On the northern side of the dual carriageway leading from Brussels towards Zaventem Airport there’s an enormous no-mans land. A billboard resplendent with an artist’s impression dotted with light, glass and smiling people announces this is to be the site of the new NATO Headquarters, due to be opening in 2012.

Rather optimistic one would have thought – there is no way the builiding is going to be constructed without the concrete barriers, razor wire and general security paranoia that dominates the approach to the current HQ on the other side of the road. Perhaps rather presumptuous also. What is the point of NATO presently?

NATO membership questions have been rumbling behind the scenes regarding the current conflict in Georgia. If a membership action plan had been offered to Georgia would we be where we are now with the conflict? Michael Williams, writing in The Guardian, lays the blame squarely with France and Germany for not having given Georgia a route towards entry. If Georgia were a member and was attacked then other NATO members would be bound to come to Georgia’s defence – ‘an armed attack against one or more of them […] shall be considered an attack against them all‘.

But it’s never going to get to that stage. The USA can have a whinge that European countries are not paying enough attention to Russia, and that the EU is divided on its approach, but at the same time the USA is trying its own divide and rule tactics with EU countries over visas. Plus the USA is not dependent on Russian gas in the way much of Europe is.

Most importantly we are not in the middle of the Cold War – there’s no ideological reason for intervention, and there’s absolutely no stomach for intervention in the conflict in Georgia among the populations of European countries and the USA, prospect of NATO membership or not.

As for my position about the conflict, well that’s starting to change. When I wrote my previous post it looked like the conflict was limited to South Ossetia. That has changed for sure. Saakashvili seems to have been headstrong, but the Russian approach has been disproportionate – it was not to re-establish the pre-conflict position, but to push on well into Georgia. I wonder how the world’s leaders will react to that. With a shrug and a whimper I suppose.


  1. James Rogers

    The Russian war against Georgia shows us two things:

    (1) The Americans were right; had Georgia gained MAP status at Bucharest, this war wouldn’t have occurred. (a) Russia would not have attacked, knowing that it could pull all of NATO in; (b) NATO would have had far more influence over Georgian policy, meaning that it would have counselled against Saakashvili’s mistaken move into his country’s renegade province.

    (2) Countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy (and a myriad of others) no longer contribute much to the defence of the Atlantic Alliance or the EU. Only those countries which actually pay for the collective defence of Western civilisation should be able to decide who, and who doesn’t, get to join NATO. In other words, only the USA, UK and France should be allowed the ultimate decision. They are the only countries that matter (because they have nuclear weapons and expeditionary forces): and it is they who would have to sacrifice most in a war.

  2. Keep in mind that having a MAP vs. a NATO membership are two distinct legal positions. If Georgia were to be given a MAP in Bucharest, NATO still would not have been required to assist it in the current conflict.

    Whether NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine should be off the table is open for debate. Offering a MAP should still, however, be considered especially in light of Russian control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Should that continue to be the case and Georgia renounces claims on those territories, do you think its application for membership would be stronger or will that make no difference in the eyes of Merkel and Sarkozy?

  3. Names too, for that matter. Sorry.

    The idea of extending NATO membership to Georgia would be dangerous, for two main reasons.

    One, it would have given the Georgian government backup to wage a civil war that can draw in Russia. Which it has tried all the same. Two, it would have destroyed the meaning of NATO – mutual defence – because we are poorly capable and completely unwilling to defend Georgia. Which was shown all too clearly.

    In the aftermath of this small war, NATO membership for Georgia and the Ukraine should be off the table.

  4. Sorry, should have emphasised – that’s not my position, but what I think is happening.

    From my own point of view I think the EU has its energy policy wrong, making it too reliant on Russian gas, and hence geopoitically weak in this case.

  5. …but judging how weedy Europe is towards Russia there’s no way Georgia will be allowed in any time soon. Western Europe does not really care about Georgia, NATO or no NATO.

  6. I think if Georgia had been in NATO when this whole thing started, Russia would have been much, much more reluctant to intervene, becausde it knows it would lose, and lose badly in a war against NATO.

  7. Reality is a fickle thing in war, John. In the mean while it looks like we have a cease fire, courtesy of Medvedev and Sarkozy. And the reports of Russians rushing towards Tblisi were definitely exaggerated. At times much of the media was simply taking over the statements of the Georgians, which also led AFOE (which previously correctly predicted that it would soon be over) astray.

    Then again, by this time tomorrow I might be eating those words…

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