Slovak politicians did not even try to object. Deputies from the Slovak National Party (SNS), who position themselves as defenders of Slovak interests, voted for the treaty. Only the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) opposed it in the National Assembly, but this was a losing battle.
A referendum in Ireland took place later. Ireland is a small European country but its people have proved over the centuries that they are able to withstand the worst methods of British occupation to defend their independence. Irish self-respect is based on small but important victories over Britain as well as their incredible success in other countries, primarily in the United States, where many of them immigrated to. The Irish exercised their authority in the EU and said "no" to the treaty, thereby burying it, since the EU still operates on the basis of unanimity.
Surprisingly, Ireland was not subjected to any criticism or threats after the referendum. There was silence, although many heaved a sigh of relief after the Irish did everything for them.
For some time, Germany and French politicians discussed changes to the treaty and suggested a new voting on it, but it seems that this is not going to happen. After the recent parliamentary elections, the Austrians, for one, would not be happy about any attempts to limit their participation in the EU. The Irish have simply resolved this question for everyone.
The situation is now repeating itself with NATO's expansion. The Americans are pushing Georgia and Ukraine to join the body, and as with the Lisbon Treaty, it is now politically correct to support the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for these countries, the start of the process which would lead them into the alliance. This decision is more important than the Lisbon Treaty, and hence, there is even more need to find another Ireland and stop this process.
It is worth repeating that NATO's eastward expansion was a geopolitical mistake from the very start, as the late George Kennan and many other U.S. foreign policy authorities noted. It was also morally flawed.
By allowing NATO's eastward expansion, the United States broke the promise which was made to Mikhail Gorbachev first by President Ronald Reagan and later by President George H. W. Bush.
Pat Buchanan writes about this in detail, quoting different sources in his book A Republic Not an Empire (in the chapter "Courting a conflict with Russia").
At that time, the Soviet leaders were so naive and credulous with respect to the West that they did not even insist on putting this commitment in writing. It took The New York Times, one of the media sources that shape the Western mentality, a whole 15 years to admit that the West had broken its word. Now U.S. analysts are trying to justify their leaders' actions, saying that this was done at the request of Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, or Vytautas Landsbergis. Let the Lord judge them...
In politics, loyalty to one's promise is a special case, particularly in the United States.
At the meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club last September, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were told that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Russian politicians before the events in the Caucasus that Georgia would not be able to join NATO if it attacked South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Now this no longer applies.
Georgia and Ukraine's NATO entry would be an adventure for other reasons, as well. If they join NATO, they will have the right to be protected by the entire alliance in the event of an attack against them. Is Georgia going to join NATO with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, or will it enter it without these now independent countries?
Russia will soon deploy its military contingents and bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Does anyone think that it will be scared by Georgia's NATO entry, and will withdraw its forces from these states? If the Georgian president, be it Mikheil Saakashvili or someone else, again decides to consolidate his state's territorial integrity with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and attacks their territory, will the entire alliance help him? Will the Slovak soldiers, who are likely to be soon kicked out of Afghanistan along with other NATO troops, move to Georgia?
U.S. military interference is making the world a more chaotic place. The situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is questionable for the time being, but Saakashvili's encouragement to military action against South Ossetia has already cost thousands of lives and deteriorated the situation, first and foremost in Georgia.
Peace has always been fragile in the Caucasus, and Washington's attempts to oust Russia from the region are undermining it even more. Since 1990, South Ossetia has spoken out against being part of Georgia by an impressive majority at four referendums. NATO should not attempt to break this will of the Ossetian people. Those who want to expand Soviet Georgia territorially should not involve others in this adventure. Armed force has already failed to achieve this.
The situation with Ukraine is the same. We have been hearing for more than a decade that NATO is a democracy-defending military alliance. All public opinion polls, including those paid for with American money, show that more than 60% of Ukrainians are against joining NATO. When a NATO squadron wanted to make a friendly visit to a Crimean port, the local people staged such protests that the sailors could not even disembark.
Ukraine has remained unstable up to this day. By the end of 2008, it will have had three early elections. Since the Orange Revolution the country has had no strong power. The Americans are again pushing Ukraine into NATO.
During his visit to Kiev this year, U.S. President George W. Bush promised those Ukrainians who wanted to listen to him that Ukraine would be admitted into NATO. Germany and France blocked this intention, however, at the Bucharest summit several days later.
At the Valdai Discussion Club's meeting last September I was asked by a German participant why Slovakia did not support Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, who opposed the granting of the MAP to Georgia and Ukraine. I felt ashamed that I failed to provide an answer. Russia is not indifferent to the attempts to draw Ukraine into NATO against the will of its own people. Many in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea favor federalization, to say the least. Who will prohibit their regional parliaments from announcing the secession of these territories from Ukraine? Slovakia, which has separated from the Czech Republic, could share its experience with them.
Attempts to draw Ukraine into NATO are a part of a cynical game, primarily against the Ukrainians. Ukraine will have to stay away from geopolitical games for another 50 years, if not more, in order to grow stronger. It will gain nothing from joining NATO, although some American circles see this as part of the world's new geopolitical context, but Ukraine is threatened with disintegration even now. What if it falls apart as a NATO member? Will all NATO soldiers rush to unite it?
This is not academic discourse. The December NATO summit will decide whether Ukraine and Georgia will join the MAP. Many European countries are convinced that neither of these countries meets the NATO membership criteria, but nobody has said this out loud. Statements to this effect are being made in the media. The majority of the Valdai Club's Western members also feel the same way, but officially, not a single NATO country has opposed the granting of MAP invitations to Georgia and Ukraine.
Europe will breathe a sigh of relief when one country says that Georgia and Ukraine are not ready to join NATO and should not be given the MAP for that reason. Initially this statement will probably surprise some people, but most will express congratulations on the sly. After a short span of time, these congratulations will be made out loud.
It is a fact that Georgia and Ukraine do not meet the NATO membership criteria. But who will dare say it out in the open? Slovakia has the best chances of doing so. The Lisbon unanimity agreement does not yet operate in NATO. One negative vote is enough to stop Georgia and Ukraine from entering NATO. This would be a democratic move because it would be approved by the majority of Slovak citizens. Our country is an EU member and the EU would not object to this opinion. Georgia and Ukraine's entry into NATO would create a host of problems for Europe, and we would be protecting it by making this step. There is no doubt that it would enhance Slovakia's prestige in the eyes of Russia and would help Russia overcome its mistrust of the EU, both very good results. Most importantly, Slovakia would become an authoritative mediator between western and southeastern Europe.
We must have the courage to make this move.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.