Are NATO expansion plans smart?

Now that Russia has finally gotten belligerent after many a provocation, one has to ask whether the U.S. NATO expansion plans have been wise. Basically, the U.S. has tried to offer every Eastern Bloc country it could safe harbor under NATO auspices.

From Russia’s point of view this has all been done in order to strip away Russia’s traditional sphere of influence and bring these countries under U.S. hegemonic control. One reason for the souring of US-Russian diplomatic relations has been Putin’s anger at this power grab. Now, Russia is fighting back and we can see that the dangerous NATO expansion may be near an end.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the fighting was a response to Georgia’s assault on Russian citizens and the peacekeepers Russia has had in the disputed region since the early 1990s. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili called it a “well-planned invasion” and appealed for international help. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said “war has started.”

The conflict “absolutely” dooms Georgia’s chances for North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership, said Robert Hunter, U.S. ambassador to the Brussels-based alliance under President Bill Clinton and now a senior adviser at the policy- research group RAND Corp. in Washington. “You don’t bring in a country that has this sort of trouble.”

Rice Works Phone

As those hopes evaporated, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice worked the phones with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and planned to send an envoy to broker a cease-fire between the sides. President George W. Bush, attending the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games yesterday, said the U.S. backed the “territorial integrity” of Georgia. The U.S. asked Russia to withdraw its combat forces.

The European Union joined efforts to stop the conflict, though help may not be as forthcoming as Saakashvili wants in part because of European dependence on Russian energy supplies.

“Countries like Germany and France were already resistant to the idea of giving a NATO security guarantee to a country with an open dispute with Russia,” said Dominic Fean, a researcher at the French Institute of International Affairs in Paris. “I can’t see how they can get the consensus of 26 states anytime soon.”

Georgia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Vasiil Sikharulidze, told Bloomberg Television the conflict would make NATO entry for the country harder, “but we are strongly convinced we have to continue this way and that we will be a NATO member.”

Bloomberg, 8 Aug 2008

Expect more of the same type of belligerent and ill-advised power grabs under John McCain. However, we can now see the result.

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