Στο πλάισιο σεμιναρίου Βαλκανικών σπουδών του Fletcher, κληθήκαμε να ετοιμάσουμε υπόμνημα προς το State Department.Ευλογώντας τα γένια μου, ήμουν μπροστά, κυρίως σε ότι αφορά στη Ρωσία. Και επιμένω ότι για την Αμερική, είναι μονόδρομος να συνεργαστεί με τη Ρωσία αν θέλει να συνεχίσει να παίζει ηγετικό ρόλο στις διεθνείς εξελίξεις, ειδικά για να ανιμετωπίσει τις προκλήσεις σον αραβικό κόσμο και την κεντρική Ασία.
This Memorandum deals with the current US challenges associated with the NATO Enlargement and shall consist of two main parts: (i) a comprehensive analysis of proposed overall policies and objectives and (ii) a number of in concreto recommendations with regard to the upcoming 60th Anniversary NATO Summit in April.
I. Strategic Objectives
The Bucharest Summit was a straight backlash of the major European allies against US attempt to implement its aggressive Enlargement policy. This reaction should not be attributed to an urgent, spontaneous reflection of resentment to the previous Administration; in contrary, its roots are based deeply on a number of issues that pose serious risks to NATO’s long-term cohesion. These issues shall be identified below and define US short-term and long-term proposed policies.
- Identification of problems/challenges
(a) Need for collective “legitimization”: US has been rigorously attempting to promote its Enlargement agenda with regard to Georgia, Ukraine and countries of Western Balkans (Albania, Croatia and Macedonia) disregarding the disagreement of its major European allies (UK, France and Germany) with regard to former Soviet countries, as well as objections raised by Greece against Macedonia’s candidacy. US must engage in serious diplomatic discourse with regard to its agenda before it puts again in the table a proposal that might be rejected. Following the Kosovo attack and the invasion of Iraq, there is a call in the international community for a more active participation of all major allies in decision-making. This also applies in an analogous manner with regard to the Enlargement project: a dynamic expansion policy of NATO to Georgia and Ukraine needs to be decided in a clearly unanimous manner. A strong and cohesive collective decision by a number of major allies (apparently including, but not limited to, UK, Germany and France) would “legitimize” the geopolitical consequences of such expansion in the eyes of the global community and discourage Russia’s opposition.
(b) Acknowledgement of Russia’s invigorated status: Russia should no longer be considered a post-Soviet failed state or a former superpower that is now deprived of real influence. The previous administration failed to acknowledge early enough that Russia is now able to stand on its own feet and promote its own security agenda by influencing its neighbours. The recent Kyrgyzstan’s decision to close the Manas US base after receiving a generous aid package from the Kremlin demonstrates Russian’s increasing power. Moreover, Russia’s invasion in South Ossetia and the recognition of the independence of the latter (as well as Abkhazia’s) is indicative of its intentions to claim exclusive ‘spheres of influence’ that would cover, for the time being, all regions that were formally included within the Soviet territories. This upgraded geopolitical status of Russia has been acknowledged by EU, which faced recently for the second time the consequences of the energy crisis due to its dependence on Russia’s resources. To this end, EU seems to be more sensitive to Russia’s claims and less eager to engage in actions that could be regarded as aggressive by Russia in a geopolitical context (such as an immediate admission of Georgia and Ukraine in NATO without prior consultations with Russia).
(c) EU Security Policy and possible future self-contained and detached attitude: The previous Administration seemed to undermine the long-term challenges posed by the prospect of a united Europe that shall develop an autonomous security policy. The Lisbon Treaty is a first step to this direction and, regardless of whether it will be adopted in the end, surely reflects the intentions of major European countries to extricate EU from the protective umbrella of a ‘tutelary’ US.
(d) Shortcuts of membership: A new debate has arisen lately on whether NATO should offer to candidate members (in essence, Georgia and Ukraine) something more than partnership, but still less than membership. It has been argued that this approach would face fewer objections by European allies and not provoke Russia. US should dismiss a scheme that would encompass various levels of affiliation with NATO around a nucleus that would consist of NATO members, at least with regard to states that are already considered candidates. NATO should establish a permanent presence in Caucasus and dominate in Black Sea and this could only be achieved with guaranteeing, even with some delay, full membership to Ukraine and Georgia. Any other shortcuts of membership would let both countries vulnerable to the constant threat of Russia and would, in the long run, put at stake their commitment to NATO’s objectives.
- Long-term policy analysis
(a) Adoption of a new inclusive approach with regard to Russia: Russia strongly opposes NATO’s Enlargement, because it regards it as an expansion of US influence in areas that are vital for its geopolitical considerations. US should highlight the common threats that both NATO members and Russia face at the time (terrorism, economic crisis that could induce destabilization in many weak countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Middle East instability, climate change, energy security), as well as potential future threats (emergence of new global superpowers in Asia, i.e., China and India). It would be both to NATO’s and Russia’s interests to develop a common security scheme that would extent to the whole Eurasian region. Although this may not lead to full NATO membership, Russia’s unique geopolitical location makes it mandatory for US to try to include it in an active and meaningful partnership scheme. That would also mean giving Russia a limited de facto veto right with regard to deployment of military forces within particular areas (such as former Soviet countries). Such a concession would be justified, if Russia demonstrated genuine and constant eagerness to co-operate with NATO in developing a common security agenda.
