NATO has turned its attention to three countries shaken by Russia’s offensive in Ukraine — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Moldova — as the military alliance struggles to extend its security umbrella across Europe.
At talks in Romania on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of the three countries met with their NATO counterparts to discuss ways that the world's biggest security organisation might be able to help, as the war in Ukraine exposes them to political, energy and territorial uncertainty.
While the cause of the problems facing Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Moldova is clear, their needs and the way that NATO might be able to help them are not.
No straightforward proposals about what might be done were offered by NATO ministers as they arrived at the Palace of the Parliament in the capital Bucharest.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said the meeting is aimed at ensuring "more safety and security on the European continent," and "is a signal ... on how important it is to create stability not only for NATO countries itself, but also beyond."
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky told reporters that it was important not to let a "grey zone be here, to be taken over by other forces."
Concerns over future
Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic said her country, where a government is in the process of being formed following the elections, “is very concerned about the future.”
“We have proxies, or we had the proxies, in our government, Russian proxies. So division in the country is deep and we hope that we will be able to overcome it. NATO’s presence is extremely important for Bosnia-Herzegovina because it is a guarantor of our security,” she said.
NATO has promised Georgia that, like Ukraine, it will join the 30-nation alliance one day, but Russian troops swept into Georgia after that pledge was made 14 years ago. A breakaway Georgian region has this year threatened to hold a referendum on joining Russia.
Russia's war in Ukraine has had a troubling effect on Moldova, which is currently facing a severe energy crisis due to its reliance on Russian energy.
Cavusoglu holds several meetings
Things are moving more positively in other parts of Europe. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said that he and his counterparts from Finland and Türkiye had held “a very good" meeting aimed at addressing Ankara's security concerns and ease the process for his country joining NATO.
Billstrom said that he plans to travel to Ankara soon for further talks. NATO is eager to add the two Nordic nations to its ranks. They applied to join in April, amid concern that Russia might target them next.
On the sidelines of the NATO meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met on Wednesday with his Dutch counterpart to discuss bilateral and security matters.
In a social media post, Cavusoglu said he discussed with Wopke Hoekstra matters related to Ukraine and NATO enlargement.
Separately, he met with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and "discussed recent developments in Ukraine and our economic/defence cooperation," the Turkish foreign minister said.