Home/Daniel Larison/The Dangerous Idea of NATO Expansion Will Not Die

The Dangerous Idea of NATO Expansion Will Not Die

Seth Mandel must be joking:

Obama also made a verbal gesture toward Georgia that everyone pretends to be reassured by even though it’s usually utterly meaningless: He reaffirmed American support for Georgia’s acceptance into NATO. But in this case, Obama’s NATO comments are actually important, whether the NATO bid goes anywhere or not. That’s because the reasons to keep Georgia out of NATO have disappeared [bold mine-DL], and we’ll find out whether the West’s commitment to its allies and to global security are all, as Obama might say, “just words.”

We certainly hope Obama’s comment was an example of the meaningless pleasantries that a President may sometimes have to use to make his guest feel welcome and to give him a soundbite he can use to placate folks back home. If Obama is serious about supporting Georgian membership at the Chicago summit, we have to hope that the Europeans members that opposed this move four years ago will prevent it again. There was never a good argument for bring Georgia into the alliance. It was always a dangerous, irresponsible idea, and one that the 2008 war should have killed off forever.

If anything, the reasons for keeping Georgia out of NATO are stronger than ever. Trying to bring Georgia into the alliance does not enhance European security in any way, and Russia would still regard it as an intolerable provocation. Just as it did not in April 2008 during the Bucharest summit, Georgia still does not have full control of its territory. It is ridiculous to ask members of the alliance to extend an Article V guarantee to a country with ongoing territorial disputes. Those disputes are farther from being resolved than ever. It is even harder to justify including Georgia in the alliance when its government was largely responsible for escalating the conflict in 2008. Georgia would be an enormous liability for the alliance and would add nothing to it.

Even if we want to treat NATO as a club for friendly democratic states instead of the defensive military alliance it is supposed to be, Georgia still wouldn’t belong. This a one-party state that Freedom House does not consider an electoral democracy. Georgia’s government is characterized (via Lomsadze) by one leading opposition figure as having a “super-centralized, almost neo-Bolshevik style of governance.” That’s hyperbole from one of the government’s political opponents, but it’s not that much of an exaggeration. Georgia has no business being considered for NATO membership, and reviving this issue is a good way to heighten tensions in the Caucasus and between Russia and NATO.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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