Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a fellow Tea Party triumph from last year’s election, had bipartisan support for an amendment to bring the former Soviet republic of Georgia into NATO. “It called for the President to lead a diplomatic effort to get approval of Georgia’s Membership Action Plan during the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago,” a Rubio spokesman explained in an email.
Paul blocked the amendment. He believed that NATO expansion in this sensitive area could embroil the United States in Georgia’s conflicts with a nuclear-armed Russia, potentially risking war.
Sen. Paul was right to block the amendment, and this is just the latest in a string of examples of how Rubio has turned into a junior McCain/Lieberman clone during his first term in office. Georgia has no business being in NATO, and further NATO expansion is an absurd idea whose time seems to have come and gone. The idea of bringing Georgia into NATO was a bad one long before the 2008 war showed just how unwise it would have been, and it’s incredible that there are still so many people in Congress dedicated to supporting this dangerous policy. To give an Article 5 guarantee to a state that does not have effective control over 20% of its own claimed territory is to invite unnecessary escalation of local conflict into international crisis. Renewed efforts to bring Georgia into NATO would not only sour U.S.-Russian relations, which is probably what Rubio wants, but it would necessarily heighten tensions between Georgia and Russia and could precipitate a new round of fighting. NATO membership for Georgia serves no American interest, and the indications of support that the U.S. gave to Georgia during the Bush administration proved disastrous for Georgia as well.
That said, Rubio’s amendment would not have mattered very much if it had passed. One reason that Georgia was not brought into NATO earlier is that leading European governments had no interest in extending the alliance’s security guarantees to such a poor and fragmented state. Unfortunately, NATO’s Bucharest summit did give Georgia reason to expect that it would be accepted as a member at some point in the future, and that contributed significantly to the deteriorating situation in the Caucasus. Nothing has happened in the last three and a half years to make European governments supportive of Georgia’s bid for membership, and the 2008 war has confirmed skeptics of continued expansion in their belief that bringing in Georgia would be a disaster for the alliance. Even if Obama were inclined to press European members of the alliance on this issue, many of them are not going to agree to it. Unless attitudes in Germany and elsewhere change dramatically, there is no chance that Georgia will be admitted to the alliance no matter what Rubio and his allies try.