Thursday, March 13, 2008
Merkel's NATO Criteria -- And Craddock's Concern
In a speech that has gotten very little coverage in the U.S. media, the German chancellor, without naming any countries in particular, laid out her view of the criteria that should guide invitations to join NATO.
1) "A country should become a NATO member not only when its temporary political leadership is in favour but when a significant percentage of the population supports membership."
2) "Countries that are themselves entangled in regional conflicts, can in my opinion not become members."
The first criterion seems to be directed at Ukraine, where a majority of the population opposes or is ambivalent about NATO membership. The second seems to encompass both Georgia (with its ongoing separatist problems) and Macedonia (with its continuing dispute over its name with Greece).
France also seems interested in postponing expansion issues--not ruling them out at Bucharest, certainly, but making no commitments either.
With less than a month to go to the summit, these unresolved issues make the outcome of that meeting unpredictable.
Meanwhile, at a Congressional hearing yesterday, when most of the sentiment seemed to revolve around expanding NATO because of the political signals it sends, NATO's commander General John Craddock sounded a cautionary note--yes, the alliance should be open to expansion, but existing and prospective members had to be prepared to shoulder actual responsibilities. “In this transitional period, I’m concerned about the alliance’s collective ability to match its political will to its level of ambition,” Craddock told the committee.
That didn't seem to resonate, though.
As you surely know, Merkel's 2 criteria simply reiterate NATO's own membership criteria officially adopted in 1994. The real question is not, 'why does she say this', but 'why do so many people seem to be forgetting NATO's standards?'.
The whole point of the "no border disputes, no unresolved ethnic conflicts" criterion was to keep NATO from getting dragged into dangerous quarrels by new members. It could be waived for trivial quarrels that aren't much danger. But not when it means getting drawn into a conflict not just with some small country but with Russia.
Perversly, some people waive this standard specifically for this reason; they argue that if Russia is opposed to letting Georgia in, then we have to do it in order to show that we won't let Russia influence us, as that would only encourage Russia to bully Georgia further (as in the Washington Post's editorial on the subject). What this reiterates is not anything proper for today's NATO's, but Cold War lines of thinking, or perhaps more accurately, not lines but vicious circles of thinking when it comes to Russia.
The "Old Europe" allies in NATO tried to save US from disaster in Iraq. The constraint of the alliance on the American freedom of action that you allude to is not intrinsically a bad thing; it prevents fantasy projects seeing the light of day and becoming the disasters of Vietnam & Iraq.