Friday, October 3, 2008

Germany says no NATO for Georgia, Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel put the brakes on the idea of speedy membership for Georgia and Ukraine.

The United States and Great Britain have been pushing to make the two nations full NATO members and were planning to propose Membership Action Plans (MAPs) for both at a NATO meeting in December. But Merkel on Thursday said that it was too soon to commit to a timetable for membership, a position that Germany held the last time MAPs were suggested at a meeting last April. Germany was concerned then about the regions of South Ossetia and Abkahzia in Georgia, suggesting that Georgia should have to first settle these disputes as a way of showing they were ready for NATO membership. Since then war broke out, Russia sent in troops and the two regions have effectively stopped being a part of Georgia, though Georgia remains determined to win them back.

The US and UK though are taking the position that the conflict only strengthens the case for Georgia's membership in NATO, that membership is needed to protect Georgia from Russian aggression. The Germans though don't seem to be buying that argument. Since membership decisions in NATO have to be made by consensus, Germany’s opposition would be enough to stop the MAPs.

Merkel's comments came at a press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg. Russia is bitterly opposed to NATO membership for either Georgia or Ukraine. Germany, meanwhile, happens to be one of Russia's chief trading partners and is working with them on building a massive pipeline to bring natural gas directly from Russia to Germany.
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