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#6 (68), 2018


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National Security

NATO Enlargement and Prospects of New Security System

Mikhail NOSKOV

A little over a year remains until the NATO summit in Prague that is expected to decide on the admission of new members to the Alli­ance. One may assume that as the event ap­proaches the debates on what is called the second wave of NATO enlargement in the con­text of NATO relations with Russia will again intensify.

It is common knowl­edge that from the very start Moscow has been expressing its ex­tremely negative atti­tude to the possible admission of former USSR partners in the Warsaw Treaty Or­ganization to NATO. The degree of emotions in the statements of Russian politicians on the subject has varied depending on the readi­ness declared in Brussels to develop constructive co­operation with Russia and on the actual NATO moves. However, the essence of the Rus­sian of­ficial stance on the enlargement was and re­mains unchanged. It is laconically but ex­tremely clearly stated in the new Russian For­eign Policy Concept approved by President Vladimir Putin in June 2000:

«NATO's present-day political and military goals in many ways diverge from the security interests of the Russian Federation, and occa­sionally directly contradict them. First of all, this concerns the postulates of NATO's new strategic concept that allow for the conduct of force-based operations outside the zone of the Washington Treaty without UN Security Coun­cil authorization. Russia continues to negatively view the expansion of NATO.

Intensive and constructive cooperation between Russia and NATO is only possible on the condi­tion of due respect for the interests of the sides and unconditional compliance with the mutual obligations assumed.»1

In its turn the NATO leadership while substan­tiating the need for the enlargement has been stressing that the process is not anti-Russian. At this Brussels points primarily to the willingness of the candidates to become full-fledged mem­bers of the alliance because following the col­lapse of the bipolar world order they allegedly fear finding themselves in so-called gray secu­rity zones. Besides, sporadic attempts are made to convince Moscow that the candidates regard NATO membership not as involving certain military obligations but like in case of EU membership as a key to future prosperity and improved relations with Russia! Another argument in favor of increasing the number of NATO countries that still remains equally popu­lar is that such is the inevi­table logic of Euro­pean enlargement as a whole.

If one accepts this string of arguments, one in­evitably asks oneself: maybe Russia’s appre­hen­sions about the planned admission of Central and East European countries and Baltic states to NATO are in fact exaggerated?

Unfortunately, they are not. And though the Russian side has named the reasons for such ap­prehensions many times, it is worth stating them once again in this article.

The threats to Russia’s national security result­ing from the NATO enlargement may be divided into two key categories: immediate mili­tary threats and threats stemming from the ap­pearance of a geopolitical situation in Europe unfavorable for Moscow.

As far as the first group of threats is concerned, it seems that it would be appropriate to quote what President Vladimir Putin said at his joint news conference with U.S. President George W. Bush during their meeting in Ljubljana in June 2001:

«Is NATO a military organization, or isn’t it? It is. Are we wanted there? No we are not! Is it advancing to our borders? Yes, it is! What for?»2

Unfortunately, the leaders of NATO states re­garded the questions as rather rhetoric and re­frained from comments on Putin’s other une­quivocal statement on the anti-Russian objec­tives of the NATO enlargement plans.

The attitude is quite easy to explain, though. NATO leaders did not want to draw once again attention to the sensitive issue in relations be­tween the West and Russia by starting an ar­gument with Moscow.

But how can one explain the clear contradiction between the NATO plans of deploying the mili­tary infrastructure of the alliance in the imme­diate vicinity of Russian borders and Brussels’ continuing claims that Russia’s apprehensions are groundless? In general, it should be noted that so far not a single NATO argument in favor of its enlargement policy has managed to dis­perse the anxieties of the Russian side. At the same time the NATO aggression against sover­eign Yugoslavia in 1999 only confirmed that Russia’s negative attitude to the growth of the alliance’s military potential was justified. Let me quote an article by Professor V. I. Slip­chenko, Doctor of Military Sciences: «For the United States and its NATO allies the most im­portant, if not the main purpose of the war in Yugoslavia was all-round testing of new, high precision weapons, reconnaissance, control, communication, radioelectronic systems, all forms of logistics and coordination etc in actual combat conditions. The United States made its first precision tests of virtually new modifica­tions of JDAM and JSOW air bombs and JASSM guided missiles… During the second stage of the operation experiments continued on the use of guided air bombs of different types with laser homing devices… Besides, there ap­peared a chance to give pilots combat prac­tice».3 And further on the author concludes: «The high precision arms systems that were tested in actual combat conditions and won high praise from experts and a quality certificate al­ready now constitute the main and long-term source of profits for many corporations and firms of the military industrial complex… Mili­tary-industrial corporations and groups in eco­nomically developed countries will try to de­velop state-of-the-art high precision sea and air launched cruise missiles. But ever new and new real life experiments will be required to receive a document confirming their quality».4

Speaking of the military threats to Russian se­curity stemming from the NATO expansion one cannot overlook the efforts of the alliance to expand the functional application of its poten­tial for effectively responding to any situation affecting its interests (one of the purposes of organizing the NATO allied force in Europe is to develop the ability to simultaneously conduct three operations with a duration of up to two years on the scale of army corps by combining the use of forces of high and regular readiness).

