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Published: Thursday, 4/10/2008

Mixed bag from NATO

PRESIDENT Bush's final scheduled NATO summit, in Bucharest, Romania, was a mixed success from the President's point of view. Whether it was a success from America's point of view depends on whether his objectives correspond to the nation's best interests, a questionable proposition given his low approval rating.

Mr. Bush obtained from the 25 NATO allies a general statement of support for his expensive and unnecessary missile-defense program to be installed in Europe at U.S. expense. He achieved this in spite of concerns from Western Europeans and over Russia's adamant opposition.

Albania and Croatia, two of the five countries Mr. Bush was pushing for membership in NATO, were accepted. Macedonia was not, because of Greek objections to its name, which Greece considers to be a slight on its own sovereignty.

The question of inter-operability - compatibility of military systems - makes Albania a dubious new partner unless the United States would like to take on the expense of training and equipping its forces from the bottom up.

Mr. Bush also went to Bucharest looking for more NATO troops to supplement the U.S. military presence against a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan. He wanted the troops so that the United States can maintain its high troop presence in Iraq. He got commitments from the Romanians, Poles, and French to provide additional forces, but fewer than Mr. Bush wanted.

All in all, if it is in America's interests to see NATO's borders extended and Mr. Bush's missile defense program survive, and the United States able to continue to cover troop needs in both the long Iraq war and the struggle in Afghanistan, then the NATO summit was a partial success.

But the many Americans who don't support these policies won't think so. What they see is Mr. Bush frantically trying to commit the United States to an extended military presence around the world that will be unsustainable financially and difficult to shed even after he leaves office.

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