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Victim or cause for NATO expansion?

Published at: 21-03-2022

Posted on: March 21st, 2022 by RaduC No Comments

Russia’s current reaction is justified by NATO’s aggressive expansion eastward. This is the theory that sparks heated debates, both among experts and the general public. Although I think it should be abundantly clear to everyone that no explanation, however elaborate, can justify the death and suffering of so many millions of innocent people. Their death and suffering is a fact. While the threat invoked by Russia was just alleged and, largely, debatable.

The idea that NATO’s expansion eastward provoked Russia cunningly suggests that such expansion is arranged, premeditated, part of a master plan seeking to contain Russia. Meaning that NATO had a strategy planning to reach Russia’s borders and threaten it.

The flaw in this judgment is that such a process would have implied that NATO was the one urging Central and Eastern European countries to accede, so that the planned strategy of surrounding Russia becomes a reality. In fact, it was the other way around. It wasn’t NATO that insisted on the countries to become NATO member states, but the countries that insisted they joined NATO. Therefore, under these circumstances, the paramount question to take stock of the current state of affairs is “why?”.

Did the politicians do this on their own, caving in to NATO pressure? Did they do it against the wishes of the people they represented? Let’s take a look at the past 15 years. Have you seen mass demonstrations in the new NATO member states against their accession to the organization? Was any government ousted for the decision to sign off on the accession to NATO? Did any party from Central and Eastern Europe lose the elections on account of deciding in favor of their country to join NATO, ignoring the masses? Nothing. Zero. Which goes to show that NATO expansion was anything but pre-planned, arranged and then imposed through political or economic pressure; instead it was the result of aspirations, concerns or fears of the countries that acceded to the organization. Which actually takes us to the real cause for NATO expansion.

What exactly made all these countries feel in corpore unsafe, for being outside the organization? Why were they so desperate to join, sometimes even before meeting the required criteria? And to answer this question, I think we should take a look at Russia, and Russia should take a look in the mirror.

A country with an autocratic system, a severe democracy deficit, where the courage to go into political opposition cost people their lives more than once is simply terrifying. The absence of an institutionalized checks and balances system can only leave it at the mercy of a single man and his whimsies, weaknesses and physical and mental limitations. Adding an ingredient like exacerbated nationalism can render any decision – however absurd – possible. Unpredictability, from a geopolitical perspective, is frightening. Particularly when your past history doesn’t help you be labeled as a peaceful country.

A neighbor seeking exclusively the company of dictatorial or autocratic regimes in the international arena can only make you want to seek refuge. Let’s see what are the countries that voted against condemning the invasion at the UN General Assembly: Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Eritrea. We can add to this mix other traditional allies of Russia, such as Venezuela, Cuba or Iran. Under the circumstances, how scandalous is it that the aspiration to security of small countries holding conventional weapons was not sacrificed for the “alleged” fears of a first-hand nuclear power. A nuclear power that shares the values of the above-mentioned countries.

NATO military bases in Ukraine that threaten Russia’s safety? Nuclear weapons in Ukraine? Really? What military bases have been deployed in 15-20 years in Central and Eastern Europe? What nuclear weapons have been deployed in the new NATO member states in this region? Until the invasion of Ukraine, NATO did none of these in the new member states, but would have done so, for sure, in Ukraine, at the Russian border. A totally unconvincing excuse to attack Ukraine.

To conclude, the safest way for Russia to prevent NATO’s expansion would have been its democratic and economic development. Namely undergoing a profound transformation that would bring it up to par with the liberal countries of mature democracies. Escaping from the “pariah group”, forgoing the friendships inherited from the late Soviet Union, deepening the collaboration with the multilateral institutions that promote democracy and market economy, with NATO itself, could have tamed the feeling of insecurity of the neighboring countries. Moreover, a sense of NATO uselessness, whose buds had started to sprout at some point, Europe’s appetite for a geopolitical role independent of the USA, the shift in the USA interest from Europe to Asia would have made for an increasingly debatable relevance of the alliance, weaken its strength and eroded the motivation of belonging to an ever weaker alliance.

Paradoxically, preventing NATO’s geographical proximity to Russia would have required Russia to move towards NATO. Towards the values shared by its members.

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