Despite the intra‐Alliance resistance to the Bush administration’s campaign to offer MAPs to Kiev and Tbilisi, though, the outcome of the Bucharest summit was not a total defeat for U.S. ambitions. The summit’s final declaration stated that “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.” There was no timetable but the ultimate outcome seemed clear.
The Kremlin’s anger threatened to boil over at this point, and Moscow’s push back began. Even before the issuance of final declaration, Vladimir Putin bluntly warnedsummit attendees that “The emergence of a powerful military bloc at our borders will be seen as a direct threat to Russian security.” The country’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, stated that NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine would be “a huge strategic mistake” causing the “most serious consequences” for European peace and security.
Germany, France, and other key European allies became even warier of provoking the Kremlin when war broke out between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. Initial condemnations of “Russian aggression” faded as evidence emerged that Tbilisi had initiated the military phase of the crisis. The reluctance of “Old Europe,” (Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s dismissive label) to offer NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine has diminished little since that time. That is especially true since the onset of the Ukraine crisis in 2014
France has been adamant in its opposition. Then‐French President Francois Hollande candidly told a press conference in Paris on February 5, 2015, that Ukraine’s NATO membership would be “undesirable” for France. “We must state it clearly, we should tell other countries the truth, including about what we are not ready to accept. This is the position of France.”
Hollande reiterated these sentiments at the NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, the following year: “NATO has no role at all to be saying what Europe’s relations with Russia should be. For France, Russia is not an adversary, not a threat.” German Foreign Minister Frank‐Walter Steinmeier was hardly any more receptive to making Ukraine a NATO member, stating: “I see a partner relationship between Ukraine and NATO, but not membership.”
Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and member of the Yalta European Strategy Conference Board, concluded in September 2017: “I cannot see any possibility on the horizon for all NATO members to vote in favor of Ukraine’s membership. There is no chance of this happening while there is gunfire in [Ukraine]. The key problem is the conflict, which will prompt many NATO members to say: if we accept Ukraine, we inherit these problems with Russia.”
Unfortunately, Washington’s determination to see both Georgia and Ukraine admitted to NATO has not diminished over the years. Even the persistence of severe tensions between Russia and Ukraine since the 2014 crisis has had little sobering effect on U.S. officials or NATO enlargement advocates within the American foreign policy community.
Indeed, when Russia annexed Crimea following the success of U.S.-encouraged demonstrators in ousting the elected, pro‐Russian Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, anti‐Russian American hawks seem more determined than ever to extend Washington’s security umbrella over Ukraine and Georgia. Writing in the May 5, 2014 issue of the Weekly Standard, John Bolton made that objective clear: