Is NATO broken?
A very good question. If NATO is not willing to even consider military action now, not even to raise the question so as to put some fear into the Russians when they are already illegally occupying and plundering Georgia, how will a NATO pledge and membership for Georgia ever be credible. Certainly the Russians would tempt and test NATO when Georgia becomes a member.
The other question is of course whether or not Georgia should be part of NATO at all? A good argument against is that it is simply over-extension and since NATO membership means the potential to drag all of Europe and the US into some horrible war against Russia (since the Russians have decided to treat NATO as the enemy) would we ever fight an industrial war with Russia over Georgia?
An argument for is the protection of Europe, particularly former Soviet states, against Russian intimidation. By extension this also means protection of the EU as a functioning and meaningful body. It is therefor quite astonishing to me that the countries that argue most ardently for federalism and a EU army seem to harbor most skepticism towards a meaningful response towards Russia. If Russia can intimidate Georgia into submission, then she will surely use the same tactic to tear the EU apart by intimidating Poland, the Baltics and the rest of Central-Eastern Europe.
I am not so sure the power to activate article five should be awarded to Georgia. After all not every scenario involving a military invasion by Russia in Georgia is worth a general war. However Russia clearly needs to be stopped now, and this is what NATO, and most likely it is the Europeans who are to blame, does not seem to comprehend. By ratcheting up meaningful pressure on Russia, that is raising the possibility of military support for Georgia should the Russians take the capital or linger we would put actions behind our words now when the risks for war are much smaller than should something similar happen once Georgia is a member. After all NATO has decided that Georgia, and Ukraine, should become a member and part of Europe so now is the time we demonstrate our commitment. Europe will only extend as far as Europe credibly extends its security umbrella.
NATO must put military muscle behind its words. NATO is not the peace-corp! Nor is it the UN. It is a collective security and defense organization and it is only credible as long as it demonstrates the willingness to use force to protect its members. It does not mean going to war with Russia, but it means sending a signal now, that will help us avoid the most horrible of all things. Awarding Georgia a membership which isn't credible. That will mean that a Russian test will force NATO to choose between extremes. War with Russia or NATO's death. Such a situation might force us to war with Russia over something so meaningless as a legal principle or 70 000 unhappy south-ossetians.
We must deny Russia strategic victory. Put actions behind words by sending in navy ships into the black sea, French, British and American. When the Russian bear is scared off we must find some way to incorporate Georgia and Ukraine, but not so that we will automatically go to war with Russia should the Russians do something stupid.