Thursday, March 13, 2008

NATO Membership: Catch Me If You Can

The Moldovan President's recent interview to the Russian daily Kommersant made the headlines this week in local media. He announced that Moldova is soon to finally resolve the Transnistrian conflict with Russia's full support. Russia requires Moldova to do just one more thing: to prepare a declaration of neutrality and invite US, EU, OSCE, Russia and Ukraine to co-sign it. In other words, to officially abandon the possibility to join NATO in the future, thus remaining, for an indefinite time, in Russia's sphere of influence.

No problem. Moldova's Constitution already recognizes this status. However, public opinion has started questioning this status and hope of eventually changing it by moving closer to NATO was growing. To an international observer, Moldova's way of dealing with Russia over its Transnistrian conflict (and many other issues) might seem at least cowardly, particularly if compared to bold and defiant Georgia and assertive and colorful Ukraine. One would assume: different negotiation approaches - different outcomea and rewards. Not the case. How are Georgia and Ukraine being treated for openly defying Russia and aspiring to join the NATO and then EU? They get a cold shoulder from EU's and NATO's major player, Germany, in the face of Chancellor Angela Merkell who explicitely opposes the possibility that these two countries enter a new phase of their relationship with NATO - the Membership Action Plan(MAP).

"Countries that are involved in regional or internal conflicts can not become members [of the alliance]"

How should Moldova understand this statement? Pretty straightforward: Germany doesn't seem to care for the difficult and bumpy road from totalitarism to democracy in countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. Indeed, why would Germany want to spoil its lucrative political and economic friendship with Russia? Perhaps these three countries are not worth such a sacrifice or maybe haven't yet earned the right to aspire to NATO membership. However, I was really hoping that at least the European Union with its polical philosophy and ideology would be worth it.