According to the conventional wisdom, represented by “veteran” Washington columnist David Broder, in his
significant address to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, [John] McCain, the certain Republican nominee, refused to back off his support for remaining in Iraq, but put that decision in a broader context of American foreign policy, outlining a vastly different approach from President Bush and one that might heal the wounds left here at home and abroad by the last seven years.
So let’s forget Iraq for now. Here are some of the relevant points that McCain raised in his address:
Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them.
Fine! But then comes this:
The United States did not single-handedly win the Cold War; the transatlantic alliance did, in concert with partners around the world. The bonds we share with Europe in terms of history, values, and interests are unique. Americans should welcome the rise of a strong, confident European Union as we continue to support a strong NATO. The future of the transatlantic relationship lies in confronting the challenges of the twenty-first century worldwide: developing a common energy policy, creating a transatlantic common market tying our economies more closely together, addressing the dangers posed by a revanchist Russia, and institutionalizing our cooperation on issues such as climate change, foreign assistance, and democracy promotion.
We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia. Rather than tolerate Russia’s nuclear blackmail or cyber attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization’s doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.
So McCain is going to “distance” himself from Bush by listening to the views and respecting “the collective will of our democratic allies.” But then he also wants to continue and even harden Bush’s tough approach towards what he calls “a revanchist Russia” (a term Bush has never used) and to ensure that “the organization’s doors reman open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.” Democracies committed to the defense of freedom=Ukraine and Georgia.
Now this is not some theoretical stuff. In fact, we just had a NATO summit meeting in Bucharest. The Europeans led by Germany and France objected to Bush’s call for bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. According to the Financial Times:
The decision on Ukraine and Georgia has split Nato down the middle, distracting attention from other issues the leaders will address: the accession of more Balkan states to Nato; the alliance’s difficult mission in Afghanistan; and the consequences of France’s momentous decision to reintegrate itself with Nato’s military structure, from which it withdrew in 1966.
Washington is leading the charge for the invitations to Ukraine and Georgia. It is backed strongly by the states of the former Soviet bloc, which would prefer allies between them and Russia. But it is opposed by most of the continental western European members of Nato, led by Germany but including France, Italy, Belgium and Spain.
Yet Mr Bush’s efforts to convince Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and others appear to have fallen on deaf ears, heightening tensions between Washington and Berlin that broke into the open this year over troop contributions to Afghanistan.
The US president’s lame-duck status has undoubtedly reduced his powers of persuasion in Berlin. Germany argues that the move would be highly provocative, given that Dmitry Medvedev’s inauguration as Russia’s president on May 7 may mark the start of a more co-operative phase in relations between Russia and the west. Ms Merkel contends that the move should be delayed for a few years. Ms Merkel’s spokesman said on Monday that internal factors in the two countries – such as political unrest in Georgia and the lack of support for Nato membership among Ukrainians – meant they were “not yet ripe” for a Map.
Since McCain is “distancing” himself from Bush and insists on “listening” to the “views of our allies” — and BTW, according to the conventional wisdom, Germany and France are headed now by “pro-American” leaders — how would he respond to their opposition to the plan to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, especially when one considers McCain anti-Russian views? Inquiring minds like Border want to know. I hope.