President Bush went out on a diplomatic limb yesterday by pushing entrance of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. His suggestion was roundly rejected by influential NATO member countries France and Germany and so, it seems, Ukrainian and Georgian membership to the military alliance is still a far way off.
Still, Bush actually went to the Ukraine last week to push the case. It’s no secret that the US president is trying to advance a missile defense system and play a little bit of balance of power with Russia, which vehemently opposes basically anything America does east of Vienna.
Bush may have good practical reasons to bring Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and also good ideological ones too, given his policy of spreading democracy to undemocratic places. However, when you think about the move in terms of Israel’s NATO, or non-NATO, position you have to wonder.
Both Ukraine and Georgia have undergone recent revolutions. It’s true that they were non-violent cases, earning them pretty, botanical monikers like the Orange Revolution and Rose Revolution but they were revolutions nonetheless.
More worrying is that both have major secessionists movements going on within their borders. The Ukraine faces serious political problems, as the government was dissolved after only being in power for four months in 2006. The Kremlin also has a troubling hand in Ukrainian politics and power and it’s unclear how deep the Russian roots run.
Hardly what you would consider countries with democratic control over their military, as NATO requires of its potential members.
Israel, on the other hand, does have democratic control over its military. It’s been a democracy for six decades. It is a regional power with significant military capability.
Israel has also stepped up military ties with NATO and NATO members, going so far in friendly relations with the alliance as to participate in wargames. Israel also has developing relations with one of the few regional members, Turkey. Israel’s entrance into NATO could solidify the ties which, from time to time, show signs of slipping.
NATO has also taken a lead in combating Islamic terror and its roots, (filling a space that the UN has left gapingly empty). Israel, needless to say, is on the forefront of this war and has much to contribute.
It’s not entirely clear what the Israeli population feels about a potential entrance into NATO. NATO officials have consistently demured on the Israel issue, talking about â€œeven handednessâ€ and the â€œstep by step processâ€ instead of giving clear answers on NATO policy regarding the Jewish State and the present low level wars with Arab powers.
All this is fair enough. NATO is not just a dance partner but a marriage. The thing that leaves questions hanging in the air is not so much why President Bush came out on behalf of two troubled Eastern European countries while never in his presidency mentioning a word about Israel membership to NATO. The real question is why anyone from NATO members to America’s diplomatic and military echelons to Israel itself finds this acceptable.