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Re: Russia's Path to NATO

NATO MeetingFrom: Ira Straus (IRASTRAUS@aol.com)
Subject: Re: 2010-#184-Johnson's Russia List/Kara-Murza on Russia and NATO
Date: Sun, 3 Oct 2010 10:32:31 EDT

re: jrl #184 #31. www.worldaffairsjournal.org:
Vladimir Kara-Murza,
Russia's Path to NATO.

This is not the usual mere article, good or bad. Kara-Marza poses us a challenge in it. Three things make it an important challenge, and one that would be risky for us to ignore:

1. He reminds us that Yeltsin's government from the start in 1991 made NATO membership a national goal, long before NATO adopted a goal of expanding its membership to any new countries. It was a flash of lightning that for a moment lit up the international landscape, but the West never looked into the perspectives it opened up and quickly forgot about it. The reminder can show us the actual shape of post-Cold War history, which has since been buried under a layer of polemics and mystifications on both sides. The simple core of the real history is this: Yeltsin was strongly attacked at home for selling out Russia to a West that didn't want it anyway; he had to withdraw (under the guise of correcting a typo with a missing "not") his initial appeal to join NATO and had to stop talking about it. Other post-communist countries, where the national elites were more united behind NATO membership, made more persistent appeals to join, and this gradually penetrated Western thinking; Russia was left sidelined, unable to say much aloud except to oppose the others' joining; its mainstream elite could give only cautious hints henceforth that it would still prefer to join, if the West would be forthcoming enough that it wouldn't be political suicide.

2. Kara-Murza, a fairly authoritative representative of the opposition Democrats, blames the West for doing harm by not being forthcoming enough to Russia (in this case by not supporting Yeltsin's Russia in its goal of joining NATO). This is not what we usually expect to hear from these circles.

The last time we heard something like this on a high level was back when Kozyrev warned OSCE how the nationalists in Russia would be validated and the Democrats discredited if the West failed to engage Russia more seriously. Kozyrev was publicly dressed down for this by Lawrence Eagleburger and told like a schoolboy never to do it again. Russian Democrats learned a terrible lesson: Westerners will not listen but will only humiliate them if they tell the West that it needs to be more forthcoming. Eagleburger's action not only further damaged Kozyrev; it further validated the nationalists, who argued that Russia would be able to speak with self-respect to the West only if it wielded strength, and was not so pro-Western as to be unwilling to make a convincing threat to take a price out of the West. In this way, Western policy served as an object lesson to Russia to do exactly the things the West didn't want it to do. It should be obvious, two decades down the road, how disastrous this was. It is helpful that Kara-Murza has reminded us of it.

3. He is able to reference significant recent discussion in both Moscow and the West about Russia joining NATO. Some of Western figures are advocating this as a goal, not just a formal possibility, and giving major strategic reasons why the West needs this goal. Among this group is Volker Ruehe. What needs to be remembered here is that, in the 1990s as German Defense Minister, Ruehe had been, alongside Kissinger, the most energetic opponent of the goal of Russian membership. Their efforts were successful in stopping the West from keeping Russian membership as a goal in the official Study on NATO Expansion, although unsuccessful in preventing NATO from still formally holding the door open to Russia. The shift among Realists is huge: Kissinger is no longer bashing Russia but seeking its cooperation and integration, now that he realizes that we have far more authentic and harmful enemies elsewhere; Volker sees that NATO has to be a central venue for that integration. This, alongside the discussion in Moscow, means that Kara-Murza's proposition has some living political content; it is not just idealism floating in the air. As in 1991, there is a cost to ignoring it or delaying to prepare for it, although fortunately not immediately as dramatic a cost as in 1991.

And the challenge? Kara-Murza's concrete proposition to the West is this:

We, Russians and Westerners together need to talk and plan together about Russian membership in NATO. In other words: we need to think the matter through, together, both governmentally and non-governmentally; work out terms for it that would make it viable, i.e. ensure that it would serve the legitimate vital interests of both sides; and agree on plans for moving toward the goal -- agree enough that Russia would not again find itself spurned if it turns fully to the West.

It is what has always been needed. The increased discussion of the goal in recent months makes this preparatory work timely; it imposes a cost on further delay.

Of course, he doesn't make an outright direct appeal for a dialogue and set himself up to be hurt by a lack of reader response. But, as one of those readers, I can do it with less risk and pose the challenge to all the other readers here: shall we take Kara-Murza up on his proposition?

Ira Straus
U.S. coordinator
Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO

Keyword Tags:

Russia, NATO, Johnson's Russia List, Russia News, Russia

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