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Vox Pop: Is 'Fear Factor' Behind Your Country's NATO Aspirations?

Membership in the exclusive Western club known as NATO is seen by all aspiring entrants as a security blanket. But for some, the memories of war or the threat of future conflict are more vivid. With Georgia, Ukraine, and Croatia in the running to receive Membership Action Plans, a key step toward eventual NATO membership, during the alliance's annual summit in Bucharest on April 2-4, RFE/RL took to the streets to ask residents whether a "fear factor" plays a role in their countries' NATO aspirations.

Nodar Janelidze, economist, Georgia:
"The Russians don't want [Georgia's NATO accession] to happen, and they wouldn't let us in, if it was up to them to decide. As for why don't they want it -- that's their business. Of course, NATO is going to help us [solve this security problem]. If we join, the Russia problem will not exist for us anymore."

Serhiy Zhurets, head of the Center for Defense Analysis, Conversion, and Disarmament Studies, Ukraine:
"This pressure [stemming from Russia's threat to aim nuclear missiles at Ukraine if it were to join NATO], in reality, has some positives for Ukraine, in the sense that some countries today are not ready to support Ukraine's movement toward NATO. Such threats could increase the number of supporters within NATO for Ukraine becoming a member of the alliance as soon as possible."

Marina Krnic, economist, Croatia:

"You're asking me as a woman and as a mother of a 12-year-old. I'll answer you first as a woman: when it comes to men, they would rather shoot than have sex. And as a mother -- I think you can't find a mother who supports fighting. I am against NATO, and I think that people should have a chance to decide in a referendum. I would feel better if I could see that most people really support NATO."

Vasyl Baziv, professor of international studies, Ukraine:
"I think that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, having made such statements [that Russia would aim nuclear missiles at Ukraine if it were to join NATO], should be invited to Ukraine. A trip through Ukrainian towns and villages should be organized for him, to let him announce how he will aim the missiles. After that, voting for entrance into NATO will be 100 percent."

Oleksandr Sushko, head of the Center for Peace, Conversion, and Foreign Policy, Ukraine:

"When [Russia's missile threat] is repeated 10 times, 100 times, regurgitated in different instances, and commented on 1,000 times over, I can guarantee you that, after continually chewing over this and other quotes, a firm impression will be formed among a majority of Ukrainian citizens that entrance into NATO will be followed by the deployment of foreign military bases. Citizens already have a negative attitude toward such bases. The important thing [for the Kremlin] is to make this link strong enough that citizens end up believing this absurdity."

Mladen Miosic, retired farmer, Croatia:
"What can I tell you? Well, it wouldn't be bad to get into NATO. We have many other failures, but when it comes to NATO, I'm in favor. Why? Well, it will make us more safe. I'm not happy with the events related to our fishing [zone dispute with Slovenia, which threatens to block Croatia's EU bid], but I would support NATO. The [bases] could be on islands where we have less tourism."

Merab Abdaladze, associate professor of economics, Tbilisi State University, Georgia:

"I think [joining NATO] is the only correct decision for Georgia. We should become members of the North Atlantic alliance as soon as possible. When Russia is creating serious problems for your territorial integrity -- what can be a bigger threat than this? And because you lack the resources to counter this large neighbor and its aggression, you need strong allies. The United States and NATO are precisely such allies."

Kolja Marasovic, engineer, Croatia:
"Once we [Croats] are in NATO, no special caution will be necessary [regarding rising nationalism in Serbia]. It's not likely that they [Serbs] would decide to make some kind of intervention -- I don't want to use the word 'war' -- again."

Sopo Kintsurashvili, artist, Georgia:
"I am not a competent person [when it comes to this issue], and I can't say much -- but I know that [NATO membership] will be better for Georgia. The aspiration toward NATO, to a degree, is determined by Russia's improper actions."

With contributions from RFE/RL's Georgian, Ukrainian, and South Slavic and Albanian Language services