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    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (right) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg are seen here after a meeting of the Defense and Security Council of Ukraine

    Top US Think Tank Says NATO Must Swallow Up Georgia, Macedonia, Bosnia & Ukraine

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    Next week, NATO will hold its Brussels summit. Ahead of the meeting, the Heritage Foundation, an influential DC think tank, proposed keeping further NATO enlargement on the table for Georgia, Macedonia, and Bosnia, while also keeping Ukraine on ice. Russian observers say the think tank's advice signals the Trump administration's plans.

    The North Atlantic Alliance will hold its next summit in Brussels on May 25. US President Donald Trump will be in attendance. Among the key issues of the summit will be the distribution of responsibilities between NATO allies in the fight against international terrorism.

    However, on the eve of the summit, the Heritage Foundation, a highly influential Washington-based think tank thought to be one of the Trump White House's key allies, signaled that NATO enlargement must also be an another important issue for Washington. 

    In its report, the think tank stresses that Washington "should continue to support NATO's open-door policy" for "deserving European countries." Pointing out that Macedonia, Bosnia and Georgia are now the "three official membership candidates," the report's authors add that NATO must "keep the door open" for Ukraine in the long term.

    While admitting that NATO membership is "not currently a realistic option" for Kiev, the report nonetheless emphasizes that "Russia should never be seen as having a veto over a potential country's membership in NATO, including Ukraine." In fact, the report says, Moscow should not have a veto over any country's decision to join the Western alliance. "Just because a country was once occupied by the Soviet Union or under the domination of the Russian Empire does not mean it is blocked from joining the Alliance in perpetuity," Heritage notes.

    Commenting on the report's recommendations, political commentator and RIA Novosti contributor Igor Pshenichnikov suggested that it reads like a manual for those to whom it is addressed –i.e. the Trump White House. "The instructions are written in such a way as to avoid the implication that there are any alternatives. The reader cannot help getting the impression that this is Washington's official position." 

    As for the Heritage Foundation's point about Russia and its lack of "veto power" in the post-Soviet space, Pshenichnikov noted this bit is addressed to Moscow, as well.

    Over the next several weeks, Montenegro is expected to become NATO's 29th full member, having completed all the formal procedures for admission. With the help of his patrons in Washington and Brussels, the country's long-time leader Milo Dukanovic first pushed through a referendum on the country's secession from Serbia (in 2006), and then, last year, fixed parliamentary elections in such a way so that the 'right' candidates made it into parliament, and voted in favor of the country's accession into the Western alliance.

    Pshenichnikov pointed out that "the fact that Montenegrins held mass demonstrations demanding a national referendum on the issue didn't seem to concern anyone. Rather, it was a concern, but only in the sense that the vast majority of Montenegrins are pro-Russian, and because the outcome of the referendum would be predictably negative. Therefore, Dukanovic led his country into NATO not in the direct and honest way – through a popular referendum, but through the back door – through an obedient parliament."

    Anti-NATO demonstrators hold a banner during a protest outside the hall before the parliament session in Cetinje, Montenegro, Friday, April 28, 2017
    © AP Photo/ Risto Bozovic
    Anti-NATO demonstrators hold a banner during a protest outside the hall before the parliament session in Cetinje, Montenegro, Friday, April 28, 2017

    As for the Heritage Foundation, the think tank emphasized that "while it may be tempting to view Montenegro's accession to NATO as a closing ceremony for enlargement, that would be a substantial mistake. It is in America's interest that NATO's door remains open to deserving European countries." These include Georgia, Macedonia and Bosnia, with Ukraine a prospect for the distant future, according to the think tank.

    Georgia, Macedonia, and Bosnia, With Ukraine in Tow

    The Heritage Foundation recalls that Georgia was first promised eventual membership in NATO at the 2008 summit in Bucharest. The report blames France and Germany for blocking the country from receiving a Membership Action Plan (MAP). It accuses Russia of "invading" the country in 2008, and emphasizes that Georgia is an exemplary and loyal non-NATO ally to the US, having contributed thousands of troops and peacekeepers to missions in Iraq, the Balkans, Africa and Afghanistan.

    Georgian soldiers stand in formation during the inauguration ceremony of the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center at the Krtsanisi military training base, outside Tbilisi, on August 27, 2015
    © AP Photo/ VANO SHLAMOV
    Georgian soldiers stand in formation during the inauguration ceremony of the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center at the Krtsanisi military training base, outside Tbilisi, on August 27, 2015

    In Macedonia's case, the report notes that that country had completed its MAP requirements back in 2008, and would have been invited to join the alliance, were it not for Greece, which vetoed the country's accession over its name. Greece considers the name 'Macedonia' to belong to Greece, and continues to block the country's accession. "In other words," Pshenichnikov wrote, "the next signal by Washington is aimed at Greece. Athens is being told to resolve its dispute with Macedonia and to stop holding up its accession to NATO."

    Bosnia is the next prospective candidate, having been granted its MAP in 2010. However, this is a hitch, or what Heritage calls the "additional challenge" of the former Yugoslav republic's "internal politics." The report points to problems in Republika Srpska, Bosnia's ethnically Serb region, but does not elaborate.

    The "problem," Pshenichnikov noted, "is that Serbs, whether in Serbia or in Republika Srpska, are strongly opposed to NATO. Serbs were the main victims of NATO bombing campaigns, and they have been proclaimed by the collective West as being the guilty party for the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The country's bid for NATO membership was filed by the country's other part – the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina."

    In this photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Bosnian man passes by flags of Bosnia's Serb mini state Republic of Srpska and t-shirt with photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, 240 kms (150 miles) northwest of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo
    © AP Photo/ Radivoje Pavicic
    In this photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Bosnian man passes by flags of Bosnia's Serb mini state Republic of Srpska and t-shirt with photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, 240 kms (150 miles) northwest of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo

    Finally, there is Ukraine. Heritage writes: "In light of Russia's aggression, the Ukrainian people have demonstrated, whether on the streets of the Maidan or through the ballot box, that they see their future allied with the West, not under Russian domination. This is especially true under the leadership of Petro Poroshenko."

    Noting that it is obvious that Washington strategists have long been engaged in drawing Kiev closer to Washington, Pshenichnikov added that they are simultaneously playing it safe and "keeping the country at a distance," accounting for an expectedly sharp Russian reaction. Naturally, the analyst wrote, "reading between the lines, Ukraine would have been accepted into NATO a long time ago" were it not for Moscow. "This is the golden dream of all Russophobes – to sever the blood bonds between Russia and Ukraine."

    Ukraine's National Guard soldiers during combat training developed by NATO at a training ground in the Zolochevsky District, Lviv Region.
    © Sputnik/
    Ukraine's National Guard soldiers during combat training developed by NATO at a training ground in the Zolochevsky District, Lviv Region.

    Ultimately, the journalist believes that for now, Washington will be unlikely to make any brazen attempt at further expansion in the former Soviet space, particularly as far as Ukraine is concerned. "Rather, they will wait for a moment when Russia will weaken and become unable to object to Ukraine's entry into NATO. But there is also a view out there that they may end up waiting forever."

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    expert analysis, NATO membership, membership, NATO, Bosnia, Georgia, United States, Ukraine, Russia, Macedonia
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