(b) Sustain Europe’s main security agenda within NATO: US should pay close attention to Europe’s aspirations for a Common Foreign and Defense Policy that, after all, is an express pillar of the EU system. It speaks for itself that an autonomous EU security agenda would be at least competitive, not to mention antagonistic, to NATO’s objectives. It is of crucial importance to use US closest allies within EU (namely, UK and Poland) as Trojan horses to avoid such a problematic evolution. If EU could rise up to a self-contained security scheme, then third States might be tempted to accept admission only to the EU and reject affiliation with NATO. Apparently, that would devastate any reasonable plans for NATO’s future Enlargement and even discourage Russia from entering in partnership with NATO.
(c) Develop new expansion agenda with regard to Central Asia and Caucasus: US should develop a new Enlargement policy that would include Central Asia and the other Caucasus states (Armenia and Azerbaijan). Given the geopolitical importance of these regions and their rich natural resources, US should establish, sooner rather than later, a constant presence in the area. The territorial proximity of these states with China, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the profound Islamic culture of some of them, may make it appealing to them to develop closer ties with rival constituencies of the global chessboard. US should now start planning a sustainable Enlargement policy in these regions that presupposes consultations with Russia. Although this is not a first priority objective, still the US should commit itself in this perspective and try benefit from the current Russia’s lack of the essential ideological appeal and soft power to influence the major countries of the region, i.e., Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
- Short-term and mid-term objectives:
(a) Make a counter-offer to Russia: US should engage in open-minded bargain with Russia and promote NATO’s Enlargement by making a counter-offer. US should explicitly dismiss the ‘spheres of influence’ theory presented by Russia and insist in full membership of both Georgia and Ukraine. At the same time, US should use as leverage its planned missile defence system in Central Europe and prepare to make concessions in exchange to Russia’s tolerance in Georgia’s and Ukraine’s admission in NATO. To this end, US should permit the active involvement of Russia in a formation of a common missiles shield that would diminish any sense of threat to Russia’s national security and underscore the common threat that Iran may pose to both, if the latter insists in developing its unsupervised nuclear program.
(b) Offer MAP to Georgia and Ukraine: US must consult with Russia and its allies prior to offering a MAP within a concrete time-framework to both countries. Accordingly, their membership should be pursued as mid-term objective; for the time being, both countries should be given incentives to carry on reforms in their defence and security policies to adjust to NATO’s standards and also to avoid unilateral aggressive actions that could provoke Russia’s response.
(c) Placate minimal concerns: US prestige was somewhat damaged by the veto raised by a traditional ally, though not a major power, Greece, with regard to Macedonia’s future admission in NATO. This is a minor, but still existing, issue that escaped the attention of the previous Administration. US should not allow its hegemonic profile within NATO to be spoiled by issues of minimal importance. With regard to this particular issue, US must send an unconditional clear message that this is a bilateral dispute that cannot put at stakes NATO’s Enlargement policy with regard to a state in volatile political situation facing internal national conflicts. An ideal two-pronged short-term policy would include: (i) putting pressure on both sides to resolve their dispute with regard to the name of the State of Macedonia within a concrete time-framework, despite their pending case before the International Court of Justice; and (ii) soothing Greek sensitivities by stating that US will adapt to the outcome of the bilateral negotiations and support the admission of Macedonia in NATO under the new name that will be agreed by the two states.
(d) Actively promote NATO Enlargement in the rest of Balkans and Black Sea: US should forward as a mid-term objective a new expansion agenda to include Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro and Moldova in NATO structures. The admission of these countries in NATO – being trans-conflict regions that still face internal destabilizing challenges - should be prioritized by the US and would lead to an establishment of a permanent and influential US presence in the Balkans. Especially, with regard to Kosovo, US must capitalize its active support of the state’s independence that due to its small capabilities and lack of resources could serve as long-term proxy of the US in the area. NATO’s enlargement in both countries would eliminate re-emerging nationalistic trends and impose political stability and peace in the area. Serbia poses totally different challenges to US, due to NATO’s air strikes and intervention in Kosovo in 1999. It is the only case where US should accept EU going first and imposing its own agenda. In the long run, despite its close relationships with Russia, Serbia will be encircled by NATO members and will be compelled to start rethinking its security options; the prevailing anti-American sentiments of the Serbian population are expected to fade out over time, under the condition that US shall be actively involved in strengthening local institutions and building up closer ties with the current Western-friendly government of Boris Tadić.