All this cannot help troubling Russia, of course. Leaders of NATO countries come back with saying that Moscow has no right to veto the en­largement of the alliance. It is not clear, though, why such commonplace statements should be made at all. Russia has never claimed this right. It has only expressed its concerns and it is for the West to decide whether to take them into account or ignore.

In addition to purely military threats the NATO enlargement is fraught with other risks to Rus­sian security - geopolitical that in the long run may prove even more important. An article of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says:

«We will go on trying to convince our NATO partners that the line for the further expansion of the alliance is unproductive, and not only be­cause it leads to a negative change in the mili­tary-political landscape in Europe, which Russia cannot afford to ignore. The expansion process objectively leads to the perpetuation of zones enjoying different degrees of security in Europe, and we cannot perceive it as anything but an act directed against the interests of Russia.»5

Moreover, and the Russian foreign minister has noted that many times too, the appearance of such a cold war relapse as new dividing lines on the map of Europe may be another consequences of the NATO enlargement. It is not in the inter­ests of new Russia to permit this because after the collapse of the USSR it has chosen the ob­jective of political and economic integration in the international community as a foreign policy priority. However, at times one gets the impres­sion that the West that would seem naturally interested in supporting the policy pursued by Russia is taking steps directly opposite to it.

The NATO enlargement is a step of that very kind quite capable of causing a chain reaction of mutual alienation between Russia and the West that will consequently threaten the European security architecture in the 21st century. Lately the Russian political community has been ex­pressing the idea that Russia must choose its own road of development different from the Western one.

There is no doubt that the enlargement policy pursued by NATO is a kind of catalyst for the spread of such sentiments, a typical sample of which is given below (the author is the chair­man of the all-Russian Social-Political Move­ment Eurasia):

«Russia has its own road. And this road does not coincide with the main road of Western civilization. Russia and the West are different civilizations, they carry out different civilization patterns and they have different systems of values. This is not a cold war propaganda stereotype. World history of the past millenium proved the contrast between the motley Eura­sian world and Western civilization… There is an irreconcilable contradiction between the Eurasian meta-civilization with Russia as its core and the Western, Atlantic community.

This is especially evident today when the West… ignores our priorities in Eastern Europe, expanding its military alliances, pursing its own policy in the Caucasus overlooking our interests and conducting large-scale PR campaigns to dis­credit our country. This cannot be called any­thing but a «cold aggression» against present-day, democratic Russia…

No changes in our political system or adjust­ment of our ideology to «common human val­ues» (actually Western, or to be more exact American) will rid the Russian state from tough opposition by the West. It is curious that this concept of Eurasians was fully confirmed by the leading modern ideologist of the West, Zbignew Brzezinski. In his book «The Great Chessboard» he unequivocally stated that for an American good Russia is non-existent Russia, divided Rus­sia. Oppressed Russia, Russia split into several sectors and developed by neighboring states».6

But does the possible new confrontation with Russia meet the interests of West itself? I don’t think a single sober-minded politician will give a positive reply to the question.

Russia is especially alarmed by the new NATO doctrine allowing the use of force, firstly, out­side the national territories of its member-na­tions, secondly, without authorization from the UN Security Council what is a crude violation of the UN Charter.

Undoubtedly, given this approach of the NATO command to military-political decision-making a justified question arises in Moscow: what can prevent the alliance from declaring individual parts of the Russian Federation unstable, a threaten to the security of NATO member-coun­tries and from trying to spread its «peace-keeping» to them?

Russia does not regard NATO as a hostile or­ganization, of course. On the contrary, after the gradual unfreezing of relations with the alliance the objectives are to establish a constructive dialogue and cooperate in resisting new chal­lenges - international terrorism, ethnic conflicts, organized crime, illegal arms trade, drug traf­ficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass de­struction and their delivery vehicles.

However, a significant part of the Russian po­litical elite is still very apprehensive of NATO. This apprehensiveness was largely encouraged by NATO actions in Yugoslavia two years ago that demonstrated the possible «effective» re­sponse of the alliance «to new challenges» that only worsened the situation in Kosovo - sensing their impunity Albanian separatists are working to sever the territory from Serbia. They are taking similar steps in areas of neighboring Ma­cedonia with a predominant Albanian popula­tion. Moreover, the NATO actions provoked a debate on the permissibility of using force to guarantee one’s own security without considera­tion for provisions of intentional law which in its turn may lead not only to a military buildup in a number of so-called problem states but also the erosion of control over the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and means of their delivery.

Unfortunately, there is no visible determination of the alliance today to give up the plans of admitting new members (though Brussels would have no reason feel ashamed to face the candi­dates «left overboard»: the question of freezing the enlargement process for an indefinite time could well be accounted if not to «a step to­wards Russia,» then to need to take a breath until the full adaptation of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic prompted by financial and technical difficulties, because the admission of new members to the alliance could considera­bly lower its effectiveness).

