Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

LQD: NATO as 'convenient threat' for Russia

by marco Tue Nov 25th, 2008 at 05:04:29 AM EST

Is NATO dying, as a piece excerpted by nanne in [the other] morning's Salon alleges?

After describing all the problems that plagues the organization and suggesting that euthanasia would be the best way to deal with it, the author, Nick Witney, ruefully concedes that NATO is here to stay for some time more at least, due to Europe's snail-like progress in developing the necessary alternative structures on which to rest the transatlantic security relationship.

Meanwhile, according to one Cathy Young, NATO's supposedly threatening existence towards Russia is actually quite useful for Russia's leadership, which uses it as a convenient "external enemy" to divert the Russian public from their mounting frustrations with their country's stature and living standards.  If so, according to Young's logic, any intiative by Obama to defuse the NATO "threat" towards Russia will, paradoxically, not be welcomed by Moscow, who would then be forced to deal with the true causes of Russia's "inferiority complex toward the West and, in particular, the United States".

promoted with an edit by afew


... In an address to the Russian Parliament, President Dmitri Medvedev welcomed President-elect Obama with a threat to deploy Russian missiles on the Polish border if the United States put anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe. <...>

Leonid Radzikhovsky, a Russian journalist, has said that "the existential void of our politics has been filled entirely by anti-Americanism," and that to renounce this rhetoric "would be tantamount to destroying the foundations of the state ideology." <...>

In the post-Soviet era, many Russians are angry because their country has neither the stature nor the living standards that they believe it deserves. Polls shows that most Russians actually favor a Western way of life. Nearly two-thirds would rather live in a well-off country than in one that is poorer but more powerful and feared by others. Unfortunately, most also believe their country will not reach Western levels of well-being any time soon, if ever. As frustrations mount, it is often easier to blame an external force than the country's own failings. <...>

Today, the government may be especially anxious to ratchet up anti-Americanism in response to the election of Mr. Obama, who is likely to make it more difficult for Russia to exploit animosity toward the United States in Europe and even the Third World. <...>

One of Mr. Obama's top Russia advisers, Michael McFaul, has suggested offering Russia a path toward membership in NATO. The current Russian leadership would, of course, reject any such offer, because it would entail democratic reforms that Russia is not willing to undertake. But the offer would give Russian reformers a tangible goal, and make it harder to convince ordinary Russians that America will always treat Russia as the enemy.

Mr. Obama should make the offer in person, during a trip to Russia. Ronald Reagan's visit to the Soviet Union in 1988 went a long way toward dispelling anti-American stereotypes in the minds of many Russians during the twilight of the cold war. Mr. Obama, the object of a great deal of curiosity and fascination, is one American politician who could repeat that feat.

From Russia With Loathing - NYTimes.com

But even supposing that Young is correct in her claim that Moscow uses NATO as a target to divert Russians' dissatisfaction to an external enemy, she overlooks another option that President Obama can propose to Russia's leaders: begin dismantling, or at least retracting, NATO.  That would certainly go "a long way toward dispelling anti-American stereotypes in the minds of many Russians", and it would be an offer even the most anti-Western, militaristic Russian could not refuse.

Display:
One of the great sadnesses about political events is that there are few ways to conduct experiments, but I'd suggest that you can construct scenarios in which an offer to join NATO would make just not much difference to the political scene there at all.

Still, that's no reason not to do it... perhaps somebody else has some thoughts on why it might be a bad idea?

As an aside, if you accept the framing that keeping the focus on foreign affairs is a good electoral distraction from economic matters for the current Russian government, one possible advantage for the US of dismantling NATO is that Russia would then likely focus on the EU as the "enemy at the gates."

Of course, that assumes that the US abandoned trying to subvert central Asia to US hegemony - possible if Obama really does mean to create a "Green New Deal," but otherwise unlikely.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Nov 21st, 2008 at 10:44:11 AM EST
European Tribune - LQD: NATO as 'convenient threat' for Russia
One of Mr. Obama's top Russia advisers, Michael McFaul, has suggested offering Russia a path toward membership in NATO. The current Russian leadership would, of course, reject any such offer, because it would entail democratic reforms that Russia is not willing to undertake.

It's hard not to laugh bitterly at this sentence.

I disagree with the NYT analysis. In my opinion Russia would like to get rid of NATO so that it can get more influence in Europe. Eventually, offering them a path towards EU membership (somewhere around 2050) will give them what they want, and give us a much bigger shot at democratic reforms.

