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Defence news in brief – Embassy 6 – March 2008

Nato split over expansion

Ahead of this week’s Nato summit, US President George Bush has told alliance members he wants to expand the organisation to include three Balkan countries and put Ukraine and Georgia on track for membership.

However European leaders might prove sceptical, knowing a new US president could shift course on Nato and may decide to put these decisions on ice until after Bush leaves office.

Bush’s goal of winning Nato membership for Albania, Croatia and Macedonia seems more likely but he faces stiff resistance on Georgia and Ukraine from outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin who steps down in May.

Last Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko promised broader cooperation with Nato in Afghanistan were the alliance to shelve invitations to Ukraine and Georgia.

Some Nato allies want to avoid further tension with Russia during the Kremlin leadership transition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has signalled opposition to inviting Georgia and Ukraine.

As a consensus-based organisation, one veto at the summit could dash Georgian and Ukrainian hopes, and Germany is thought to have the backing of other European states.

The summit is also expected to resolve  infighting over troop deployments to Afghanistan. French President Nicholas Sarkozy started the ball rolling by announcing a promise of more troops during his state visit to Britain.

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