The Future of NATO

Gwynne Dyer on Georgia and NATO:

The rhetoric in the new NATO members has been almost as hysterical as that in Georgia itself, where President Mikhail Saakashvili has been calling the Russians “21st century barbarians” who “despise everything new, everything modern, everything European, everything civilized.” Similar rhetoric pervades the parallel universe of the U.S. media, where the fact that it was Georgia that started this war by unleashing a merciless artillery barrage on South Ossetia and then invading it has been virtually erased from the story-line.

Very few Americans know that there was only one battalion of Russian peacekeeping troops (less than 1,000 men) in South Ossetia when the Georgian tanks rolled in less than two weeks ago. It’s all “plucky little Georgia” and democratic values versus the Russian bear.

It’s a rousing morality tale that hits all the right notes for an American sensibility, and it’s not just Georgia’s PR firms that are pushing this line. It’s also the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, which had been building Georgia up as a key U.S. ally on Russia’s southern flank. Yet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looked deeply uncomfortable on Friday in Tbilisi as she stood beside the ranting Saakashvili.

Perhaps she was pondering the fact that while the “new Europe” of former Soviet-bloc countries uncritically backs Georgia and the U.S. commitment there, the “old Europe” of Germany, France, Italy and their neighbours mostly does not. This is a problem if she wishes to pursue her goal of bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, since “old Europe” is the core of NATO, with three times the population and five times the wealth of “new Europe.”

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