NATO Enlargement and Prospects of New Security System
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
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