The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of communist regimes in Eastern Europe have fundamentally changed the global power balance once again as the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact was abrogated. These developments made the very existence of NATO, a defense mechanism established against the Soviet threat which did not exist anymore, questionable. But (the) leaders of NATO countries have decided to re-define the objectives and strategic priorities of the Alliance by transforming threat conceptions.
As the members agreed on NATO’s subsistence, the defense organization pursued an enlargement policy which first engaged with the former Warsaw Pact members. Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary became NATO members in 1999. Five years later, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia from Eastern Europe along with Baltic States like Estonia, Latonia and Lithuania entered NATO. Lastly, the newest NATO members were Albania and Croatia during the 2009 Strasburg Summit where France returned to the Alliance, reintegrating NATO after 43 years.
Partnership for Peace Program
The relations between NATO and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union were one of the main sources of curiosity which experts were keen to learn. Russia’s decision in 1994 to take part in the ‘Partnership for Peace Program’, a program of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO, was a significant step in NATO-Russia ties. The Dayton Agreement which ended the Bosnian War in 1995 had also prepared the grounds for further cooperation between the former rivals.
Another progressive step was taken when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 1997 to strengthen ties in several issues regarding security. With this MoU the Permanent Partnership Council was established aiming to take confidence building measures through mutual understanding and dialog. However, the Kosovo war in 1999 brought a halt to the progress and NATO’s intervention in Serbia to end Beograd’s aggression on Kosovo almost stopped the cooperation process.
What made both sides come closer again was the September 11 attacks in 2001. The NATO-Russia Council was formed with the Rome declaration in 2002. The Council is still active today despite the tension which occurred when Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 and recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a major blow to Georgia. NATO and Russia have been in close cooperation in Afghanistan. The new strategic concept accepted in the 2010 Lisbon Summit and its final declaration included constructive terms for Russia-NATO relations by asserting the relations as ‘a genuine strategic partnership.’
Russia’s primary security threat: NATO
Despite mutual gestures and practical steps to have close cooperation, both sides continue to see each other as a security threat; a hard-dying old habit dating back to the Cold War era. Russians think that NATO is following a containment strategy through its enlargement policy and missile shield project which they suspect targets Russia. The majority of the Russian public perceive NATO as the main danger for their country’s security. Scrambling to preserve the former Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Moscow administration rebuffed the old communist regimes to become a NATO member. With the latest enlargement in 2004 in which some Baltic States stepped in the Alliance, NATO and Russia become geographically neighbors. Thus, the Kremlin does not seem to reconcile easily with further enlargement maneuvers.
Another factor creating disturbance for Russia is the air defense system which is known as defense missile shield. Considering that the project is intended to be directly against Russian interests, Moscow threatened NATO to deploy Alexandrian missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania in Baltic Sea. In his first visit to Moscow, US President Barack Obama announced that the missile shield project was suspended. However, later on deployment of a radar station in Turkey caused another confidence crisis in NATO-Russia relations.
RAEVSKİ: "NATO BASED ALL ITS STRATEGY ON WARFARE"
Viktor Raevski, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ International Relations Institute noted “The moves of NATO around the Russian border have always bothered Moscow. However, from the early 1990’s, NATO has tried to make sure that there is nothing to worry Russians. Although they promised NATO would not expand in a threatening way against Russia, NATO leaders based their strategy on limiting Russia’s strategic capabilities. Why did they do so? Did they aim economic development and welfare? Of course, no! Since NATO is a military defense organization, all of its plans depend on warfare. The recent missile defense system they deployed seems to be against China and Iran but it actually targets Russia. The Kremlin has spent considerable money and effort to push this threat out.
Noting that he had worked with NATO generals and diplomats for years, and was therefore familiar with their mentality, Raevski added “NATO’s policies bring us back to the Cold War era. The existing conflicts in Central Asia and Caucasus become more complicated with NATO’s moves. Three neighboring countries Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia do not trust each other. The reason behind the lack of confidence is the NATO presence in the region. They promised Georgia to help the administration to become a welfare state. NATO provides new infrastructure, airports and roads. But, they are all for NATO troops. NATO is pursuing the same policy in Ukraine as well. If they come, they would bring missiles which target us. Ethnic Russians living in Ukraine would face disaster. It is expected that nationalists in Ukraine will be glad to see NATO in their country. However, they would be more powerful when they decide to be a part of the Eurasia Union with which they would be able to access a market free from quotas. They certainly have the right to choose the way their country would head, but they should bear in mind that NATO has failed to form sustainable peace among its current members. The best example is Turkey and Greece. They were on the edge of war when the Kardak crisis erupted.
Source: Kuzey News AgencyGüncelleme Tarihi: 13 Temmuz 2013, 11:38