Nato Must Embrace Ukraine and Georgia
Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland

In 1999, three central European states that had been behind the `iron curtain` for half a century were accepted into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation: Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. That decision implied the beginning of the end of the cold war division of Europe.

That enlargement and the next one in 2004 have significantly contributed to the creation of a zone of stability, peace and security in Europe. Enlarged by the inclusion of new member states, adapted to the challenges of the 21st century, Nato strengthens democracy in Europe. For many new members it is also a bridge to the European Union.

An open-door policy is the condition for the effective functioning of Nato and the EU. The goal of democratic countries in Europe must be to continue to enlarge the area of freedom. This task is particularly significant for Nato in the context of the Balkan countries, as well as Ukraine and Georgia.

Peace and democratic stabilisation of these regions is in the interest of all European countries, not only of the members of the alliance. Nato has also, regardless of strategic reasons, a moral obligation to eliminate the relics of post-Yalta division of Europe.

Ukraine and Georgia, having regained their independence, have undertaken the huge effort of reform, the objective of which is for their nations to rejoin the European family. Of course, the implementation of reforms does not proceed without problems.

The costs of systemic transformation cannot be avoided. The Polish ­people know this well - we remember the way, full of sacrifices and hardships, that led us to Nato and the EU. We are grateful for the support we received from our partners.

Such support is needed today by Georgia and Ukraine. Nato cannot ignore the request of the leaders of both these countries to tighten their co-operation with the alliance beyond the existing forms of co-operation. These states want to become part of Nato`s membership action plan. It is the obligation of Nato member states to provide a positive response. We should not delay.

Sceptics say joining the action plan creates an obligation to grant membership of Nato. This is a misleading over-simplification. The action plan is a process with an indefinite time perspective and it does not oblige the alliance or the country concerned to conclude the process with membership.

The action plan creates a new category of relations, which does not impose any automatic progression to any higher level of co-operation, but gives a chance to reinvigorate positive political and economic transformations.

Such transformations offer a chance for stabilisation in the region and, in consequence, for the enhancement of security and stability in Europe. Today Ukraine and Georgia are still not ready enough to join the circle of Nato members, but they co-operate extensively with the alliance, including in operational terms. Making them part of the action plan will enable further implementation of the process of political and military reform of their states.

European leaders must be aware that the process of integration with Nato runs in parallel with enlargement of the EU. Failure at this week`s Nato Bucharest summit to bring Ukraine and Georgia into the membership action plan would be bad news not only for Nato, but also for the EU and might put at risk the construction of a stable European security system.

If Nato fails to settle the issue of membership of the next three states (Albania, Croatia, Macedonia), fails to open up co-operation with Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, and refrains from extending the membership action plan to Ukraine and Georgia, the political mission of the alliance will suffer painful defeat. It would signal the loss of Nato`s
political purpose and significance on the security map of Europe and the world. It would irreversibly lose its stabilising role.

I have written to the leaders of Nato member states, stressing that the moral obligation and historical duty to bring back to Europe the states that were separated from it still remains unfulfilled. The summit is the most appropriate moment to decide to extend the membership action plan to Ukraine and Georgia.

We cannot refuse these states their right to Euro-Atlantic integration. We cannot leave them in solitude in the face of enormous internal and external pressures.

We have the chance for April 2-4 2008 to be positively recorded in the history of the alliance and of Europe. I believe that the right decisions will be made in Bucharest, serving the enlargement of the area of freedom and stability.

Source: Financial Times, London, UK, Sunday, March 30 2008