Implications for the United States
In the Cold War era, the most absolute statement of American interests in Europe was the North Atlantic Treaty, particularly Article 5, which states that an armed attack on any of the parties to the treaty in Europe or North America will be considered an attack against them all. NATO created the military-political apparatus to plan and execute any military responses required under the treaty. NATO continues in force and represents the sole existing treaty-level mechanism committing the United States to military responses in Europe. American claims of interests in Europe are most strongly made by the admission of countries to NATO through expansion or American support for admitting particular countries to become future members of NATO. However, actions and statements far short of this are seen in Europe, Russia, and elsewhere as signals of intent to claim interests. In addition, NATO and American willingness to expand military operations to out-of-area commitments expand the possible geographic areas in which NATO and Russia can come into conflict.
Russia’s claim of interest in protecting Russian citizens wherever they may be, as well as to countries that have shared historical relations, has implications for U.S. policy. In the absence of formally or informally recognizing these Russian interests, the United States faces the possibility of being drawn into a conflict that, under certain conditions, could escalate to the Russian use of nuclear weapons. Russia itself is rethinking some of its issues and interests in a Eurasian context, rather than a strictly European context, and this creates additional potential disconnects between NATO and Russian situation