September 7, 2018

John McCain, the enlargement of NATO


“John McCain saw through Vladimir Putin better than anyone,” by Vladimir Kara-Murza, The Washington Post, August 27 (

…Much has and will be written about [Sen. John] McCain’s military courage, his patriotism, his famed bipartisanship and his unimpeachable personal decency. His long-standing position on Russia deserves a special tribute.

Russian media reported McCain’s death as the passing of “an implacable enemy of Russia.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

He certainly was an enemy of those who have turned Russia into an autocracy (and looting ground) at home, and into an instrument of aggression abroad. “[These] people . . . are the enemies of the Russian people. They rob Russia of its wealth, its hopes, its future. They deny the God-given dignity of the people they misrule. They are thieves and murderers. And they are cowards. They fear justice. They fear truth. They fear a society in which ideals and morality are the foundation of law and order.” These were the words of John McCain at a 2015 award ceremony in Washington. The award was posthumous; it was given to Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov “for his courage, for giving the last full measure of devotion to his country and his countrymen.”

…I am able to write this thanks in large part to John McCain. Eighteen months ago, when I lay in a Moscow hospital, in a coma after a severe poisoning, McCain took to the floor of the Senate to draw attention to my case. Public attention is often the only protection in these situations; and it certainly was for me.

Obituaries are usually written in advance, waiting in a desktop folder for the right moment. I could not bring myself to write this one. We all knew this day was coming, but hoped against hope that it would not be coming so soon. …

“Enlarge NATO to Ensure Peace in Europe,” by Damon Wilson and David J. Kramer, Atlantic Council, August 7 (

…NATO has pledged not to consign Ukraine and Georgia to a Russian sphere of influence or grant Russia a de facto veto over their aspirations to join the alliance. However, leaving them in a gray zone, without the protection and security guarantees that come with NATO membership, exposes them to further Russian subterfuge and aggression. …

Invasion and occupation of Ukraine and Georgia cannot become Russia’s means for blocking the integration of these countries into Euro-Atlantic institutions. And yet any NATO members who cite Ukraine’s and Georgia’s inability to control all their territory because of Russian aggression would do just that. For sure, there are questions about the defensibility of both countries given current occupation of parts of their territory. But a divided Germany following World War II did not keep West Germany from joining the alliance in 1954, nor did tensions between Greece and Turkey block them from joining. …

This time in Brussels [July 11-12], the NATO communiqué reaffirmed the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest [NATO] summit “that Georgia will become a member of the alliance.” On Ukraine, the declaration stated, “We stand firm in our support for Ukraine’s right to decide its own future and foreign policy course free from outside interference. In light of Ukraine’s restated aspirations for NATO membership, we stand by our decisions taken at the Bucharest Summit and subsequent summits.” 

These statements are important but not good enough. Without a sense of timing on when such membership is coming, the dangerous gray zone that Ukraine and Georgia find themselves in will continue. Allies should not allow their aspirations to be held hostage by Russian occupation. …