Monday, November 21, 2011

The No-Win Triangle

As of last week , Russia and Georgia, two neighboring countries who haven't had formal diplomat relations since 2008, have reached an agreement ensuring Georgia's support of Russia entering the World Trade Organizaton, in exchange for Russia permuting international inspects to patrol both countries borders. While this is a major step forward for two countries who fought a five-day long war three years ago, it raises some interesting questions, especially considering Georgia's friendship with the US and its bid for entry into NATO. While the Georgia has promised as of last Sunday that: “We made a unilateral commitment to nonuse of force, so there is no way we will become a problem for NATO in terms of Article 5 or in terms of a possible military confrontation between Georgia and Russia,” NATO might not be completely convinced. NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, responded just three days later at a conference in the Georgian capital Tbilisi: “Since our Bucharest Summit, Georgia has come a lot closer to NATO. But there is still work to be done, in a number of areas. Further reform will be Georgia’s ticket to membership. And NATO is here to help.”

While Georgia makes progress on its Membership Action Plan, with continual US support, in some respects they still seem to be spinning their wheels. They may have come to an agreement with Russia by striking a border deal, there is no guarantee that Georgia has enough leverage with its larger neighbor to strike another one that will convince Russia to let them into NATO. And as there's still the issue of Georgia's break-away provinces, South Ossetia and Abkahzia, receiving almost all their external support from Russia, to the point that they resemble Soviet-era satellite sates, the two countries cannot yet completely settle their differences. While South Ossetia and Abkahzia are both recognized as independent only by Russia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, as well as a few small island countries, they act more or less as independent states, despite the rest of the world considering them as part of Georgia. If Russia will not withdrawal its troops from these areas, and stop openly supporting the rebel governments there will be no total harmony in that part of the globe.

How does this involve the US? By and large, it probably wouldn't, save for the fact that we count Georgia as an ally, they have contributed more troops to our cause in Afghanistan than any other non-NATO member, and it has been a stated policy to support their bid for inclusion in NATO. However, this policy may serve them better than it does us. Georgia wants, badly, to join the Organization, but their membership seems to have so many strings attached to it as far as US and European relations with Russia are concerned that it’s probably unwise at the present time to include them. Despite its allied relationship with Georgia, the US has stated in the past, before the 2008 August war against Russia, that it would not support Georgia if it got into an armed conflict with Russia, and that was probably a wise decision. To have America, or any other country, drawn into a volatile situation similar to that one, only with a fellow NATO member, looks like a recipe for disaster. And even should armed conflict be taken off the table as an issue, admitting Georgia into NATO will alienate Russia at a time when Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on its oil supply, thanks to its recent deal with Nord Stream. For the time being, delaying Georgia’s admission into NATO seems like a prudent move for other member states, as well as the US.

No comments: