BRUSSELS – Faced with a newly aggressive Russia, NATO has been mulling how to react, but it is ruling out one option: rapid expansion.
Four would-be members, including the former Soviet republic of Georgia, have been informed that admission to NATO isn’t in the cards anytime soon. For some, that means dashed hopes. Macedonia’s foreign minister told the Associated Press in a statement it was a “step backward.”
The bottom line: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, celebrating important anniversaries this year of a dozen nations joining its ranks, will welcome no new members when President Barack Obama and other leaders convene in early September for a summit in Wales.
Analysts say that NATO members are worried about granting, or being perceived as granting, security guarantees that could be tested quickly by Russia. That’s particularly true of Georgia, which has been waiting since 2008 for the U.S.-led military alliance to make good on its promise of admission.
Before taking over Crimea from Ukraine, Russia invaded and occupied two regions of Georgia nearly six years ago – and NATO is reluctant to take any action that might provoke a riposte from Moscow.
“The conflict over Ukraine has made it clear to them at NATO they have to be careful, both about security commitments and credibility,” said Liana Fix, an associate fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “If you give Georgia their membership action plan but don’t defend them if something happens, what does it say about your credibility?”