NATO and the United States are launching talks on the Caucasus. The European Union (EU) has already held them.
As always, the UN will hold the longest discussions of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. In the meantime, NATO foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, August 19, at Washington's request. Their task is to decide what to do about Russia and how to approach it.
Desperate to leave some meaningful legacy, George W. Bush has one aim - to cut the Russia of Putin and Medvedev to size for crushing small Georgia. Georgia's defense is the defense of a minor country and of democracy in general the world over. This is the recent refrain of many U.S. songs.
Before Bush, some U.S. politicians have tried to push on the allies another refrain in the vein of JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner," adjusted for today "We are now Georgians." But it did not work. The Washington Post is critical of Bush and even more so of Russia, but it still wrote: "Are we all Georgians now? Not too fast."
In the past few years, France and Germany have been considered counterweighs to the White House's frequently unbalanced position toward Moscow, but on the eve of the NATO consultations, they lashed out at Russia.
Right after her visit to Tbilisi to meet with Mikheil Saakashvili, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced, on August 17, her support for Georgia's NATO entry.
In a letter to Le Monde on August 18, French President Nicolas Sarkozy demanded that Moscow immediately start troop withdrawals from Georgia consistent with the Medvedev-Sarkozy principles, or he would be forced to call an emergency session of the European Council. His statement sounded almost like an ultimatum.
Dmitry Medvedev announced that troop withdrawal would begin August 18 and informed Sarkozy about it the day before in a telephone conversation. The letter in Le Monde was published post factum. It was bound to appear because right-wing activists in France, the United States, and their new soul mates in the ex-Eastern bloc from NATO and the EU showered Sarkozy with criticism for his trip to Moscow and his elaboration of the six principles of Caucasian settlement. They accused him of losing his bearings. The published letter was designed to show that he was still part of the team.
In Merkel's case, everything proved to be simpler than it first seemed. German journalists were also perplexed by her support of Georgia's NATO entry. She said that "Georgia will become a NATO member if it wants to, and it does." Journalists asked her when she had changed her position. At the April NATO summit in Berlin, she seemed to oppose membership. Merkel explained that she never opposed Georgia's NATO entry but that the problem was the timing.
Her press agency reported: "The issue we discussed was whether the Membership Action Plan (MAP) could be launched by a specific date or not. I cannot answer this question now, either. In December, we will review the issue, but we are firmly moving toward [Georgia's] membership."
Merkel confirmed these events at the Bucharest summit. The question of Georgian and Ukrainian membership is only a matter of time. They have been not denied membership. The NATO ministers will resume the discussion of the issue on August 19. The White House is doing much to persuade them take a resolution on Georgia's admission to the bloc without any reservations, if not on welcoming it with the MAP phase.
But even if they decide to do so, this will only be a tribute to Bush's persistent demands. Georgia will not be able to join the bloc any sooner than five years from now, if that. Ukraine will not become a member until 2017 when its Sevastopol naval base treaty with Russia expires. NATO does not admit countries which have non-NATO military bases. So, Russia will have enough time to prepare for NATO's inevitable extension.
It is not yet clear what else to expect from NATO ministers at this meeting. Some sources report that Washington will insists on fulfilling Saakashvili's request to send NATO military observers into the country to monitor Russia's activities there. But this would be hard to justify. Besides, after the bombing of Yugoslavia, Russia is unlikely to accept NATO's presence in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. The second proposal is the possible liquidation of the Russia-NATO Council, which has operated since 2002. It has been engaged in minor issues of coordinating anti-terrorist actions and general cooperation. If it is dissolved, this will be a symbolic act only.
The ministers are also likely to endorse NATO's "humanitarian aid" to Georgia and even help in upgrading its military infrastructure and armed forces.
Georgia's official invitation to join NATO, if it takes place, will only confirm the validity of Russia's actions. Three Black Sea nations - Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania - are already NATO members; with Georgia and Ukraine making five, the Black Sea will turn into "Lake NATO." Even the Mediterranean has less NATO control. All post-Soviet division of influence was done in a state of political hangover, but there were still hopes for disputes. At this point, regional influence will be sealed, and Moscow will have to forget about any claims it believes it has on its neighbors.
The gist of the problem is that NATO and Russia are moving toward open confrontation. Russia has no problem with Ukraine's or Georgia's independence but it is concerned about their policies, and even more so, about those who direct their policies. These are Russia's next door neighbors. This is not strictly a Russian reaction, but rather the basics of any country's foreign policy.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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