BUCHAREST — NATO returns on Tuesday to the scene of one of its most controversial decisions, intent on repeating its vow that Ukraine — now suffering through the 10th month of a war against Russia — will join the world’s biggest military alliance one day.
NATO foreign ministers will gather for two days at the Palace of the Parliament in the Romanian capital Bucharest. It was there in April 2008 that U.S. President George W. Bush persuaded his allies to open NATO’s door to Ukraine and Georgia, over vehement Russian objections.
“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,” the leaders said in a statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was at the summit, described this as “a direct threat” to Russia’s security.
About four months later, Russian forces invaded Georgia.
Some experts describe the decision in Bucharest as a massive error that left Russia feeling cornered by a seemingly ever-expanding NATO. NATO counters that it doesn’t pressgang countries into joining, and that some requested membership to seek protection from Russia — as Finland and Sweden are doing now.
More than 14 years on, NATO will pledge this week to support Ukraine long-term as it defends itself against Russian aerial, missile and ground attacks — many of which have struck power grids and other civilian infrastructure, depriving millions of people of electricity and heating.