In the mean while, Russia has real security concerns, and these tend to trump economic concerns. The best way to alleviate these concerns is to stop causing them and start cooperating to form a mutually acceptable settlement. This includes not expanding NATO by adding Georgia and the Ukraine, which are at any rate both useless to the alliance for purposes other than poking Russia in the eye. It also includes forming a process to stabilise the Caucasus and to work towards a settlement in Moldavia.

I see a halfway decent chance of Sweden and Finland joining NATO somewhere in the next few years.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 21st, 2008 at 05:49:35 PM EST
nanne:
I see a halfway decent chance of Sweden and Finland joining NATO somewhere in the next few years.

Is that a positive thing in your view?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Nov 21st, 2008 at 06:27:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure. It might be good within NATO. I'm not sure if its effects outside would outweigh that. You could also manage it in better and worse ways.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Nov 21st, 2008 at 07:11:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IMO joining NATO would be disastrous for Sweden and Finland.

NATO is a military alliance that is responsible for 70% of global military spending. That fact alone is grounds for the condemnation of the organization for both nations, even though we each view the situation slightly differently.

Sadly I hear more pro-NATO views in Finland recently - even one of my business partners has succumbed. But this new support is based on only one factor - the perceived threat of Russia.  'Finlandization' was a curse word first used by West German intelligence services. But apart from the military limitations placed on Finland by the 1949 treaty with the Soviets, the overall theme of 'Finlandization' has been that it is better to cooperate than compete. Shades of Putin's judo analogies...

Sweden and Finland can do Europe a great service by remaining neutral 'honest brokers' in relations between Russia and Europe. There are far more important problems such as the pollution of the Baltic that need to be addressed cooperatively.

Russia (west of the Urals) is historically European. Different on the same scale as Turkey, but culturally much closer. And Russia is much closer culturally to Europe than the last 8 years of the the USA. NATO is a barrier to closer integration of Russia and Europe.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 25th, 2008 at 05:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
Russia (west of the Urals) is historically European. Different on the same scale as Turkey, but culturally much closer. And Russia is much closer culturally to Europe than the last 8 years of the the USA. NATO is a barrier to closer integration of Russia and Europe.

Indeed. Note my earlier top-level comment. I don't know about the 'culturally much closer' part. But this brings us to the question what European culture is and that is a minefield. For a lot of different reasons it's easier for Europe and Turkey to integrate right now, so Turkey can join earlier.

I do not think that either Sweden or Finland has much of a role to play in terms of honest brokerage with regard to Russia - niche concerns such as the Baltic sea aside. As far as I can distill, Russia prefers to deal bilaterally with France, Germany and Italy rather than going through intermediaries. Which makes sense.

This aside, being part of NATO hasn't stopped the other Scandinavian countries from being international diplomatic brokers along the lines of Sweden and Finland, and at least Sweden is now very pro-active in participating in EU defence (although that may as well be an argument against joining NATO).

Joining NATO would certainly be a negative for relations between Finland and Russia.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 25th, 2008 at 06:12:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
NATO is a military alliance that is responsible for 70% of global military spending.

I suspect that some would find that an argument in favor.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Tue Nov 25th, 2008 at 08:58:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nanne:
One of Mr. Obama's top Russia advisers, Michael McFaul, has suggested offering Russia a path toward membership in NATO. The current Russian leadership would, of course, reject any such offer, because it would entail democratic reforms that Russia is not willing to undertake.

It's hard not to laugh bitterly at this sentence.

Do you mean it's laughable that NATO members are in some sense more "democratically advanced" or "developed" than Russia?

Curious to find out what if any criteria exist for membership in NATO with respect to "democratic development", I found this:

The Membership Action Plan (MAP) is a NATO programme of advice, assistance and practical support tailored to the individual needs of countries wishing to join the Alliance. <...>

The MAP's main features are the submission by aspiring members of individual annual national programmes on their preparations for possible future membership, covering political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal aspects; a focused and candid feedback mechanism on aspirant countries' progress on their programmes that includes both political and technical advice, as well as annual meetings between all NATO members and individual aspirants at the level of the North Atlantic Council to assess progress; and a defence planning approach for aspirants which includes elaboration and review of agreed planning targets.

NATO Topics: Membership Action Plan (MAP)

In the case of Albania, for example:

NATO's relations with Albania How does cooperation work in practice?

In the MAP framework, Albania sets out its reform plans and timelines in its Annual National Programme (ANP). Key areas include political, military and security-sector reforms. Important priorities are efforts to meet democratic standards, support for reducing corruption and fighting organized crime, judicial reform, improving public administration and promoting good-neighbourly relations. NATO Allies provide feedback on the envisaged reforms and evaluate their implementation.

