#15 - JRL 7014
January 13, 2002
DO NOT BE AFRAID OF "BIG NATO"
NATO expansion creates more difficulties for NATO itself
Author: Sergei Yastrzhembsky
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
NEW TRENDS HAVE STARTED DOMINATING AROUND THE WORLD, WITH FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES IN THE NATURE AND SCALE OF THE THREATS CONFRONTING CIVILIZED SOCIETY. TODAY, THE MOST VALUABLE MECHANISMS ARE FLEXIBLE INTERNATIONAL COALITIONS, NOT IMMOBILE AND STATIC MILITARY STRUCTURES LIKE NATO.
Why has Moscow been so calmly negative in its reaction to NATO expansion?
Both components of the formula - "calmly" and "negative" are important here. Moscow really isn't dramatizing the results of the Prague NATO summit; at the same time, it is not concealing its negative attitude toward NATO's incremental expansion - since Moscow considers this a legacy of past approaches to security guarantees, which do not take many current challenges into account.
New trends have started dominating around the world today, which enable us to talk of fundamental changes in the geopolitical situation, in the nature and scale of the threats confronting civilized society. Consequently, both the agenda of international politics and global security priorities have also changed substantially, especially since September 11, 2001.
In my opinion, hardly any of the international institutions which were created during the Cold War have adjusted to this rapidly changing situation. The institutions in question are the UN, OSCE, and NATO. NATO has not only lost the major potential threat which led to its founding; it has also demonstrated its inability to respond to today's entirely different security challenges, as the chain of events since September 11 demonstrates.
It is becoming more obvious with every day that NATO member states and Russia are in fact facing the same set of challenges to their security. First and foremost, this concerns transnational threats such as global terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and threats created by instability and aggressive nationalism.
In this situation, it is natural for NATO to search for its identity, a new mission, a new face, and most importantly, new content. It is well known that Brussels is actively reforming and adapting NATO to new security challenges. Nonetheless, I think NATO still has an inertial mentality, and the result of the Prague summit proves this.
It is an open secret that many of the new NATO members sought to join the alliance due to some psychological neuroses they had inherited from the past. This psychological motive is extremely important for Russia as well.
For instance, according to a recent opinion poll done just before the Prague NATO summit, 69% of Russian respondents had a negative attitude to NATO, and only 20% of respondents were positive about it. I believe this is also a kind of relapse and an atavism from the past.
Any country has a right to be interested in what is going on near its borders, especially when the matter concerns expansion of a military-political bloc which does not include this state. This may be applied to Russia, whose borders are now close to those of NATO.
In the course of time, the attitude of the public toward NATO will change, especially if Russia's relations with NATO continue to change as rapidly as they have started changing since the NATO-Russia summit in Italy and the foundation of the Russia-NATO council.
There is another aspect of Russia's reaction to the inclusion of the Baltic States in NATO. It is an open secret that Russian society is extremely sensitive about how ethnic Russians in these republics are treated. Russia hopes that the acceptance of the Baltic states into NATO may force these countries, especially Latvia and Estonia, to alter their policy toward their ethnic Russian residents.
As for the process of NATO expansion itself, this does not solve the problem of its search for its identity. Moreover, many experts consider that a military bloc comprising 26 countries is unlikely to achieve an efficient level of operation in the near future. Radio Liberty has noted in this connection: "The expansion of NATO, which has bogged down in the internal problems of the alliance, is no longer causing much of a stir worldwide. Furthermore, the acceptance of the Eastern European countries, whose armed forces are not noted for high combat-readiness, into NATO will only undermine its efficiency."
The US did not call on NATO's resources during the operation in Afghanistan. Currently, it is obvious that there are quite a few serious disagreements between the US and other members of NATO; for example, the arguments between the US and France and Germany over Iraq. I also think that Russia offered the US the kind of help during the operation in Afghanistan that could not have been offered by any NATO member or the bloc as a whole.
Today, the most valuable mechanisms are flexible international coalitions, not immobile and static military structures like NATO. It seems to me that the latest events prove that the most appropriate development plan involves activities like those decisions made at the May summit in Italy.
The foundation of the Russia-NATO Council not only reflects the current quality of relations between Russia and NATO, but meets the requirements for NATO's reformation. NATO will probably manage to find new approaches to its self-identification in this field.
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova and Kirill Frolov)