The most radical option of simultaneously ad­mitting all nine candidates will hardly be car­ried out in Prague in autumn 2002, of course. It is more likely that NATO will continue the practice of admitting new members in small groups of the best-prepared states. However, it would be extremely light-minded to hope that Moscow will not go further than verbal pro­tests. At least the current leadership of the big­gest nuclear power has not given reason to think that Russia is bluffing.

Lately the Western media have been showing special interest in what Russia means by speaking of a possible adequate response to the NATO enlargement. In my opinion this is insig­nificant. Another thing seems more important, namely what can the sides do to avoid confron­tation resulting from the enlargement of the al­liance? President Putin formulated the possible options at his news conference on July 18, 2001:

«We constantly hear that everyone wants to de­stroy some barriers and borders in Europe. We stand for that as well. But let’s think about it better. What does the destruction of borders and barriers mean? Let’s think what it is. If this is understood as pushing the barrier closer to the borders of Russia, it does not impress us very much. Well, yes, those who are going to be included in the common space will have no bor­ders, but they will appear in front of us. This would lead to different degrees of security on the continent, and to my mind, this is not on par with the realities of this day or caused by any political or military necessity.

Moreover, I am convinced that we will not achieve unity in Europe without creating a common security and defense space. Different options are possible here. The simplest is to dis­band NATO. But there is no such item on the agenda.

The second possible option. By the way, I am not saying that we want this option, I am sim­ply theorizing. The second possible option is Russia’s admission to NATO. This would also create a single defense and security space.

The third option is the formation of a different, new organization that would put forward these tasks and incorporate the Russian Federation. In general, this is also a possible option. Such a task was generally put forward to the OSCE as well. But today those who evidently are not very willing to create a single base, a single space and security in Europe are gradually shifting OSCE activities in a different direction: to Central Asia, the Northern Caucasus, and somewhere else, only that it would not assume the possibilities and the potential for which it was set up. But if some day we do not do this, we will still have an imbalanced security system in Europe, and we will continue mistrusting each other».7

Sooner or later Brussels will have to respond to Russian proposals. The tactics of ignoring them in counter-productive and by continuing to ad­here to it NATO risks to find itself in what is described as zugzwang in chess when any fol­lowing move will worsen its relations with Moscow.

The idea of developing institutions to guarantee true interaction between Russia and NATO has been expressed by both Russian and Western political analysts many times, by the way. Here is one example: «Even if it is possible to create a European security system, this can happen only and primarily on the basis of cooperation between Russia and NATO. At this it should be different from what the existing cooperation structures can guarantee. Evidently, if current Russian membership in NATO is excluded, such cooperation may be exercised only in the framework of a special relationship. It should be legally registered in a treaty on mutual security and cooperation. On mutual security because af­ter decades of cold war the level of mutual con­fidence leaves much to be desired, and conse­quently a certain system of measures is needed to strengthen it: the reduction of the military potentials of countries entering the alliance from their present level, nondeployment of foreign troops and nuclear arms in countries bordering on Russia or lying in its immediate vicinity (and this does not apply only to possi­ble new NATO members), prevention of mili­tary exercises with foreign participation near Russian borders, mutual nondeployment of of­fensive arms in zones defined by agreement etc. On the other hand, this should also be a treaty of cooperation because European security is facing threats that are common both for NATO countries and Russia. Therefore, joint efforts are necessary (joint military formations) to resist or neutralize them: peacekeeping, resistance to ter­rorism (international and national), the preven­tion of the proliferation of weapons of mass de­struction etc».8

It should be added that such a document should proclaim as a mandatory condition without which it would be senseless the adherence of the sides to a fundamental international security principle that questions of the use of force are the exclusive prerogative of the U.N. Security Council.

Whether the world community manages to de­velop a new security system largely depends on the final normalization of relations between Russia and NATO. Moscow is ready for that.


1 Unofficial translation.

2 Unofficial translation. Joint press-conference of the Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin and the US President Mr. George Bush, Ljubljana, 16.06.2001, www.president.kremlin.ru

3 V. Slipchenko, «Besknontaktnoye istrebleniye», Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, No. 21, 2001, p.2

4 Ibid.

5 I.Ivanov, «Vneshnyaya politika Rossii na sovremen­nom etape», Moscow, 2000, p. 23.

6 A.Dugin, «Yevraziistvo: ot filosofii k politike», Nezavisimaya Gazeta, No. 95 (2905), 30.05.2001, p.8

7 Unofficial translation. Press-conference of the Rus­sian President Mr. Vladimir Putin, 18.07.2001, www.president.kremlin.ru

8 Yu.Davydov, «Vozniknovenie regiona TsVE: pos­ledstviya dlya Rossii i Zapada», SShA - ekonomika, politika, ideologia, No. 4, 1997, p. 6-21

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