NATO’s ministerial meeting on December 3 decided to offer Annual National Plans (ANPs), instead of Membership Action Plans (MAPs), to Georgia and Ukraine. The old NATO-Ukraine Commission and the new NATO-Georgia Commission are to draw up and administer the ANPs (see EDM, December 5). A compromise between U.S.-led and German-led groups of countries yielded this decision. Its true significance will only become apparent when the ANPs’ content takes shape. NATO itself (not just Ukraine and Georgia) faces the risk of another internal struggle, if the governments that opposed the MAPs also resist a timely approval of meaningful ANPs.
Had Ukraine’s and Georgia’s strategic significance and their contributions to NATO and U.S. operations been the primary criterion, the two countries would have eminently qualified for MAPs, which are technical mechanisms. Russia opposed the MAPs vociferously, and the German-led group argued that Moscow’s view could not be entirely ignored. The debate within NATO thus became heavily politicized, mainly by the nay-saying governments but also to some degree by the applicant and supporting countries.
The same group of countries that had opposed the Ukrainian and Georgian MAPs at NATO’s Bucharest summit in April took the same position at the Brussels meeting on December 3. Most governments in this group are interested in closer and expanded relations with Russia on a bilateral level. Both at the summit and at the ministerial meetings they framed their argument against MAPs as if the issue were accession to NATO membership, for which Ukraine and Georgia do not qualify at present. In fact, the issue was a multi-year plan to prepare Ukraine and Georgia for future membership; but, since previous MAPs had invariably led to membership within five to nine years, Germany and a few other countries maintain that the opening of a membership prospect to Ukraine or Georgia is premature now.
Fresh anti-MAP arguments presented themselves in the run-up to the December gathering: the deepening crisis of government in Ukraine and allegations in the mass media (not in NATO) about Georgian culpability for the Russian invasion of that country. These factors did not substantially change the case of the “Russia-firsters” but made it more difficult to overcome by the U.S.-led group of countries (mainly the new member countries and Britain). In Brussels as at Bucharest, Germany acted far out in front while France and several other West European governments seemed content to let the Germans bear the brunt of this effort. Italy seconded Germany more actively in Brussels.
Barely a week before the Brussels meeting the United States decided to abandon the hopelessly politicized MAP track, proposing ANPs as substitutes. Germany strongly resisted the U.S. proposal. Complaining that Washington sought to “circumvent” the MAPs, Berlin insisted that Ukraine and Georgia had to go through the MAP process as an absolute requirement, if and when they qualified for it. Paradoxically, Washington and Berlin seemed to have reversed their positions. The United States switched from championing MAPs to casting them aside, while Germany switched from resisting to defending the MAP process. In fact, however, the positions remained consistent: Washington and supporting countries regarded the MAP, and failing that, the ANP, as an integration mechanism, while Berlin seemed to turn the MAP process into a barrier to Ukraine and Georgia.
Ultimately, a small conclave of four ministers—Condoleezza Rice of the United States, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, David Miliband of Britain, and Bernard Kouchner of France—reached the compromise decision on ANPs. At German insistence the communiqué mentions the MAP process; but at U.S. insistence, it does so “without prejudice” about its applicability to Ukraine and Georgia, that is, it would not necessarily be used if the ANPs successfully qualify the two countries for membership over time. The German minister remains adamant against “shortcuts,” meaning that ANPs may eventually lead to MAPs, but not to membership. Washington and its supporters echo “no shortcuts,” meaning, however, that the ANPs should be substantive and thus lead to membership in due course. The Russian government and official commentators watched these debating contortions with barely disguised satisfaction (Interfax, Itar-Tass, Russian Television Channel One, December 3-6).
In an accompanying compromise, Washington agreed to a limited resumption of NATO’s political dialogue with Moscow, notwithstanding Russia’s occupation of parts of Georgia. In return, Berlin agreed to the language in the Brussels ministerial meeting’s communiqué, which states that NATO’s ANPs will assist Ukraine and Georgia to implement reforms on the path to membership, a stipulation confirming the Bucharest summit’s decision that the two countries will become members of NATO (Meeting of the North Atlantic Council communiqué, December 3).
The ANPs’ effectiveness will hinge on their quality and the resources to back them up. Disagreements may well re-emerge between the same two groups of countries over the ANPs’ scope and pace. Any such differences would be played out in the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia commissions and presumably referred back to the North Atlantic Council, if necessary. The ANP mechanism could be compromised if political wrangles, such as those witnessed at the Bucharest summit and Brussels ministerial meeting, end up politicizing the ANPs as they did the MAP process.