Leading article: Inaction speaks louder than fierce words

Nato ministers offer Georgia only minimal consolation

Share
Related Topics

Yesterday's emergency meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels had two main tasks. The first was to present a united front and show that the alliance, caught on the hop by the war that flared up between Georgia and Russia just as the Olympics Games were opening, could speak and act with one voice. The second was to agree a coherent and effective position for the alliance in response to Georgia's desperate appeals for help – a position that, ideally, would hold until the next Nato meeting in December and pave the way for a long-term policy towards Georgia, Russia and the region.

In the sense that no one stayed away from a meeting called at short notice in mid-August, and that a closing statement was agreed, the first task was accomplished. Not a nimble organisation at the best of times, Nato convened almost a week after EU ministers had met, and days after the two warring sides had agreed a ceasefire. But it did manage to bring everyone together and it did hammer out a joint position. The difficulty for the alliance, whose prime reason for existing is still mutual defence, is that this position was very much the lowest common denominator and represented no advance on what had been decided – or rather not decided – in Bucharest last April. Financial and material assistance was pledged to repair damage in Georgia, but no military aid or additional hardware – which is what Georgia really wanted.

In this sense, the meeting served only to expose Nato's divisions once again. Even in such acute circumstances as those created by the Georgia-Russia conflict, Nato was split between backing a small, aspiring member and not provoking a stand-off with Russia. Some of Nato's words, of course, sounded fearsome, as is always the case when there is weakness to be disguised. Read past the uncompromising rhetoric, however, and Nato has done no more than reaffirm the non-decision at Bucharest, where the aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine for Nato membership were essentially put on hold and the fast track favoured by Washington rejected. No one can pretend that weakness in a military alliance is a good thing. But there are times when inaction is preferable to overhasty and ill-considered reaction – and this is one of them. The violence that broke out between Georgia and Russia two weeks ago was not an argument for Georgia to be rushed into Nato; as the statement implicitly recognises, there were faults on both sides. It was rather an argument for training a new international spotlight on the "frozen conflicts" left over from the collapse of the Soviet Union and trying to prevent them from becoming a pretext for wider conflicts.

Perhaps the most positive result of yesterday's meeting was the support expressed by Nato for EU diplomacy, and for the agreement on ending hostilities brokered by France in its capacity as EU president. So long as both sides keep to their undertakings – and that means Russia withdrawing all its forces to their positions before 6 August – then the disputes over Georgia's enclaves have a chance of returning to the political arena, which is the only place they can realistically be settled.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
 

Cameron's speech was an attempt to kill immigration as an election issue

Andrew Grice
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game