Monday, April 16, 2007

No Debate Continued ...

Last week, the president signed legislation that calls for the “timely admission” of Georgia, Ukraine, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007 allocates funds to assist these countries in their bids to join the alliance. This legislation passed by broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress, and brought together members of the legislature who otherwise never stand shoulder to shoulder on other foreign policy issues—including Iraq.

Once again, the United States has committed itself to expanding NATO with almost no debate about costs or consequences. Whereas the creation of the alliance itself back in the 1940s was hotly and vigorously discussed, the extension of NATO’s geographic reach as well as its commitments to new states is now apparently not a matter for serious dialogue. Why?

I made some inquiries, and received back a number of different answers.

Many seemed to support this legislation for “symbolic” reasons—wanting to demonstrate that any state that meets the criteria should be free to apply, sending a signal that no other country—especially Russia—should have a veto power on who joins the alliance, other conveying concern that these states are in a dangerous region of the world and need protection (again especially from a resurgent Russia). Some of those who supported this bill point to the “trap doors” it contains which do not automatically bind Washington to seeing that these countries become part of NATO—such as provisions about countries fulfilling democratic criteria, continuing with reforms, or actually wanting to join the alliance.

As we have seen, however, symbolic legislation—such as bills passed on Iraq in 1998—can often lay the foundation for actual policy. The message that is being sent is that, barring their own failure, these countries will be brought into NATO.

Another point is that many of those who supported the legislation have very ambivalent views on the reality of the “Russian threat.” On the one hand, Russia is said to be a major problem and that these countries must be given the opportunity to join NATO in order to check Moscow’s regional ambitions. At the same time, many did not feel that there would ever actually be a major confrontation between Russia and NATO. There seemed to be a sense that this was a “no-cost” process—that extending security guarantees would not generate burdensome new obligations for the United States.

Others fall into what I call the “Bosnia delusion”—that outside security guarantees solve a country’s internal divisions. This is especially clear in the case of Georgia—where progress toward NATO membership is taken as the pre-requisite for restoring the country’s territorial integrity (rather than vice-versa). Again, there is little or no discussion of the costs and risks of such an approach.

You're correct; the admission of Georgia, Ukraine, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia is a lunatic delusion.
Hard for a politician to resist. If you vote against it you are voting against freedom. So of course you vote for freedom. Don't ask about costs, don't ask about obligations.
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