Skip to comments.NATO Should Remain Wary Of Russia
Posted on 11/28/2001 5:39:35 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
Was the recent Bush-Putin summit in Crawford, Texas, a replay of Yalta or of Malta? Though it is too early to judge, it is not too early to ask. In 1945 at Yalta, a charmed Franklin Roosevelt fraternized with "Uncle Joe" and obtained a tactical Soviet commitment to enter the war against Japan, while strategically conceding East-Central Europe to Soviet control. In 1989 at Malta, an exuberant George H.W. Bush tactically hailed the last Soviet leader as a great European statesman while gaining his strategic acquiescence that a soon-to-be-unified Germany had to be firmly anchored in the Atlantic alliance.
Both summits were spectacular exercises in personal diplomacy. That dimension naturally commanded most attention and produced an avalanche of press commentaries that usually began with awed references to "a new era" or "a historical breakthrough" or "a grand realignment" in American-Russian relations. In both summits, Russia's leaders were widely credited by Western media with having overcome hidden internal opposition to their not-always-very-evident personal desire for a strategic accommodation with the U.S.
However, the truly important lesson from such personal diplomacy is much more prosaic. Personal diplomacy at summits cannot succeed unless it is infused with determination to achieve firmly held strategic goals, derived from a cold calculation of the actual balance of power between the two interlocutors. To be sure, personal diplomacy can soften the hard edges of the encounter, and it can create a screen behind which the weaker party can make concessions without evident humiliation. But if focused only on tactical concerns, it can be a prescription for eventual disappointment.
At Malta the president knew what he wanted (strategically), and what he could get (tactically). His success led to the end of the Cold War on terms that represented a victory for freedom, democracy and human rights. Yalta was anything but that.
The question now is whether the new Bush-Putin relationship will lead to the further expansion of the Euro-Atlantic space and the long-term assimilation into it of post-Soviet Russia; or whether the preoccupation with the campaign against global terrorism will precipitate arrangements that will in fact dilute the political cohesion of the integrated Atlantic alliance, America's greatest post-World War II accomplishment.
Russia's assimilation is desirable and even historically inevitable. Russia really has no choice, with its huge but largely empty spaces bordering in the south on 300 million Muslims (whom it has thoroughly antagonized by its wars against the Afghans and the Chechens) and in the east on 1.3 billion Chinese. But on what terms that assimilation is accomplished will determine how stable the Eurasian continent will become and how enduring will be the Euro-Atlantic connection.
Perhaps Mr. Putin's sudden epiphany makes him now no longer wish to separate America from Europe, nor to construct a "strategic partnership" with China aimed at America's hegemony, nor to create a Slavic Union with Belarus and Ukraine, nor to subordinate to Moscow the newly independent post-Soviet states -- all of which he was actively pursuing until a mere few weeks ago. But imperial nostalgia dies slowly, and it certainly lingers in the principal institutions of Russian power, notably the military and security forces, and among Russia's foreign policy elite. Its spokesmen have made it amply clear that in their view Russia's entry into the West should entail significant concessions by the West, some of which could adversely affect the shared values and the viable consensual procedures of the Atlantic alliance.
Unfortunately, in regard to both these core issues -- values and procedures -- reliance on personal diplomacy has tended to obscure what should remain clear. If Russia is to be closely associated with the Euro-Atlantic community, it must conduct itself in keeping with European standards, even in difficult circumstances. Britain has fought terrorism in Ulster for years, with London and even the royal family itself victimized -- yet Belfast has not been reduced to ruins and some 30,000 Irish civilians were not slaughtered. After several years of bitter fighting, France came to recognize that Algerians were not Frenchmen. Are there not relevant lessons here for Mr. Putin's war in Chechnya?
Recent British initiatives, apparently with tacit U.S. approval, to create a new decision-making mechanism for NATO-Russia joint actions similarly run the risk of fuzzing procedurally what needs to remain clear. Decisions within NATO are consensual while membership is derived from a common commitment to shared national security interests. Yet the British proposal calls for the creation of a new body, the Russia-North Atlantic Council, in which Russia and the current 19 NATO members would deliberate regarding possible joint-security actions. This body would meet quite regularly, thus paralleling NATO's existing top decision-making organ, the North Atlantic Council. Unlike the already existing consultative Joint NATO-Russia Council, in which NATO and Russia in effect meet as one-on-one (the 19+1 formula), the British proposal calls for discussions on an equal footing among the 20.
It is not difficult to imagine the political consequences of the British proposal. The Russian side will presumably come with its own position defined prior to any meeting, but with the remaining 19 not having worked out a joint NATO position. Russia would become a de facto participant in NATO's political deliberations, able to play on differences among the NATO allies before a NATO consensus has even been shaped. This is a formula for internal disruption and not for enhanced cooperation with a non-member. It could downgrade NATO into something like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (which lacks the capacity for action), or split it into competing blocs in which traditional trans-Atlantic or European rivalries could be exploited by the non-member.
It is odd that a proposal of such import should have been offered by Prime Minister Blair both to his allies as well as to Russia. The proper procedure should have involved a thorough vetting of the idea at the forthcoming NATO ministerial, and not a sudden and -- to some NATO members -- a disturbingly hasty rush to Moscow by NATO's secretary general in order to plug the British proposal before a not-so-surprisingly gratified Russian president.
At the very least, NATO's December ministerial should defer any decision on this matter until a more thorough examination has taken place. At stake, in addition to underlying values, is the essence of the political-military integration of the alliance. The bottom line has to be that any combined NATO-Russia mechanism regarding joint-security actions must not become a substitute for prior NATO decisions concerning the desirability of such joint actions.
Strategy, Not Tactics
The enduring lesson of the past several decades is that engaging Russia has to be pursued on the basis of a long-term strategy, and not for the sake of personal spectaculars or quick tactical benefits. Next November NATO is scheduled to hold its summit in Prague, and to celebrate it by adding new Central European members. That occasion should offer a historically opportune moment -- hopefully, in the presence of the presidents of Russia and of Ukraine -- to combine NATO's enlargement with progressive engagement eastward, pointing even towards the eventual emergence of a pan-Eurasian security system, with NATO as its inner core. While heading that way, the U.S. and its allies should keep in mind the basic distinction between Yalta and Malta.
Mr. Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Carter, is author of "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives" (Basic Books, 1997).
Having been Jimmy Carter's chief foreign policy expert should have been enough for Zbig to have been kicked out of the CFR and Trilateral Commission. I don't think even the Book-of-the-Month Club should retain him as a member.
Why anyone publishes his musings is beyond me.
Something else this farts don't want to recognize: Russian-Belarussian Union is a reality that already exists. Moldavia has also expressed desire for reunification, as has Abhazia and a very large percentage of Aremenia. Two thirds of Ukrainians also want to come back and a referendum for Reunification has been pending in Khazikstan...where the Soviet style dictator has been doing everything possible to dodge the issue...even though 52% of the population is Russian and a large part of the rest is Russianized Germans.
I wasn't aware there were 300 million Afghans and Chechens and that all of them were antagonized. LOL!
The last I checked, "independent" Chechnya is supported mainly by the Saudis and the Taliban, the same people who were largely involved in terrorism on the US. And that Russia was quite friendly with Iran, Iraq and several other muslim countries.
Considering that muslims have much more opportunities to commit acts of terrorism in Russia, given its proximity, you'd expect to see 9/11's all over Russia, if one is to believe Brzezinsky.
It's a two-way street.
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