On 29 September 2008, the Office for a Democratic Belarus attended the first policy speech of the newly appointed US Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker. The event, entitled ‘Building a Stronger Transatlantic Consensus and a Modern NATO’, was hosted by the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
In his speech, Ambassador Volker addressed a number of key issues, such as the process of NATO enlargement, operations in Afghanistan, and relations with Russia, and underscored the importance of reaching a stronger unity within the Alliance on these topics. In particular, the US Ambassador emphasised the need to show support for Ukraine and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, especially in the face of the Russian aggression against Georgian territory. He refuted claims that Russia’s military actions, which dealt a severe blow to Georgia’s military establishment, and the latter’s inability to solve the so-called frozen conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, should be seen as an indication that opening door for Georgia would prove a liability for the Alliance and would weaken regional stability. He explained that MAP does not guarantee membership; it serves as the best instrument for advancing reforms in the countries that have committed to developing modern, democratic, and prosperous societies.
The Ambassador went on to suggest that Russia’s recent military attack might have even been the result of the Kremlin’s misinterpretation of the results of the Bucharest Summit which might have seen as a lack of resolve on the part of NATO to support Ukraine and Georgia’s aspirations to join the Alliance. He stressed that in Bucharest NATO heads of states agreed that Georgia and Ukraine would eventually become part of the Alliance, and warned against giving Russia a veto over these countries’ future. Finally, Ambassador Volker hailed the efforts of the European Union to step up its engagement in the region by increasing aid and deploying an observer mission, which should serve to verify the Russian pullback from the occupied Georgian territories.