Saturday, March 29, 2008

Germany says "Halt!"

Germany has a different perspective that the United States,
being as they are in the neighborhood and all.

Next week, when the NATO summit gets underway in Bucharest (good Gawd, I never thought I would ever say that with a straight face) aWol Bush will swagger in and try to bully our allies into admitting former Soviet bloc nations, regardless of how much unnecessary strain that move would put on relations with Russia.

Fortunately, Germany is standing in the way (that's another thing I never thought I would ever say and mean).

From Spiegel Online:

German objections dominate the debate over NATO expansion in the final days leading up the military alliance's summit meeting in the Romanian capital Bucharest. James Goldgeier, a member of the National Security Council in the administration of former US President Bill Clinton, told SPIEGEL ONLINE: "I am amazed at how openly the current differences between Berlin and Washington are being aired. In February it was the German role in Afghanistan. Now it's about the issue of NATO expansion, in which Germany quite openly orchestrated the resistance to Ukraine and Georgia. This is relatively unusual in advance of this sort of summit."

Romania's Ceausescu-era parliament building in Bucharest will host next week's NATO summit.

Romania's Ceausescu-era parliament building in Bucharest will host next week's NATO summit.

Goldgeier's words ring especially true when one considers the importance of the issue for the Bush administration. NATO expansion is one of the few strategies it took over almost seamlessly from the Clinton administration. "Bush absolutely wanted to get the acceptance process for Georgia and Ukraine underway in Bucharest," says Goldgeier.

A clear signal that things will not go quite as smoothly as Bush had hoped was the discussion among foreign policy and security experts at the Brussels Forum, sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, less than two weeks ago. Moderator Ronald Asmus, who, as a senior official in the Clinton administration in the 1990s, played a key role in the initial push to expand NATO eastward, opened the meeting by calling EU and NATO expansion an historic success. Asmus went on to rave about how the map of Europe had been redrawn, and praised the joint tour de force by Europeans and Americans.

But moving on from the "glorious past" and returning t0 a shaky present and looking to a less-than-certain future, the "elephant in the room" is the fact that the bloom is of the NATO and EU membership rose.

Next week at the summit, membership invitations will be extended to Macedonia, Croatia and Albania. The question in the balance is, should overtures be made to Georgia and Ukraine, indicating membership invitations will be extended in the near future?
In addressing the conundrum, Asmus' tone quickly turned from jubilant to sober. Would the United States be able to achieve these goals, he asked the group apprehensively? There are already many critics today, he added, critics like the Germans. "An official from the German foreign ministry told me recently that he couldn't think of one member of the foreign affairs committee of the German Bundestag who supports the initiation of NATO membership negotiations with Ukraine and Georgia," Asmus said.

Many Germans were sitting in the audience -- and agreed with Asmus' characterization. Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman of the conservative Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) parliamentary group, was only too willing to list Germany's concerns. In Ukraine, he said, large segments of the population oppose the idea of NATO membership. And Georgia, with its internal conflicts? "We don't want another Cyprus in NATO," said von Klaeden, referring to the Mediterranean country's division into Turkish and Greek regions.

Now far be it from me to appease Russia. But far be it from me to borrow trouble, too. And admitting either or both of those nations to NATO has the potential for alliance-threatening turmoil in the future. One Cyprus is enough.

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