<...>

Defence and security sector reform

NATO is supportive of the wide-ranging and ongoing democratic and institutional reform process underway in Albania, which is outlined in its Annual National Programme. Specifically in the area of defence and security sector reform, NATO and individual Allies have considerable expertise that Albania can draw upon. NATO HQ Tirana is a key forum for bilateral consultations and advice on the implementation of Albania's security and defence reforms.

A key priority for Albania is to ensure the maintenance of democratic control of the armed forces. Albania's subscription to the objectives of the Partnership Action Plan on Defence Institution Building supports these efforts, by promoting effective judicial oversight, offering appropriate command arrangements and wider consultations.

NATO Topics: NATO's relations with Albania

So there is an explicit emphasis on democratic standards, institutional reforms, judicial oversight, reducing corruption, engaging civil society actors, etc.

However, what the exact minimum criteria are remains vague, and I imagine that these are far less strict than EU entry requirements, and that political considerations weigh much more heavily.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 12:26:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NATO has had its share of dictatorships during its history. Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Spain... The American side is also pushing the entry of the Ukraine and Georgia, even though neither of them have a well functioning democracy yet. In the Ukraine's case, it's very unstable, and in Georgia's case, the president is authoritarian and has supressed freedom of speech and public protests.

With regard to Albania, it seems plausible that consolidating the democracy there and supressing corruption and organised crime are on the agenda, since those are the major concerns European states have with regard to the country. I don't know how stringent the oversight is, and I don't know if it would be the same with regard to Georgia.

I've once looked into the areas (chapters) in which negotiations between the EU and Turkey took place with regard to Turkey's accession. And that is indeed a whole different ballpark.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 07:59:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nanne: The best way to alleviate these concerns is to stop causing them and start cooperating to form a mutually acceptable settlement. This includes not expanding NATO by adding Georgia and the Ukraine, which are at any rate both useless to the alliance for purposes other than poking Russia in the eye. It also includes forming a process to stabilise the Caucasus and to work towards a settlement in Moldavia.

On Georgia, Nicholas Kristof (writing from Tbilisi, apparently) agrees:

... We should remember that military assistance would be a waste, for Georgia's Army will never be strong enough to deter Russia. In contrast, trade and investment give Georgia international economic weight and probably help discourage a Russian invasion.

Note to Mr. Obama: It would be a nightmare to have our troops tethered through NATO to Misha [i.e. Mikheil Saakashvili]. In any case, Georgia doesn't obviously qualify for NATO membership since it doesn't control its full territory, while the talk about NATO pushes all the wrong Russian nationalist buttons.

"NATO is not Georgia's future," said Amy Denman, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. "Georgia's future is economic growth. If they can continue the economic growth cycle they're on, they're safe."

Because Russia behaves irresponsibly -- including its latest disgraceful threat to base missiles near Poland -- the temptation in the Obama administration will be to continue with NATO expansion and perhaps even with the ill-advised missile system for Europe. (We have so many better ways to spend money!) Instead, let's engage Russia as we engage China -- while still bluntly calling Russia on its uncivilized behavior.

Poking badly behaved bears is no substitute for sober diplomacy. We don't want Barack to be another Misha.

Op-Ed Columnist - Obama, Misha and the Bear - NYTimes.com

nanne: In the mean while, Russia has real security concerns, and these tend to trump economic concerns. The best way to alleviate these concerns is to stop causing them and start cooperating to form a mutually acceptable settlement.

Cathy Young is correct on one count:  To allay Putin's and Medveyev's "security concerns" about U.S. and NATO, Obama should talk to them offer in person, during a trip to Russia, not only to win their trust, but also to win over the Russian people as well.  And he should do this quickly, at the very start of his administration.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 04:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
nanne:
I see a halfway decent chance of Sweden and Finland joining NATO somewhere in the next few years.

In the case of Sweden I would not bet any money on it. The defense question has no sense of urgency, neither of the mayor parties has joining NATO on the agenda. Doing so would require to deal with a lot of the self-image of neutrality, and would give points to the opposite mayor party - defending the traditional neutrality. A minor liberal party has it on the agenda, but it is one of those questions they are willing to immediately consede once negotiations starts within the bloc. So they mostly have it to pick of a few voters from the other right-wing parties.

Do not know about Finland. I think they would jump at it if Sweden joined NATO, but I do not know if they will join anyway.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 07:00:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If Sweden joined NATO - yes, Finland would have to join. But it's not going to happen, at least for a few years. The political realities are different in Sweden and I agree with your analysis from my less informed POV. But if there was some bullying, Finland would want Sweden holding its coat ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 25th, 2008 at 04:45:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually read the title the wrong way "Russia as 'convenient threat' for NATO" made more sense.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 07:04:49 AM EST
A swedish kind of death: I actually read the title the wrong way "Russia as 'convenient threat' for NATO" made more sense.

