Academic journal article Strategic Forum

NATO Enlargement: A Russian Perspective

Academic journal article Strategic Forum

NATO Enlargement: A Russian Perspective

Article excerpt

Seven Consequences of NATO Enlargement

ONE--Deepening of the gap between Russian and Western civilizations. Historically, this gap is the most important concern. As NATO enlargement reflects a consolidation of the Western (Romano- Germanic) world as a civilization, Russia's reaction could not help but reflect the consolidation of Russian civilization as distinct from the Western. Any eastward growth of NATO that would leave Russia outside the alliance would strike a severe, if not fatal, blow to Russian westernizers and greatly encourage their opponents. It could also cause the West to lose a unique opportunity to bring Russia closer to itself as a civilization which is the only way to solve the West's historical task of turning Russia into an ally, rather than an adversary.

Of course, this civilizational gap would be partly bridged by Russia's progress on the road to economic reforms and creation of a working market economy. But the decision of NATO to spread over the whole of Europe would leave Russia little choice but to assert itself as a force, not necessarily antagonistic but certainly different from the Western community.

TWO--An inward reorientation of Russia. Russia would consider its international role and national interests with less, not more, respect for the interests of Western countries. Although Russia has recently played by rules established by the West trying to find a role for itself within the international framework created by the West after the end of the Cold War NATO enlargement would cause it to become a more independent player, less constrained by a real or illusionary partnership with the West. In the absence of strong strategic ties with the Western alliance, Russia might well become a loose cannon in world politics. The effect of such a reorientation on the fragile post-Cold War international system could be very serious.

THREE--A rebirth of the Russian sphere of influence among the former states of the Soviet Union. If Russia considers itself geopolitically cut off from Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community, it would have no choice but to strengthen its historical sphere of influence. This would certainly mean closer economic and military cooperation with Belarus and Kazakhstan, cooperation that has already started. Although Ukraine would be more of a problem, here, too, Russia has three powerful levers especially its close ties between Russian and Ukrainian enterprises, Ukrainian dependence on Russian natural resources such as oil and gas, and the presence of 11 million native Russians on Ukrainian soil (more than 20 percent of the population of Ukraine). One might even argue that NATO enlargement would seriously limit Ukraine's freedom of maneuver in foreign policy. Therefore, it would adversely affect the geopolitical pluralism among the territories of the former USSR.

FOUR--A weakening of overall European security. Although the West considers it a means of strengthening Western security, and of providing effective security guarantees for Central and Eastern Europe, enlargement could deliver a severe blow to European security as a whole. Eventually, NATO would have to consider the entry of the Baltic states and perhaps even Ukraine into the alliance. Russia's predictably negative reaction, including attempts to exert pressure on Ukraine to dissuade it from joining NATO, would certainly strain relations between Kiev and Moscow, thus creating conditions for new tensions between Russia and the West. …

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