Two weeks ago, meeting in Bucharest, NATO leaders refused to offer Ukraine and Georgia a membership action plan, in large part because France and Germany feared that doing so would unduly alienate Russia. Supporters of accession (including ye olde blogger) argued that shutting the door on these two emerging democracies would only embolden Russian toward greater adventurism. Now that prediction seems to be coming true. As noted by the Financial Times,
Vladimir Putin, Russian president, signed a decree instructing the government to co-operate with the “de facto” authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in economic, trade and other areas, and to recognise some documents issued by them. It said the foreign ministry should look at providing consular services to the regions’ residents.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO secretary-general, says he is “deeply concerned by the actions Russia has taken”– and he should be. This is a major step toward official recognition of these breakaway areas of Georgia as sovereign states. That, in turn, could trigger a renewal of the fighting between Georgia and the separatists that occurred in the early 1990′s. Thus a refusal by Europe to extend its security umbrella is leading, rather predictably, to greater insecurity. Is it too late to reconsider the Bucharest summit’s ill-considered decision?