Could work both ways cynbiotically.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 07:28:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... under certain conditions, how about offering that the US leave NATO if Russia meets certain conditions? Is that carrot any sweeter?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 10:53:45 AM EST
But then who would protect the poor helpless Europeans from the evil Russians, who, as everyone knows, need the blood of innocent Poles and Estonians to survive.  Why do you hate the Poles and Estonians, Bruce?

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 12:05:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The British, of course ... (obviously, ably supported by the Canadians in an emergency, just like on D-Day).

And with the finance sector melting down, the British need a new dominant sector for their economy.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 12:09:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm reminded of the Churchill quote about throwing pint glasses at the Nazis if they arrived in London.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 01:03:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We will throw pint glasses at them in Vilnius, we will throw pint glasses at them in Tallin, we will throw pint glasses at them in Warsaw, we will never give up ... we will never surrender!


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 05:03:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how Moscow views Obama or what to expect between Obama and Medvedev once the former -- finally, and Junior is going to make these the longest 59 days ever -- takes office.  Someone (poemless?) pointed out that Moscow was more comfortable with McCain, because it would obviously mark a continuation of a relationship that was confrontational but known, and thus comfortable, while they don't really know what to make of Obama yet.

I don't have any great expectation or idea or anything one way or another with regard to Russia.  My thinking has been that relations with Russia wouldn't be a big issue due to the obvious focus on domestic policy in America right now.  My hope is that Obama and Medvedev will work well enough together to stomp on the Republican narrative of a New Cold War.  Our national Russia Derangement Syndrome needs to be brought to an end.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 12:58:57 PM EST
Drew J Jones: Someone (poemless?) pointed out that Moscow was more comfortable with McCain, because it would obviously mark a continuation of a relationship that was confrontational but known, and thus comfortable, while they don't really know what to make of Obama yet.

Good point.  I remember that comment (I think it was poemless), and that explained (a little, at least) Medvedev's bizarre reaction to Obama's election: the Russians, like al-Qaeda last week, apparently have had some difficulty processing a President Obama as part of their new reality.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Sat Nov 22nd, 2008 at 04:09:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think I've ever argued that Obama would be bad for Russian-US relations.  It was more of a "the devil you know" situation.  I actually do think that the Obama-Medvedev situation could be encouraging.

Russia Blog has been doing a lot of coverage of late.

http://www.russiablog.org/2008/11/medvedev_obama_fresh_start_us_russia_speech.php#more

http://www.russiablog.org/2008/11/obama_russia_first_steps_lozansky.php#more

http://www.russiablog.org/2008/11/obama-russia-relations-developments.php#more

Also, the fact that every news outlet in the universe decided last week that Saak's a nut and that Georgia carries some blame for the the recent war is a nice development.  

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Mon Nov 24th, 2008 at 12:27:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
poemless:  I actually do think that the Obama-Medvedev situation could be encouraging.

Russia Blog: Obama Takes the First Step Toward Russia

Obama has repeatedly said that, if elected to the White House, he would start phasing out US troops from Iraq while focusing on fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Military matters are improving anyway in Iraq, but not in Afghanistan. At this point, even token help from Russia to NATO would be gratefully received in the West. It would be better still if that help were more substantial, similar to what Russia did for America in 2001-2002. That assistance, incidentally, did not cost it a single soldier's life.

Back then, everyone in America was singing praises to Russia, calling it a strategic partner and even an ally. Naturally, one could lament the fact that Bush repaid Russia by scrapping the ABM treaty, continuing NATO eastward expansion, promoting the project for deploying BMD elements in Eastern Europe, and so on. On the other hand, helping the West would not be a mere charitable act on Russia's part. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are no less a threat to Russia than they are to the US and Europe, and combating them is a common cause that is a must to all.

As soon as cooperation in this area becomes a fact, the powerful anti-Russia lobby in the United States would find itself in isolation. By way of the next step, the Russian leadership could raise the issue of freezing NATO expansion and creating a new security system in Europe that would involve Russia. From there it is not so far to go to forging a new partnership and even alliance with the United States and Europe.

Some on both sides may dismiss these ideas as naïve and utopian, but the skeptics would do well to consider the alternatives. I am confident that they would be hard put to it to come up with something more attractive.


Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Mon Nov 24th, 2008 at 08:28:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]