President Obama has made two major gaffes so far during his Europe trip. After falsely claimed that Kosovo held a UN-assisted referendum on self-determination, he then wrongly said that Georgia was not being considered for NATO membership.
Speaking on Kosovo yesterday, Obama said : “…Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organised not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbours. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”
But none of it came close to happening in Kosovo either, as Milos Subotic, the International Relations Officer of the University of Pristina, Kosovo told Breitbart London.
“During his yesterday speech in Brussels, President Obama showed a lack of knowledge of the political situation in Kosovo. Kosovo never organised any kind of referendum, but the Assembly of Provisional Institutions of self-government of Kosovo made a unilateral declaration of independence on February 17th 2008.
“The declaration of independence has been recognised by approximately one hundred states, however Serbia and many countries have also showed their opposition to declaration of independence, most notably China and Russia. What Kosovo did was not in line with United Nations and that’s confirmed by the fact that Kosovo is not member of UN.”
Dr. James Ker-Lindsay, a Senior Research Fellow on the Politics of South East Europe at the London School of Economics took to Twitter to correct the U.S. President before telling Breitbart London: “I think one must assume that this was indeed an error. However, it really does seem to be an incredible mistake to have made. Surely there must have been someone at hand who would have known that there was no UN organised referendum in Kosovo. It really was not that long ago.
“It will certainly play into the hands of those who believe that the United States is now trying to rewrite history to put a better gloss on its own actions.
“It will be interesting to see if a retraction or correction is issued by the White House.”
If messing up on Kosovo wasn’t enough, Obama has now also potentially undermined Georgia’s application to join NATO.
Speaking at the press conference after the EU-US summit yesterday the US President wrongly suggested that Georgia “is not currently on a path to NATO membership”. In fact the country has been on the path to membership since 2008.
At the North Atlantic Council in Bucharest that year the attending Heads of State and Government agreed the following statement: “NATO welcomes Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that they will become members of NATO.”
Former Georgian Ambassador to London Giorgi Badridze, told Breitbart London: “President Obama’s remarks could hardly have come at a worse time – or have been formulated in a worse manner.
“Firstly, it’s wrong to link Georgia’s aspirations for NATO membership with those of Ukraine. Georgia has been working hard to achieve more progress in that direction, while Ukraine formally withdrew from the process years ago.
“The second – and most damaging – thing the President said is that Georgia and Ukraine are ‘not currently on a path to NATO membership’. This ignores the fact NATO made a firm commitment to admitting Georgia at the Bucharest Summit back in 2008.
“Thirdly, stating Russian opposition as a reason for halting Georgian progress towards NATO membership will only embolden Moscow and strengthen its view that it has a right to effectively veto enlargement – a dangerous precedent.
“Putin’s tanks are positioned along the border with Eastern Ukraine, Crimea is under occupation and Putin has long been looking for a reason to finish the job he never had the chance to finish in 2008: terminating Georgia’s independence. Against that backdrop, Obama”s comments were not only unfortunate but, in the context of regional security, dangerous.”
Daniel Hamilton, a UK-based Foreign Policy expert, told Breitbart London: “Over the past sixty-five years, NATO has more than proved its worth as a guarantor of peace, stability and security in Europe.
“The 1999 and 2004 expansions waves that brought in former Warsaw Pact states in Central Europe and the Baltics demonstrated that NATO is a work in progress – not just a Western European club.
“The prospect – and later, promise – of NATO membership has been a key driver in Georgia’s transformation from failed post-Soviet backwater to pro-western success story. For Obama to claim Georgian NATO membership is off the table at a time when the country faces vast existential threats from Russia not only emboldens Moscow but undermines western influence in the region.
“NATO’s collective security guarantee served as a powerful deterrent to the expansionist impulses of the Soviet Union. So too, should it serve as a deterrent to Putin’s Russia of 2014. We must stand with Georgia”.
President Obama’s comments have overshadowed his visit to Europe and are likely to raise serious questions about his administration’s ability to deliver a strong united foreign policy.