As NATO's summit opened April 2 in Bucharest, the United States remained dedicated to moving Georgia and Ukraine to the next level of NATO participation, despite signs of inflexible European opposition.
Before the official opening of the Atlantic alliance gathering, US President George W. Bush kept up his drumbeat of support for Georgia and Ukraine, offering a strong endorsement for the two countries' accession hopes. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "We must make clear that NATO welcomes the aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine for membership in NATO, and offers them a clear path forward toward that goal," Bush said.
Georgia has struggled mightily to convince NATO members that it should be offered a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the summit, and the Americans have been their strongest backers. A MAP is the last qualifying step for NATO aspirants before an offer of membership.
NATO members are divided on the issue. Several European countries, led by Germany and France, are firmly against giving Georgia a MAP at this time. Other countries that reportedly oppose awarding MAPs to Georgia and Ukraine include the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Norway, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Portugal. In addition to the United States and Great Britain, Canada, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic have all come out in public support of Ukraine and Georgia.
In Bucharest, US officials will focus their lobbying efforts on German leaders. The consensus belief among American policymakers is that if they can convince the Germans to change their position, then the rest of the opposition will collapse, according to one US government official who spoke to EurasiaNet on condition of anonymity. The official also insisted that Bush's public advocacy on behalf of Georgia and Ukraine is genuine, and not a pose.
"The president, both privately and publicly, he is 100 percent behind this effort for Georgia and Ukraine and he'll give it his best shot," the official said. "The fact that he went to Kyiv is important; he met with [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili two weeks ago here [in Washington]. He's wholeheartedly behind this endeavor."
The United States is worried that the Georgian government, in particular, which has invested so much energy in joining NATO, may be fatally wounded by a failure this week to get a MAP. "I think the Ukrainians could withstand a
Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.