Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

The Russia Journal
November 9-15, 2001
Time for Russia to push for new alliance

NATO was created more than 50 years ago to ensure security in Western Europe. The way to do this, to use Lord Ismay’s expression, was to keep the "Russians out, Germans down and Americans in."

The alliance carried out these three historical missions brilliantly – so brilliantly, in fact, that they completely lost their historical relevance. But it would be naive to imagine, and stupid to demand, that, having fulfilled its historical role, NATO should solemnly dissolve itself.

Anyone who has ever been to NATO headquarters in Brussels knows that the NATO bureaucracy will never die. Every organization that manages to establish itself successfully goes on to develop aims that have little to do with its original purpose.

In the second half of the 1990s, eastward expansion became the bureaucratic objective that prolonged NATO’s life. The term doesn’t accurately reflect the process, which is more about the Eastern European countries – or Central European countries, as they prefer to call themselves – fleeing to the West.

This flight was inevitable and only to be expected. After all, Central Europe’s Chaadayevs, Solovyevs and Ilyins never asked themselves whether or not their states and peoples were part of Europe and the West. To them, the answer was clear. It is not surprising, then, that these countries were in such a hurry to finally seize the opportunity to cement their geopolitical or even metaphysical choice and achieve membership of the elite European organizations – if not in the EU, then in NATO.

This westward rush wouldn’t have been an epoch-making event, were it not for the fact that the Russian political "elite," driven by its jilted lover’s complex, launched a heroic resistance to NATO expansion. Of course, like all neurotics, the "elite" masked its irrational complexes with pseudo-rational babble about "cutting the time it would take NATO planes armed with nuclear weapons to reach Russia from Polish airfields."

Predictably, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic all joined NATO. Moscow’s threatening rumbles only spurred them and NATO into swifter action.

Now, two years have passed. The Polish president visited Moscow and, for some reason, no one talked about how long it would take planes to fly to Russia. On the contrary, President Vladimir Putin noted with satisfaction that Russian-Polish relations, which have had their ups and downs, have been developing steadily over the last two years.

This coincides with Poland joining NATO, and it isn’t surprising. Having affirmed its European choice in its own eyes, Poland was finally able to shed its historic Russian complex.

But we never learn from history. We always have to fall into the same trap and publicly tear at our psychological ulcers over and over. Now, Russia has launched itself into an even more ferocious battle against the Baltic States joining NATO. Like any final and decisive battle, this struggle has taken on a completely absurd and megalomaniacal character. Russia would even join NATO itself, just to make sure its mighty bulk obstructs the way to the audacious Baltic Lilliputians.

And what else does Russia need from NATO? Does it expect NATO’s Article 5 on joint defense to cover Russia? There’s no way in the world that any sane Polish or Dutch politicians, or even French and German politicians, would take responsibility for Russia’s security on its southern and eastern borders.

The fate of the world in the 21st century will be decided in regions far from NATO’s zone of responsibility. Already, a de-facto military union between the United States, Britain and Russia is forming in Central Asia before our very eyes. But are Russia’s partners willing to institutionalize this alliance and take on security commitments similar to NATO’s Article 5 provisions? This is the question that Russian politicians should be persistently raising now, not the issue of Estonia or Slovenia joining NATO.

If Russia’s partners are committed, then this alliance, like the one 60 years ago, could become the centerpiece of the international security system. The Brussels bureaucracy, meanwhile, if it is up to it, could deal with peacekeeping and policing in the Balkans and happily prolong its existence until a time when Serbia, Albania and Macedonia join NATO in the distant, radiant future.

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