II. Specific Recommendations
The 60th Anniversary NATO Summit taking place in Germany (Baden-Baden and Kehl) and France (Strasbourg) will be the first visit of the US President in Europe and provide him with an opportunity to convene private meetings and engage in public diplomacy. Taken into account that last NATO Summit in Bucharest was characterized by the US failure to promote its NATO Enlargement policy, this Summit is a unique challenge for the President to mark a new era of collectiveness and co-operation, even in a rather symbolic level.
- Public Diplomacy
(a) Language supporting new era for the Alliance: The President should utilize this opportunity to re-establish a new, closer relationship with the allies focusing on US willingness to seek new ideas and input from them and share the decision-making responsibilities. Such intentions must be explicitly expressed with a new, friendly language that would be the signal of US policy change. US prestige and hegemonic role in the Alliance must be quickly restored and, to this end, the President should also shift the debate from the common issues of security and peace to progressive advocacy of promoting democracy and respect to human rights, as well as establishing the rule of law. This new language would serve better the US objectives with regard to NATO’s Enlargement, since it will highlight the more holistic approach of the Alliance’s objectives and will prima facie disconnect the expansion agenda from the dominant European perception of an aggressive US geopolitical strategy.
(b) Open Invitation to Russia: The US President must openly invite Russia to recommence negotiations and mutual consultations with NATO in issues of common interest in the forum of NRC that has ceased to be operative since late 2007. The ongoing global financial crisis seems to be an additional reason for co-operation; however, the President must underline that NATO’s Enlargement regarding Georgia and Ukraine is not a debatable issue, although Russia’s concerns should and will be heard. Given the festal character of the upcoming Summit, US President could openly invite President Dmitriy Anatolyevich Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to participate in some of the events and let this meeting mark the new era.
(c) Publicly encourage French participation in NATO’s command structures: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently stated that France is thinking to rejoin NATO’s military branch, after pulling out of it in 1966, under President Charles de Gaulle. This might be a rather strategic move on behalf of France in order to help it lobby for strengthening EU’s independent defense force, since it will negate the impression that France is envisaging a NATO-antagonistic scheme; nevertheless, US should explicitly welcome and support this change, since it will prima facie reinforce the cohesion of NATO structures and add to the soft power of the Organization (given the influential role that the current French Administration plays in various international fora).
(d) Visit Caucuses and Western Balkans: US President must explicitly show that although NATO is not ready to offer immediately membership to candidate members other than Albania and Croatia - to wit Georgia, Ukraine and Macedonia – it has not abandoned them and still considers seriously their NATO aspirations. A visit to the areas would demonstrate US intentions and will help build US credibility as a prospect defense ally and guardian of their territorial sovereignty and political independence.
- Private meetings
(a) President Sarkozy - Chancellor Merkel - Prime Minister Brown: US President should himself communicate to the heads of the major allies the shift of the US policy and the decision of the new Administration to get actively engaged in consultations. At the same time, US President should underscore that US compliance with the European’s will to defer the provision of MAP to Georgia and Ukraine should also be combined by a more active involvement in Afghanistan and other parts of the world on behalf of the allies.
(b) Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: US President should seek rather quickly a meeting with the powerful, actual, Head of Russia’s politics, where he should explicitly express his commitment to a new era of intense consultations. The profile of both US and Russia was damaged during the August events in Georgia and the close co-operation of NATO and Russia in Afghanistan and in counterterrorism still hangs in balance. To this end, a meeting at the higher level seems necessary so as to set the fundaments, upon which the bargain will then take place through various diplomatic channels. US President would be more comfortable to make the above described good faith gestures behind closed doors and try to secure a Russia’s promise for a peaceful settlement of its dispute with Georgia. A common communiqué of the two Heads acknowledging their eagerness to avoid future conflicts is also recommended.
(c) President Mikhail Saakasvili: Georgia faces the most severe consequences of the August events, since de facto it can no longer claim its sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. US President must warn his Georgian colleague to avoid similar aggressive actions in the future such as the August attacks in South Ossetia; NATO’s credibility as a military organization focusing on the collective defense would have been really tested if Georgia had received a MAP in Bucharest and, then, NATO did not respond to the Russian invasion. At any rate, US long-term co-operation perspectives with Russia are far more significant than defending a miscalculated attack and this message should be sent clearly to the Georgian government. Nevertheless, US could promise support to the Georgian government with regard to a peaceful settlement of their dispute with Russia as regards the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
(d) Address in private Macedonia’s issue: US President must not underestimate the Greeks’ willingness to persistently block Macedonia’s NATO membership perspectives. It could be argued that this is a good time (due to increasing domestic political and economic instability) to put pressure upon Greek government to accept a conditional membership of Macedonia that would be fully implemented upon a definitive resolution of the bilateral dispute. Nevertheless, given that Greece uses its connections to Russia as leverage, US President should avoid making direct, public recommendations that could make Greece adopt extreme rejectionist attitudes; moreover, the President should also make clear to Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nicola Gruevski that unless negotiations are conducted in good faith, Macedonia still faces the risk to remain outside NATO’s structures.