SRDJA TRIFKOVIC: NATO EXPANSION THREATENS EUROPEAN PEACE
When Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin finished their second meeting, at the end of the G8 summit in Genoa last month, American proponents of the missile defense plan and of NATO’s further expansion claimed a victory for their policies. Some have also invoked the results of the summit to undercut criticism by France and Germany of those projects. Neoconservative triumphalism is no substitute for coherence, however, and the apparent ability of this Administration to go ahead with “Son of Star Wars,” or to extend NATO deep into Russia’s back yard, is no proof that those policies are desirable or justified. There are five main areas of concern.
1.Rapprochement between Moscow and Peking
One consequence of the missile defense project is the ongoing improvement in Russo-Chinese relations. Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, were careful to emphasize that they were not creating a military alliance, but they also issued a joint statement supporting the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972, which America says is obsolete. The two nations were thus reacting primarily to the “Star Wars” program, which they fear will compel them to engage in a costly arms race that neither can afford.
2.Russia Remains an Adversary
If both missile defense and a new round of NATO expansion go ahead, regardless of Moscow’s misgivings, this will perpetuate an inherently adversarial relationship between Washington and Moscow. The first victims were Moscow’s own friends of the West. A few years ago Alexei Arbatov, the former deputy chairman of the Defense Committee of the Russian Parliament, complained that “many of those who have been trying to persuade the United States not to expand NATO are the people who have staked their careers -- and probably more than that -- on Russia’s close and fair cooperation with the United States.”
Those people are now finished, disillusioned and discredited. In their place the realists are back in charge in Moscow. Even in its weakened state Russia remains a nuclear power, with nearly 6,000 nuclear warheads. If NATO enlargement is effected and if America presses ahead with its antimissile system, Mr. Putin has warned that Russia will retaliate by putting more nuclear warheads on to each of its ballistic missiles.
3.America Will Overextend Its Security Guarantees to Third Countries
Article V of the NATO Charter clearly states that an attack on one is an attack on all, an automatic guarantee of aid to an ally in distress. The United States will supposedly provide its protective cover to a host of new clients right in Russia’s geopolitical backyard. This is a form of “vital-interest-creep”: the United States will assume the nominal responsibility for open-ended maintenance of a host of disputed frontiers that were drawn often arbitrarily by communists, and bear little relation to ethnicity or history. Either the United States is serious that it would risk a thermonuclear war for the sake of, say, Estonia’s border with Russia, which is insane, or it is not serious, which is both frivolous and dangerous.
4.Division of Europe Will Be Perpetrated
By having its nose rubbed in its defeat Russia will remain an adversary of the United States at a time when Russia's economic and demographic weakness may result in a violent Asiatic scramble for its natural resources and increasingly depopulated territories along its southern rim and east of the Urals. By extending its cordon sanitaire around Russia the United States indirectly encourages the belief that the bear may soon be up for grabs.
NATO extension will jeopardize Europe’s chances of long-term survival. The United States should understand why some former Soviet satellites have a vested geopolitical interest and an even more acute psychological need to treat Russia as the enemy, but it should never allow itself to be seduced by their obsessions. They all proclaim their undying devotion to the ideological assumptions of the new NATO but their real agenda is twofold: to have a western (read: American) security guarantee against Russia, and to strengthen their own position vis-Á-vis those neighbors -- mostly again Russians -- with whom they have an ongoing or potential dispute. NATO membership may even embolden some to revive territorial or ethnic claims that would have otherwise remained dormant. The experience of Turkey shows that the alliance has no means to stop one of its members from aggressive intent or adventurous conduct.
Extending NATO into Eastern Europe is a real threat to Russia, and that it recreates the division of the continent that was supposed to be lifted a decade ago. We all need a Russian economic revival focused on its links with Europe, and a strategic understanding with Washington based on the underlying common interest with the United States in keeping Islamic marauders at bay.
5.Global Hegemonists Win Again
NATO expansion strengthens the unholy alliance of one-world multilateralists and neoconservative global interventionists who run the show in Washington and who now see NATO as a permanent tool for the execution of their policies.
NATO came into being as an implicitly temporary arrangement to prevent Stalin’s invasion of Western Europe. Its creators never thought of the U.S. role as permanent: Eisenhower told Congress at the time that American troops would not be needed along the Iron Curtain for more than ten years, by which time the Europeans would be able to defend themselves.
A decade turned into four, but with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact the stated rationale for NATO’s existence had finally disappeared. Yet instead of proclaiming victory and closing shop, over the past decade the ruling duopoly in Washington has invented a new mission for NATO: that of the self-appointed promoter of democracy, protector of human rights, and guardian against instability. It was on those grounds, rather than in response to any supposed threat, that the Clinton Administration pushed for the admission of Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary four years ago. In Mrs. Albright’s words this expanded “the area in Europe where wars simply do not happen.” It is important to note that under the new doctrine NATO’s area of operations is no longer limited, and its “mandate” is entirely self-generated. Its war against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999 marked a decisive shift in NATO’s mutation from a defensive alliance into a supranational security force.
A few wise Frenchmen already suspect that the latter-day, U.S.-led Drang nach Osten is a poisoned chalice that the Germans will only accept to their peril. From a neoconservative, global-hegemonist point of view there is no better way to ensure American dominance in Europe in perpetuity than by preventing the long-overdue Russo-German rapprochement. This historic step remains the last unfulfilled prerequisite for a long period of stable peace throughout the Old Continent. NATO expansion will artificially postpone it in favor of a psychotic imperial utopia made in Washington.
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The ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia